Washington State House Democrats


Blake’s 1/19/18 Update: Hirst / Capital Budget / Equal Pay / Higher Ed / Opioids / Orcas

Dear friends,

It’s been a very busy first two weeks of session and there’s a lot to report.

First, the breaking news: we passed a Hirst fix bill and a Capital Budget, and they are headed to the governor’s desk. I talk about both issues in this week’s Video Update.

We also passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, which is a big deal because it is long overdue and, any way you slice it, the fact of the matter is gender should not be a factor when it comes to wages.

There’s also news on the higher education front to benefit, specifically, rural areas like much of our district.

As you know, the opioid epidemic has spread across the nation and that includes our state. We’re working on ways to address this issue.

And lastly, I am really concerned about our Southern resident Orca whales. Currently, we only have about 75 of them because they are literally starving. I introduced a bill to increase our salmon production, which would help feed the whales and help our local economy. Watch my Ask Brian video for more information.

So, please read ahead and, if you have feedback, questions or need more information on these or other legislative issues, be sure to contact my office.


Blake Sig

Hirst Fix: Balancing Needs of Landowners & Fish

A 2016 Supreme Court decision made it hard for some rural landowners to build homes that rely on wells. Working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we found a solution and passed Senate Bill 6091, which balances the building and developing needs of rural communities with the environmental benefits of ensuring there’s enough water for fish to survive.

Much of the state was unaffected by the Hirst decision but, for the 15 watersheds that were impacted, this bill will allow landowners to build immediately and makes significant investments in restoring and enhancing streamflows.


Capital Budget

The new $4 billion-plus capital budget we passed last night will create thousands of jobs across the state and includes a record $1 billion to build public schools and $800 million to build colleges and universities.

There are numerous investments for rural Washington, including the Public Works Assistance Program, the Wildlife and Recreation Program, forest health, wildfire prevention, and clean water, among many other projects. For more details on rural investments, as well as funding for education, mental health, housing and other areas, please check out the Capital Budget Highlights.

And for the lists of local projects per district, please click here.

Equal Pay Bill Heads to Senate

This week we passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act on a 69-28 vote. It updates the Washington State Equal Pay Act for the first time since its passage in 1943.

equal pay

On average, a woman makes around 80 cents to a man’s dollar for the same work. This wage gap is real (read our Debunking the Claims sheet) and it affects entire communities because women are either the sole or primary breadwinners in over 40 percent of families with kids.

So women are taking home smaller paychecks and many of them don’t even know it because they don’t have the freedom to discuss their own pay.  That’s right, many businesses don’t allow their employees to talk about wages with coworkers, effectively keeping them in the dark. This bill will empower women and reaffirm Washington’s longstanding pursuit of equality in the workplace by:

  • Banning pay secrecy policies,
  • Allowing discussion of wages; and
  • Prohibiting retaliation against workers for discussing their pay, or for asking for equal pay and opportunities.

One Year of Free College?

I’m supporting a bill to help increase paychecks and jobs in rural Washington by boosting higher education and skills in rural communities. House Bill 2177 would offer one year of free tuition in high-demand fields at local community colleges in economically distressed counties. The legislation was voted out of the Higher Education Committee earlier this week.

Research shows one year of education beyond high school is the tipping point for people to get family wage jobs. Roughly one third of all jobs are predicted to be what’s referred to as mid-level—more than a high school degree but less than a four-year bachelor’s degree. And, by the year 2020, experts say 70 percent of all jobs in our state will require at least some college education.

job skills chart

A report by the state’s Workforce Training Board listed examples of mid-level jobs in high-demand fields, including firefighters, auto and diesel mechanics, law enforcement, machine tool technicians, teaching assistants, early childhood educators, accounting and computer science.

These jobs are a ticket to the middle class—and a more prosperous future for all of Washington state.


Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

I am also supporting a bill to help address our state’s opioid crisis. House Bill 2325  would require health care practitioners to review the controlled substance history of their patients before prescribing opiates or benzodiazepines.

The Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which has been in place since 2011, enables Washington practitioners to view a database listing the controlled substances each patient has been prescribed by other providers. However, 70% of Washington practitioners have failed to register for the PMP.

This bill would make it mandatory for practitioners to check the PMP for cases of controlled substance overuse. Requested by the state Attorney General, the bill has attracted bipartisan support.