Washington State House Democrats


E-Newsletter: A Progressive Agenda for 2018

Greetings from Olympia

The 2018 session began last week. Washington works on a two-year legislative cycle. The primary purpose of even-year “short” sessions is to make supplemental changes to the state’s biennial operating, capital, and transportation budgets. They also help address pressing issues left undone during the previous year’s long session.

Optimism dominates the mood this session, which is scheduled to end March 8. This fall, Senate Democrats regained a slim one-vote majority through a special election, and the House still holds an equally tight Democratic majority. This means many progressive policies previously passed by the House only to “die” in the Senate are now being resurrected and discussed in earnest in the Senate for the first time in several years. A few are already moving quickly through both chambers.

Most notably, Thursday night the Legislature passed the Capital Budget. The passage of this bipartisan budget was stalled for months because Senate Republicans linked it to a separate and contentious rural well water policy issue (known as the Hirst decision).  Not only did this mark the first time in the state’s history that the Legislature adjourned after its long session without a Capital Budget, it also delayed several crucial construction projects by almost a year, costing thousands of family wage jobs and causing us to lose an entire construction season.

Overall, the Capital Budget will pump $4.2 billion into Washington’s economy.  That’s money for affordable housing, mental health, colleges and universities, clean energy, hike and bike trails . . . it’s a good budget that puts people first.  Here in the 43rd district, we’ll be investing more than $200 million in everything from expanded capacity at the Country Doc Community Clinic to $150 million in improvements on the UW campus.

2018 Progressive Agenda

Here is a partial list of some of the policies under consideration this session.

Climate Action Now!

I am co-sponsoring several efforts to reduce carbon pollution and mitigate the effects of climate change on our state’s people, communities and economy. I’m pushing hard for this to be the year in which Washington puts a price on carbon and uses the resulting new revenue to drive down greenhouse gas emissions and support the transition to a renewable economy.  Another is HB 2338. It would direct the Washington State Department of Ecology to adopt a rule establishing a Clean Fuels Program (also known as a low carbon fuel standard) to limit the greenhouse gas emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028.

Access to Democracy

House Democrats have proposed a package of bills designed to improve access to and participation in our democratic process.  I’m a firm believer that civic participation through voting should be as burden-free as possible.  This year we are also pursuing passage of the Washington Voting Rights Act, legislation to pre-register sixteen and seventeen year-olds, legislation to allow voters to register and cast a ballot up to election day, and a bill to provide prepaid postage for ballot envelopes.

Expanding Regional Transit

The passage of Sound Transit 3 by voters was a monumental accomplishment, and on-time completion of a robust, regional transit system is a top priority for me. While I continue to support efforts to address inaccurate and unfair MVET car tab charges, I will reject options that do not make tangible efforts to address funding shortfalls some suggested solutions create. With thousands of people moving to our region each week, I am committed to realizing the vision for regional transit.

Protecting DACA Students

While the Trump administration continues its harmful threats to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, here in Washington state we can make sure students don’t lose their financial aid or college affordability benefits no matter what happens with DACA. By passing HB 1488, which had a hearing in the House Higher Education Committee this week, our state law would protect financial aid eligibility for undocumented students, including College Bound state financial aid for DACA students if DACA is eliminated.

Reproductive Parity Act

As vice-chair of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, I’m helping shepherd through the House legislation to require health plans in Washington that provide contraception coverage to also cover abortion access.  In the coming days I plan to prime sponsor a bill to provide full reproductive health access for all transgender people and immigrants in our state.

Net Neutrality

Legislators have come together in a strongly bipartisan manner to counter harmful actions by the FCC to eliminate net neutrality in favor of the giant telecom companies.  I’m supporting Democratic Rep. Drew Hansen and Republican Rep. Norma Smith, who are leading efforts to protect free and open access to the internet for our constituents, small businesses and entrepreneurs.  Efforts are also underway to improve access to broadband for rural communities.

Police Training and Use of Deadly Force

Initiative 940 provides new standards and requirements for law enforcement officers across the state to receive training on violence de-escalation, mental health, and first aid.  We know that implicit bias is a factor in police responses, which disproportionately affects people of color — especially the Black community, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, Native Americans, and others.  The initiative will be heard in the House Public Safety Committee and then is likely to appear on the November ballot.

Working Toward Universal Health Care

For over a year now, I’ve been working with advocates on strategy and proposals to provide universal health coverage in our state.  This will be a heavy lift, but it’s too important a priority to give up.  Numerous bills to expand healthcare coverage and reduce costs are being considered in both the House and the Senate this session.

Breakfast After the Bell

Students have one job when they enter the classroom each morning: to learn. Yet day after day, students in every corner of the state are showing up at school hungry. When hungry kids are distracted by thinking about where their next meal is going to come from, they aren’t focused on learning. That’s why making sure kids are well-nourished to start the school day is critically important to boosting academic achievement.  One of the first bills approved by the House of Representatives this session was HB 1508, which I was proud to cosponsor.  This bill will expand programs that provide students from low-income families with nutritious meals in the morning.

Please Keep in Touch

I’m grateful for the many calls, emails and visits from constituents throughout the year, and especially during the legislative session. Your messages keep me informed about the issues that matter most to you, and alert me to urgent concerns. Please use the contact info below to reach me, and mark your calendar to join Speaker Frank Chopp, Senator Jamie Pederson and me at our Town Hall on Saturday, February 17, 1:30 p.m., at Seattle First Baptist Church.