Representing the 46th
Two years ago, I came to this body and asked for your support as I sought an opportunity to serve the people of North Seattle in Olympia. I told you then that my goal was to be a strong, progressive voice who would fight to insure the uninsured, fund education, invest in our college students, maintain our strong environmental legacy, and provide fairness for consumers, women and those struggling economically in our midst. I pledged to support marriage equality. And I told you that I would do everything I could to carry water for Seattle in Olympia by fighting hard for local priorities both in the North End and throughout our great city.
So much has happened in this short 24 month period. State government has been buffeted by continuing budgetary crises stemming from the most significant downturn in our state’s economy since the Great Depression. And tragically, we lost our Senator on the eve of the second session of this legislature. I was humbled to have been given the chance by you to replace Scott for this session. I was honored to have been asked by my colleagues to join the Senate leadership team, as I was in the House.
And now, I come to you again to ask for your support to fill out the last two years of this Senate term.
In seeking your support again, I want you to know what I have done and tried to do in representing this district. In the House, I:
- Helped draft the critical mediation provisions of the Foreclosure Fairness Act designed to counter the big banks that caused this financial crisis and to keep more people in their homes.
- Passed a bill to make Washington the first state in the country to ban carcinogenic coal tar pavement sealants, protecting human health and our urban lakes and waterways from this toxic runoff.
- Passed legislation to insure fairness for domestic violence victims by insuring that when an abuser sought to lift a protection order, the victim did not have the burden of reproving her case all over again.
- Passed legislation to give Seattle Public Schools more opportunities to host before and after school programs to provide wrap around services for kids with working parents.
- Worked to restore a funding formula for Children’s Hospital and for funding to improve their emergency room.
- Pushed in the House for passage of our late Senator’s bill to authorize emergency transit funding for King County.
- Fought for economic fairness for working people at our airports, driving our taxis, and in the construction trades.
- Fought to restore cuts to teacher pay and to fund early childhood education investments.
- Fought for funding for North Seattle Community College’s new technology building, a project that was finally funded this year.
My amendment to require Chase bank to fully disclose their ATM fees to our poorest citizens was adopted by bi-partisan majorities. The bank initially said they didn’t have the technical capability to make this change but – low and behold – after our amendment passed, they found a way. And now our state agency is reexamining their entire contract to determine whether we can get a better deal for our taxpayers and our poor.
Lastly, I co-sponsored legislation to close tax exemptions and became one of the key legislative architects of our strategy to set up a legal challenge to the constitutionality of Tim Eyman’s 2/3 rule for raising taxes – a policy that continues to inhibit our policy choices in this state and frame the overall budget debate. That suit is in progress as we speak and I believe we have made a strong case to have it declared unconstitutional.
That was the first year.
I did not expect to be serving in the Senate, of course, but I tried to hit the ground running when I was appointed.
We faced another budget shortfall that framed the entire debate this session, but I made holding the line on higher education and financial aid funding my top budgetary priority. I fought hard within the Democratic caucus for that policy and was pleased when our initial budget made no further cuts to k-12 or higher ed. And I was even more pleased when the Republicans reversed their budget cuts in this area and came around after we exposed their doublespeak on the Senate floor in that long 10-hour debate on the night that they took control of the budget process.
I was a strong advocate for passage of Washington’s health care exchange, the next step to fully implementing the Affordable Care Act. This bill will expand health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of the more than one million in our state that are uninsured. I pushed back against the big insurers who sought to whittle down reasonable market rules and regulations.
In my first month in the Senate, I also came right out and proposed a plan for broad based tax reform in our state, the HOPE Act, that would eliminate the B&O tax (including its five separate rates, and 167 exemptions) and replace it with a lower, but broader based sales tax and a constitutionally capped personal income and gross corporate profits tax.
In the short session, I was also able to pass or help pass several important policy measures, including:
- The Fair Tenant Screening Act, breakthrough legislation that requires landlords to disclose information about their tenant screening processes to prospective tenants and provides a way for tenants to respond if housing is denied on the basis of information in those screening reports.
- A bill to establish a 12-month authorization period for the state’s Working Connections childcare program. The bill, several years in the making, will reduce bureaucratic overhead and will provide more certainty for low-income families who know that they will have steady and dependable childcare in order to allow them to find steady work. Recent studies from WSU and the federal government supported this policy change. I was honored to work with my friend Representative Ruth Kagi on this important policy change.
- Legislation to authorize Transportation Benefit District rebate authority for Seattle. This measure could help to address the regressive nature of some local option funding mechanisms for transportation and transit packages. I continued to fight for local transit funding options for our city.
- A bill to develop a counseling curriculum of information and “best practices” to better prepare students for the long term debts that they may be taking on to finance their education. We have a growing student debt crisis in this state and nation, and our legislation gained broad bipartisan support.
- An amendment to require a 21-day notice by university Regents before any hearing on potential tuition increases in order to give students more time to organize and respond. This was a top priority of student groups.
- Working with Phyllis Kenney, I helped pass legislation to provide consumer protections for short sale homeowners, leading negotiations on the measure when it came over to the Senate. The idea is to insure that homeowners have full information and the knowledge that they can push back on their lenders by demanding a full release, while statutorily shortening the time that banks can hold any deficiency over their heads
- Legislation to increase sentencing to the manslaughter range for DUI vehicular homicide cases. Current law provided a sentencing range of 31 to 41 months, with a typical work or home release in 24 months. This was one of the major priorities for prosecutors as well as the families of several recent high-profile DUI-related tragedies in Seattle and around the Puget Sound region.
- Legislation providing a civil legal remedy for individuals impersonated on social networking and online bulletin board sites. This bill is the second of its kind in the country and was supported by the Washington Technology Industry Association.
- Legislation establishing a new type of corporate form in Washington: the social purpose corporation. This measure establishes a new and innovative corporate form that will allow entrepreneurs and companies more flexibility to adopt corporate goals other than maximizing profits.
I fought for teachers by opposing an abrogation of their rights to collectively bargain their health care benefits. Also, I fought for reproductive rights including access to contraception and I will continue to be a supporter.
Finally, I am very proud to have been the lead Seattle Senator pushing for $9.4 million in funding to renovate and reopen three Seattle public schools. This includes John Marshall, which is intended to help relieve overcrowding at Eckstein Middle.
We have much to do in months and years ahead. I expect to continue my work to expand the doors of opportunity for higher education that will train our workforce. I will continue to fight for tax reform. I expect to be appointed to at least one of the legislative committees to work on our response to the McCleary decision to find a dedicated funding source to meet our education funding obligations. I am excited to have been recently appointed to the board of Innovate Washington, an agency dedicated to supporting innovative companies and entrepreneurs in our state, particularly in the clean energy sector.
Perhaps most importantly, I will not stop until every person in this state has access to quality and affordable health care and no longer faces the prospect of economic ruin if they get sick.
Friends, I have worked hard to be an effective progressive leader in Olympia. We have more work to do. I hope that you will allow me the honor of continuing to work for the residents of the 46th District in the State Senate. I respectfully ask for your nomination, your endorsement and for your vote in November.