Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for subscribing to my e-newsletter. Please feel free to share this with your friends and neighbors. I also welcome any ideas or suggestions you may have on the issues facing our community and our state. It is important to hear from you while I'm down here in Olympia. Your feedback helps me to better represent our 46th District.
We are half-way through the 2012 Legislative Session. Although we are facing difficult budget realities, I have been fortunate to be part of a historic vote to further the civil rights of our citizens and proposed legislation designed to help some of the most vulnerable residents of our state.
Action taken during last fall’s special session gave the legislature a head start in balancing the 2011-13 biennial budget. While over $1.4 billion in reductions remain to erase the budget shortfall, I believe we must act in a way which will not harm the people to whom we have the greatest responsibility. The McCleary decision on the state funding of basic education serves as a reminder that we must do more to fund K-12. We also need to recognize that the budget policies enacted in recent years have taken state support for higher education to historically low levels. It is my goal to find a balanced path out of this difficult situation; one that fulfills our responsibilities to the people of Washington.
The signature event of my first few weeks in the Senate was the passage of marriage equality legislation. I was proud to be asked by Sen. Murray to play a role on the floor by speaking to and defeating complex amendments that would have undermined the bill. I will not forget the historic nature of my first major Senate vote and the sense of accomplishment I felt upon seeing the Governor sign it into law.
Some of my priorities moving forward
In the past weeks, several bills I have been working on successfully cleared their respective policy and fiscal committees. Five of them have passed the full Senate and now move on to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
This bill establishes a 12-month authorization for the state’s Working Connections childcare program. Low-income families need certainty to know that they will have steady and dependable childcare in order to allow them to find steady work. This is good, smart policy that has the potential to generate administrative savings. It passed the Senate unanimously.
This bill is aimed at setting standards for tenant screening, requiring landlords to disclose information more too prospective tenants. This bill flows out of a stakeholder process that I began working on last summer. This effort marks the first significant point of agreement between landlords and tenant advocates, both of whom testified in support of the measure. The bill would require better disclosure and would also direct a continued process to address outstanding issues surrounding portability, cost and content of screening reports. It passed the Senate unanimously.
This bill would require that colleges and universities provide a counseling curriculum of “best practices” to better prepare students for the requirements and responsibilities of agreeing to a financial aid package. There is a national student debt crisis. Overall, higher education funding needs to be addressed, but in the interim this legislation would provide better, and greatly needed, counseling to assist with financial literacy as students take on greater debt. It passed the Senate unanimously and received a very favorable hearing in the House this morning. I hope we can get it passed and on to the Governor.
This bill establishes an optional Transportation Benefit District (TBD) rebate program for low-income households. This purely local option would allow more flexibility under existing TBD authority for needed transportation investments by making some measures less regressive, thereby enhancing the prospect of public support. This bill passed the Senate by a 29-20 vote.
Other bills which I sponsored that did not meet the Tuesday floor deadline, include:
This bill would create the professional position of mid-level dental practitioner in Washington state. Modeled after successful examples in Alaska, Minnesota and internationally, the goal of the bill is to allow for more affordable dental care for low-income residents and to provide easier access to dental care in underserved communities. I have worked closely with groups representing both dentists and health advocates to develop a safe and smart solution to this vexing problem and I will continue to do so in the coming months and into the interim. I have good lines of communication with both of these groups.
This bill is designed to assist upside-down homeowners at risk of foreclosure by giving them more financial certainty if they choose to undertake a short sale. The new protection, similar to measures recently passed in California and Oregon, would prohibit a lender from seeking a deficiency judgment if that lender has already received a tax benefit by writing off the same mortgage. The idea is to help the overall health of the real estate market by encouraging sales and clearing out excess inventory. The House version of this bill has passed. I am working with key stakeholders and with my House counterpart, to push this bill towards final passage.
Another bill I sponsored that did not make it past the committee cut-off date, SB 6447, would have partially funded the State Work Study program, currently slated for elimination, with a $10 business license surcharge. Members of the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee heard compelling testimony as students and administrators from institutions of higher education spoke in strong support of finding a way to fund State Work Study. From 2010-2011, 7,500 students, 2,000 employers and 55 institutions participated in the Work Study Program statewide. Without a doubt, this is one of the most important issues the Legislature will face this session. We can’t cut state support, allow for increased tuition, and then cut a key financial aid investment. State Work Study dollars leverage private-sector income for students. It is one of the ultimate public private partnerships. Whether through this bill or another solution, I think it is critical to put this cut squarely before the Senate and to provide an alternative to eliminating yet another investment in higher education. I am hopeful we will find a solution as the budget process moves forward.
Please feel free to contact my office at anytime about your priorities and concerns. We are all a part of the process and I look forward to hearing from you.
46th Legislative District