Friday, May 22, 2009
This is an open thread. Please feel free to post comments on what you saw and heard, and talk to each other about which candidates deserve our endorsement on June 18th!
Don't forget, another opportunity to hear from the Seattle Mayor candidates is June 2nd at the Seattle Labor Temple, starting at 6:30pm. Hope to see you there!
I have appointed Jan Ames to chair the committee. Jan was a long time 1st Vice Chair of the 46th LD and knew Ray well. I know that under her leadership we will be able to focus his gift towards ideas that he would approve of that will help us build our organizational strength over the next few years, or even longer. I'm very excited about the possibilities and the opportunities that this will open for us.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The 2009 Legislative session began just as the global recession that had been plaguing much of the rest of the nation hit our state full-force. What had been an $850 million budget surplus a year ago had turned into a $5 billion budget deficit by the time I arrived in January to be sworn in for my first legislative session. As the session wore on, the economy continued its decline and the deficit grew to $9 billion.
The focus of the session naturally centered on the revenue shortfall and how to protect critical state services. Ultimately, we agreed on a budget that protected many priorities of Washington’s people – basic education, health care for our children, and a safety net for our most vulnerable. It was a difficult – at times, heart-wrenching – process, but we produced a balanced budget. I will not sugarcoat the result for you: the economic recession drastically reduced state revenues and required significant cuts to social services, K-12 and higher education, and the capital budget, among reductions in other areas. Given these cuts, I was disappointed that we did not pass progressive tax reforms that would help our working families, vulnerable populations and businesses.
However, writing the budget was not the only thing we did this session. As daunting as the economic crisis is, we didn’t let it paralyze us. We kept focused on our core values and where, as a state, we want to be in the future. With that in mind, here are a few highlights about legislation that was passed this year.
K-12 Education: Basic education for the next generation.
Ensuring our children are ready for the world is the paramount duty of the state. With this critical mission in mind, the legislature took action on several important pieces of legislation.
Basic Education Finance Reform (HB 2261)
K-12: Creates a framework for historic reforms to our K-12 funding system. It starts with a redefinition of “basic education,” and will also ensure that any new requirements for schools are accompanied with funding.
Early Learning: Begins a process to include early learning for at-risk children (ages 3-4) as part of the Basic Education definition. The bill directs a working group to recommend parameters for the program, develop eligibility criteria, and determine how the program will be shared between the Department of Early Learning and the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction.
Student Achievement Gap (HB 2147/SB 5973)
Addresses the achievement gap that exists for students of color.
Statewide dropout reengagement system (HB 1418)
Creates a statewide dropout-reengagement system for youth aged 16 to 21 who have dropped out of school or are not expected to graduate by age 21.
High-school diplomas/options (HB 1758)
Provides that individuals who enroll in a community or technical college and complete an associate's degree are awarded a high-school diploma from the college, including students enrolled in Running Start.
Apple Health for Washington’s Kids.
Healthy kids are happy, productive learners. We’re ensuring all of Washington’s children have access to full health coverage including mental and dental health coverage as well as preventative care.
Children's health coverage (HB 2128)
This law brings us closer to the state's goal of every child having health coverage by 2010. We have already reached 96 percent coverage. HB 2128 defines the next key steps to reaching full coverage, including simpler administration, and outreach to ensure that eligible kids actually get the care they need. These efforts will also help us get enhanced federal funding to support our effort to have good health coverage for all children. (Delivered to Governor)
Children's mental health (HB 1373)
In 2007, the legislature expanded access to mental health services for children covered through Apple Health for Kids. It allowed health care providers, in addition to psychiatrists, to treat children and increased the number of visits covered. HB 1373 eliminates a June 30, 2010 expiration date on that benefit so that these important services continue to be available. (Delivered to Governor)
Environment: Evergreen Legacy for Washington’s future.
We must preserve and enhance our environment to protect our quality of life for generations to come. Electric vehicles (HB 1481) Requires state and local governments and other entities to implement the use of electric vehicles by modifying zoning and development codes, building permits, transportation policy, and environmental regulations.
Evergreen Jobs Act (HB 2227)
Establishes the Evergreen Jobs Initiative to create 15,000 new green-economy jobs by 2020, target 30 percent of the jobs to certain populations, and accelerate and coordinate "Leadership Team" efforts to secure federal and other green-economy funding. Authorizes workforce-training organizations to prioritize training programs that lead to certification for green-economy jobs. Includes clean energy, high-efficiency building, green transportation, forestry, and environmental protection as green-economy industries. The Evergreen Jobs Act will promote, develop and encourage green economic jobs, which will get our state on the right path toward becoming a world leader in green industries.
