Dear Friends and neighbors,
First of all I wanted to let you know about the February 25 District Town Hall I am hosting with my seatmates, Rep. Liias and Rep. Roberts.
The meeting will be split into two locations to allow for the easiest access for all constituents.
@ Mukilteo Library, 10:30 AM:
4675 Harbour Pointe Blvd.
Mukilteo, WA 98275
@ Edmonds City Council Chambers, 1:30 PM:
250 5th Ave N
Edmonds, WA 98020
I invite you to attend so we can have a discussion about the state budget and other important issues affecting our community.
Additional updates in today’s e-newsletter include:
- Statewide unemployment drops in December
- Increased concern over the state’s transportation system
- A helping hand to students seeking financial aid
- Two bills providing assistance to students with disabilities
My colleagues and I continue to scour our state government for potential savings that may deliver us from the budget shortfall that plagues the 2011-13 biennial budget. We are facing unprecedented struggles, but I believe that if we endure together, we will emerge on the other side of this recession a stronger state, ready to move forward to better times.
Please read below for further information.
State Senator, 21st Legislative District
Bills to encourage business, benefit community college students, pass Senate
It is with great pride that I tell you of two of my bills which received the approval of my colleagues in the Senate.
Senate Bill 6371 will provide five more years of funding for the Washington Customized Employment Workforce Training Program, a business investment tool created in 2006. As a response to the outsourcing of jobs that occurred in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the training program pays for the training of new employees at the relocating companies. The company then repays the costs of the training over an 18 month period. Since its creation, over 30 companies and 900 trainees have benefited from the training. A sunset clause would have ended the Workforce Training Program in 2012. This bill will allow it to continue until 2017
Senate Bill 5217 would allow community and technical colleges the option of appointing a student to the board of trustees. The student would be selected by the governor from a list submitted by the student government. Often times, students have a better understanding of the everyday actions that occur on a college campus. This will allow them to have better representation in the operations of their colleges. The bill will not require the colleges to place a student on the board of trustees, but does provide that option. In order to remain on the board, the student would have to be enrolled at the college and be a student in good academic standing. The student member would be required to excuse him or herself from voting on matters related to the hiring, discipline or tenure of faculty members and personnel.
Students with disabilities bills receive public hearings
Students with disabilities face a disproportionate number of challenges when pursuing post-secondary education. One major hurdle for students with disabilities is the inconsistency in accommodations resources available to them at the primary, secondary and post-secondary educational levels. These inconsistencies incur significant strain on students as they transition between the different components of the educational path to employment as adults. It is incumbent upon the state to address the challenges faced by students with disabilities in order to provide all students in Washington State with an equal opportunity to pursue a successful future. This session, I have proposed two bills that are intended to assist students with disabilities as they seek their degrees.
Senate Bill 6266 (17 sponsors) will establish a common database of information that will allow institutions to make more informed decisions when they purchase new resources for students with disabilities, and will therefore increase the consistency among institutions at a pace which each institution believes to be most appropriate for their students.
Senate Bill 6267 (18 sponsors) calls together a diverse group of experts from throughout the state in order to create a volunteer taskforce that will develop recommendations. These recommendations will be used to directly increase the success rate for students with disabilities who are transitioning from secondary to post-secondary education.
SB 6267 received a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education on Jan. 26, while SB 6266 received a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Higher Education & Workforce Development on Jan. 31st.
Dilapidated roads, ferry eliminations an increasing state concern
The state’s declining gas tax revenue will cost the state $3 billion over the next 10 years and disrupt travel across Washington; the Senate Transportation Committee was told this week by staff from the governor’s office.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed a series of measures that would generate the money to close the $3 billion gap, chief among them a $1.50 per-barrel fee on oil among other proposals. You can read more about those proposals here.
If the state does not make up the $3 billion in lost revenue, impacts would range from:
- Elimination of ferry service on five routes plus reductions in service on two routes;
- Discontinuation of preservation to roads and other highway infrastructure;
- Discontinuation of bridge preservation, compromising safety and triggering lower weight limits on freight;
- Deterioration of pavement and road quality;
- More snow, ice and slush on roads for longer duration;
- More damage and unrepaired guard rails on roads;
- Worn-out pavement markings, faded signs;
- Increased roadside debris, road kill and litter;
- Reduced accident response time and longer backups;
- Increased traffic signal conflicts and outages; and
- Increased road closures from flooding and erosion from backed-up culverts.
The loss of ferry routes would have a huge negative impact on the 21st District. Maintaining regular and reliable service to the Olympic Peninsula and Whidbey Island is of the utmost importance to me and I pledge to fight any disruption of those routes.
Financial counseling for college students
At a time when many Washington students are plunging deeply into debt in order to earn college diplomas, legislation proposed in the Senate last week would help them avoid unmanageable debt.
Senate Bill 6121 would require colleges and universities to provide financial aid counseling curriculum to aid students who seek money to pay for their education.
Under current guidelines, some universities provide online and written information for students seeking financial aid but offer no incentive for the students to thoroughly read and research what they are signing up for. As a result, many students end up saddled with what amounts to a small mortgage upon graduation and are unprepared to pay for it.
To heighten awareness, the bill would require that colleges and universities set a curriculum to include student loan performance requirements and repayment rules, an overview of financial literacy, including basic money management skills, and perspectives from a diverse group of students who had received financial aid in the past.
Unemployment and jobs both drop in December
Labor statistics from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics paint a conflicting picture for our state for the month of December.
The bureau’s monthly survey of Washington households indicates that the unemployment rate here dropped from 8.7 percent in November to 8.5 percent in December, which is good. Unemployment hasn’t been this low in nearly three years, when it was at 8.3 percent in February 2009.
At the same time, however, the bureau’s statistics also show a loss of about 10,700 jobs from November to December.
Analysts at the state Employment Security Department warn that the federal numbers tend to be volatile and that a single month of numbers is not a reliable indicator of what’s happening in the job market. A more reliable measure is what is happening over time, and over time they say jobs are gradually increasing and the unemployment rate is dropping.
Trade agreements, partners celebrated
On Friday, British Columbia Premiere Cindy Clark visited the Senate chambers to congratulate my colleagues and I on the passage of Senate Joint Memorial 8016, a measure dedicated to improving and accelerating the border crossing and economic exchange between Washington and Canada.
This visit highlighted what has been a string of triumphs for our state’s economy, which of course thrives on exporting our products and produce to neighboring and overseas countries. Last year I was thrilled to see the approval of the Korea-US trade agreement which will improve our ability to trade our wares with the South Korea. Washington state has a geographic advantage over every other state in the continental United States for trade with Korea and the free trade agreement between the US and Korea will mean an economic boom for our state.