A great week for women
I am thrilled to announce that this week the House passed my equal pay legislation, HB 1646. This bill, known as the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, would ban employers from retaliating against employees for discussing wages and salaries and prevent the use of pay secrecy policies which can exacerbate and reinforce the gender pay gap.
Why is this important? Simple. Information is power. As long as women employees are kept ignorant of salary differences, the discrimination can persist. That has to change. And it will. Different generations have different challenges and different battles. Right here, right now, this is our fight.
I’m excited that the House has again passed this important legislation and am hopeful that the bill will finally reach the full Senate.
Another great bill for women passed the House this week. HB 2307, sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, provides for reasonable accommodations in the workplace for pregnant women. Although this is a common sense measure, the vote was closer than it should have been. It’s not complicated. Women make up half of today’s workforce, but have all of the baby-carrying responsibility. Families need their paychecks and employers need talented workers they know and trust. While I was lucky to have had an accommodating employer, I recognize that not all working women are as fortunate. Let’s be sure a woman isn’t forced to choose between her job and a healthy pregnancy.
I invite you to share your stories about equal pay and pregnancy accommodations with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. These battles are far from won and I’d love to hear about your struggles.
There have been some major education wins recently in the House. We voted to achieve excellence in our schools and to give the million students in our public schools greater opportunities to learn. Among the bills we approved:
- Education funding – I voted in support of HB 2366 – the bipartisan plan for a solution to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. That’s the final goal we must reach to keep our promise of fully funding education to maintain the high quality of our school system.
- Levy cliff – Many of the state’s school districts—including the four in the 41st District–are approaching what has been termed a “levy cliff,” a pending reduction in how much money school districts can collect through local property tax levies. I am a cosponsor of HB 2698 which would delay changes to the school district formula for calculating levies for one year so we don’t add an unnecessary burden to our schools districts.
- Opportunity gap – Some structural problems within the
education system disproportionately affect Washington’s 400,000 public school students of color and reduce their opportunities to excel academically. The current ‘one-size-fits all’ approach has resulted in a consistent 20-30% percent gap in student achievement between students of color and White and Asian students. HB 1541, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Tamiko-Santos, would implement committee recommendations formulated to address this pressing issue.
- High Stakes Testing – Students should be spending more time in the classroom learning and less time stressing about endless assessments. I voted for a bipartisan bill, HB 2214, to fix the state’s broken student assessment system.
These policies are steps in the right direction toward reaching our goals and ensuring our education system is fully funded. These bills now move to the Republican-controlled Senate where their fate is uncertain.
Community colleges on the rise
We are lucky to have incredible community colleges serving our district, including in Bellevue and Renton. In fact, Renton Technical College was one of nine Washington community colleges recently honored as within the top 150 in the country by the nonprofit Aspen Institute.
Community colleges are a critical and growing piece of the higher education puzzle. That’s why I introduced HB 2769, which would create a pilot program for community and technical colleges to offer bachelor degrees in high-demand fields like computer science. Bellevue College’s broad reach, diverse student body and recent work to create a computer science baccalaureate degree positions BC as a strong candidate for the pilot.