Restricting development into floodplains (HB 1967)
I was pleased to sponsor HB 1967 which limits the expansion of Urban Growth Areas (UGAs) into 100-year flood plains. Our state has experienced billions of dollars in flood related damage in recent years. This legislation effectively helps to protect thousands of acres of farmland, as well as personal property and human life from the dangers of flooding.
Investing in Clean Water (HB 1614)
Establishes a fee on petroleum products to clean up storm water pollution in our rivers, lakes and marine areas. Petroleum is the single largest contributor to storm water pollution. Contamination from petroleum products in surface water runoff accounts for up to ninety percent of the pollution load in Washington's water bodies. (This legislation passed by the House, but did not pass the Senate.)
Rescue tug (SB 5344)
Requires certain vessels entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca west of Port Angeles to include a catastrophic-event response provision in their oil spill contingency plan that includes a contract with a rescue tug. This shifts the responsibility for funding the Neah Bay rescue tug from state taxpayers to the vessels that would use the tug.
Economy and Jobs: Support for Working Families and Fostering Economic Development.
Ensuring that our state remains strong during tough times by supporting our businesses and bolstering economic activity in our local communities.
Unemployment insurance (HB 1906)
Increasing weekly benefits to unemployed workers to assist them through these tough economic times.
Unemployment insurance conformity (HB 2204 / SB 5963)
Reduces the tax burden on our businesses and providing additional benefits to unemployed workers.
Minority and women's business (HB 1087)
Requires the Office of Financial Management to work with the Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises in developing a strategic plan addressing the effectiveness of state agencies in helping small minority and women's businesses compete for state contracts.
Small Business Assistance (SB 5723)
Directs the Small Business Development Center to work with economic and workforce-development organizations to integrate, target, coordinate, and tailor its services, and to increase satellite offices when financially feasible. Adds an institution's contributions to business-assistance organizations as a factor in evaluating a bank's performance in meeting community-credit needs. Requires that state-agency purchased goods and services, as well as personal, information, and printing services bids must be posted on the state's electronic vendor registration and bid-notification system. Requires the state to develop procurement policies and procedures that encourage and facilitate state-agency purchases of products and services from in-state small businesses.
Transportation: Keeping Washington Moving.
Investing in our transportation infrastructure to help people move throughout the region and enable our economy to thrive.
Despite the economic downturn, the transportation budget is still able to forge ahead with unprecedented investments to keep Washington moving. Construction of the 2003 Nickel and 2005 TPA revenue packages will hit their peak in this upcoming biennium, providing thousands of jobs and improving our system.
This budget together, with the $341 million of federal stimulus funds, represents an unprecedented level of nearly $5 billion for transportation projects at the time our people and the economy need it most.
Civil Rights: Expanding rights for domestic partners.
Registered domestic partners (HB 1727 / SB 5688)
Provides that for all purposes under state law, state-registered domestic partners shall be treated the same as married spouses and that provisions of the act shall be liberally construed to achieve equal treatment, to the extent not in conflict with federal law.
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State Representative 46th Legislative district
Monday, May 18, 2009
I have spent the last week wrapping up work in Olympia and preparing to resume my normal life here at home. The legislative session was tough but we managed to create a responsible, budget that protects key programs. We also prepared our state for a 21st century economy. I am particularly proud of the steps we took to build a transportation system that will create jobs and help us emerge stronger from this recession.
The thoughtful feedback and creative ideas many of you shared made a real difference in my voting decisions. I’ll continue to share as much information as I can about what we accomplished and talk about what that means during the coming months.
You told me that protecting working families should be a top priority so I fought to create jobs and offer more training opportunities. We all recognize that when workers receive family wage jobs and benefits, they’re more productive and offer more not only to their employers, but also to their communities.
Through a combination of state and federal money, we’ll be jumpstarting our economy this construction season, building new roads and buildings and laying the groundwork for future economic development in our state. This means family wage jobs immediately and better prospects for attracting and keeping good-paying jobs in the future.
Of course, a lot of folks need short-term help to bridge the gap between jobs. During hard times when working families need it most, we have coordinated with the Obama administration to provide added funding for unemployment benefits, increasing the weekly amounts and expanding the training benefits program.
Unemployed workers will now be eligible to receive unemployment benefits while training for new jobs. We have also opened the program to disabled workers, honorably discharged military personnel and low-income workers.
Support for small businesses was also a priority. We expanded the Shared Work Program, which helps businesses weather tough times by helping employers temporarily cut payroll costs while keeping their skilled workers. Meanwhile, employees can still receive a paycheck, partial unemployment and health benefits.
In the coming weeks, I’ll share more information with you through this e-memo. You’ll also find me at community events and I’m always available if you’d like to meet in person.
I look forward to hearing from you. Your voice keeps our democracy working.
Here is the actual budget bill for 2009-11 operating budget.
Here are the 2009-11 operating budget highlights.
Here is the 2009-11 operating budget agency detail.
