E-newsletter: That’s a wrap on the 2019 legislative session

Whew… The 2019 Session ended late last Sunday night after a marathon of long days and nights over the last week. Democratic majorities in the House and Senate allowed us to get done on time and we were able to pass many incredible policies that will shape the future of Washington. In this e-newsletter you can read more details about some of our accomplishments, including passing budgets that put people first, supporting survivors of sexual assault, and creating the Long Term Care Trust Act.

Now that session is over, my office will be relocating back to the Eastside. If you have any questions, comments, concerns or would like to meet with me in person, please reach out via email (tana.senn@leg.wa.gov) or phone (425-453-3037).

Passing budgets that put people first

The late nights were well worth it as the Legislature passed operating, transportation and capital budgets that were on-time for the first time in 10 years, put people first and lay out a vision for the future of Washington.

Highlights of the $52.4 billion two-year operating budget include:

  • $35 million to expand Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) slots and rate increases.
  • $155 million for additional special education funding.
  • $6 million in additional funding for student mental health and safety.
  • $31 million to improve habitat and protect our resident orcas.
  • $9 million to eliminate the backlog in testing sexual assault kits.
  • $47 million to expand community behavioral health beds and services.
  • $15 million focused on permanent supportive housing and youth homelessness.

The legislature also passed a major Workforce Education Investment, which will create the Washington College Grant to make public college tuition-free in Washington state for families earning less than $50,000 per year. It will also provide partial scholarships for families up to the state’s median income and significantly invest in community colleges like Bellevue College and Renton Technical College.

Supporting survivors of sexual assault

Survivors of sexual assault submit to invasive testing and questioning because they believe it will help catch their attacker. However, many survivors wait for justice while their sexual assault kit sits on a shelf, untested. In Washington state, there are over 10,000 untested sexual assault kits in police evidence.

This session, the Legislature passed multiple measures to support and protect survivors of sexual assault. House Bill 1166 creates a Survivor’s Bill of Rights, requires law enforcement receive trauma-informed training, and prohibits the destruction of untested rape kits. Our budget will ensure the backlog of rape kits are tested and that all newly submitted kits are tested in a timely fashion.

We know that when we test rape kits, oftentimes we find a serial rapist and certainly what we find is justice for the women knowing that what they went through is not being ignored.

To empower more survivors to come forward and seek justice, Senate Bill 5649 removes or extends the statute of limitations for certain sex offenses. Sexual assault and rape are some of the most underreported crimes, and our criminal justice system needs to be responsive to victims and their trauma. The bill also modifies the offense of rape in the third degree to remove the requirement that a victim must clearly express a lack of consent. Consent means saying “yes,” and we don’t require victims of general assault to object, so why would we require victims of sexual assault to say “no?”

Everyone ages. How will you pay for long-term care?

The truth is, everyone gets older. As we age, the majority of us will require some sort of assistance for regular, daily activities. Getting to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments, cooking or cleaning around the house, or assistance bathing or following important medication schedules are all activities that might become more difficult as we age.

For many families, taking care of an aging parent or relative is expected and financially possible. But for far too many families in Washington, it’s a significant burden. The out-of-pocket costs can be hundreds or even thousands per month and very few people are actually saving for it. That’s why I’m proud that Washington will be the first state in the nation to have a Long Term Care Trust Act.

This legislation addresses the financial impacts on families in Washington by creating a new social insurance program to help with the cost of long-term care as the “age wave” hits our state. The Long Term Care Trust Act will give families a little breathing room as they take care of the ones they love. This investment in our grandparents, parents, and ourselves brings peace of mind and security for all needing long-term services and supportive care.

Thank you for all your amazing advocacy this session. The visits, letters , emails and calls helped bolster my work to make Washington, and the Eastside, an even better place to live, work and play. Thank you!