Here is the list of transportation projects funded in the 46th Legislative District:
- WA-522/I-5 to I-405 (multimodal improvements) in Seattle - $544,000
- I-5 Reverse Express Lane to/from WA-522 (safety) in Seattle - $615,000
- I-5/5th Avenue to NE 92nd Street (Noise Wall) in Seattle - $4,601,000
- Concrete Rehabilitation Program (Nickel Funds) on I-5 in Seattle - $7,237,000
Here is the list of projects funded through the Capital Budget in the 46th Legislative District, totaling $10,224,000:
- Department of Community, Trade, & Economic Development
- Community Center for Sand Point Housing (Building Communities Fund Grants) - $350,000
- Community & Technical College System
- North Seattle CC (Facility Repairs "A") - $709,000
- North Seattle Community College (Minor Works - Preservation) - $487,000
- North Seattle Community College (Minor Works - Program) - $702,000
- North Seattle Community College: Employment Resource Center - $5,000,000
- North Seattle Community College: Technology Bldg Renewal - $2,976,000
Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. To send any comments, or to unsubscribe from this newsletter, please go to my E-memo page.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Because we don’t think that our members would really want to be at the Olympic View Elementary School from 7:30 to around midnight for our May meeting, we’re not going to have all the candidates for all the positions at our forum. We just can't. What we will be focused on for May 21st is the candidates for the Seattle Mayor, Seattle City Attorney and Seattle City Council.
But even in the heart of Seattle, we know how important the County positions are, from Executive to the Port of Seattle. We have been working with our neighbor districts, and we would like to announce a special joint forum focused on the King County Executive, the Seattle Mayor and the Port of Seattle on June 2nd at the Seattle Labor Temple in Belltown. This will be the best opportunity for our members to hear from these candidates, so please put this evening’s event on your calendar and try to attend. This is also our first attempt at a joint event with the 43rd , 36th and 37th, and we will have a few sales tables to buy campaign stuff as a fundraiser to help pay for the space.
The Raymond Cole Committee is getting organized, with their first meeting on May 18th. The committee will submit a proposal for their operating procedures and the criteria for how we will judge and approve ideas to the eboard at our June meeting for presentation to the membership at the following general meeting. Please keep the ideas and criteria coming!
The Obama Administration is doing their best to start to turn our national direction, and it's a hard job. Our Representatives and Senators in Congress are facing decisions every day on what bills to support and what priorities to focus on. They need our voices to encourage them to do the right thing and push for health care reform that covers everyone, a national energy policy that can help repair our damaged planet, provide a strong financial foundation for our future and bring the United States back onto the world stage as a respected member. Without our voices hitting their phones, sending emails, writing letters to the editor and talking with our friends and neighbors, the only voices that they will hear are the siren songs of the corporate lobbyists, lulling them to write laws that put profits before the needs of people and our planet. That's what progressive political activism is all about, keeping our voices louder than the sirens so we can keep our ship going in the best direction for our future.
On a more personal note, I have had some major changes in my family. I now have an even stronger connection to Olympic View Elementary School, because my 11 year old son Shea is now attending the 5th grade there. Now my own motivation to help support Education in Seattle and the state of Washington is stronger than ever. Did everyone see the LAC report? Contact Sarajane if you have not. The Budget cuts hurt everyone, without exception. And until the economy starts turning the corner, there is only one thing that we can do that will really help.
Build our communities, stronger than ever.
Chair, 46th District Democrats
Saturday, May 02, 2009
On April 16th, the 46th District Democrats held a forum focused on the housing needs of our most vulnerable citizens. Our guests spoke about the history of the Seattle Housing Levy, and the evolution of our understanding about how much the services have been needed since the first Levy passed in 1981. We learned a great deal.
With the national economy this hard hit, and our state and local budgets following the same patterns, the number of people just holding on to survival is up all around the country. Seattle and King County have seen the numbers of homeless increase, and we know that we are only seeing the surface of the problem.
We understand there are some efforts being made to use Housing Levy dollars in any 2009 package to include those who are below average income, but not in as much danger as our homeless population. We would love to be able to provide help to everyone who needs it, no matter how little of a boost they need. But the precious dollars that are given by the residents of Seattle to help provide housing resources to our neighbors need to have a focus, and we are proud that the focus of the Housing Levy over the last few decades has been to help the most vulnerable among us. We urge that the 2009 Housing Levy continue this tradition.
I have posted a copy of the resolution that we passed after the forum. We would like to ask the Seattle City Council to focus the upcoming renewal of the Seattle Housing Levy on the people in our community that need the most help.
Please take the message of this resolution and the needs of our city into account when you make the decision of how to draft the Levy measure that we will see on our ballots in November.
Chair, 46th District Democrats
cc: Seattle City Council Members
Mayor Greg Nickels (via web form)
King County Democrats
Washington State Democrats