Saturday, February 4, 2012

If it's just too nice to go outside this morning.......

You can watch the House Ways and Means committee work!  Yes, Chair Ross Hunter and the rest of the budget-writing committee are holding a public hearing today and you can catch all the action on TVW. Of course, if you'd rather enjoy the rare February sunshine, we can't actually say we blame you.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rep. Larry Seaquist on the changing role of our National Guard

Each year during the legislative session, the Legislature honors our state's National Guard.  Today was National Guard Day in both the House and Senate, with members paying tribute to the men and women in uniform who serve in the Guard both stateside and overseas.

As he has done in previous years, Major General Timothy J. Lowenberg addressed House Democrats during their caucus session this morning.  Lowenberg has been the commander of Washington's Army and Air National Guard since 1999.

Several bills to assist military members and their families were also passed by the House last month.

This morning on the House floor, Rep. Larry Seaquist spoke about how the role of our National Guard has changed over the years, in some ways coming full circle to how it was first envisioned in the early days of our great nation:

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

One step closer...

Washington is one step closer to becoming the seventh state to authorize marriage equality. The Senate voted 28-21 in favor of allowing same-sex unions on Wednesday evening.
SB 6239 sponsored by Sen. Ed Murray (D-Seattle) was approved after 90 minutes of debate on Wednesday. Amendments that strengthened the religious exemption clauses were added to the bill with bi-partisan support. 
Washington currently allows for same-sex couples to register as domestic partners, which provides the same legal benefits as marriage.  However, marriage equality proponents argue domestic partnerships are essentially “separate, but equal” relationships, which historically have proven to be less than equal. For example, during a public hearing on the issue, same-sex couples described difficult and frustrating conversations with hospital staff concerning visitation rights.
You can read more about this historic vote here, here, and here. You can watch the entire floor debate on TVW’s website here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Community & Technical college students rally

Hundreds of community and technical college students rallied at the state capital yesterday with one clear message for the Legislature: no more cuts to higher education. Democratic and Republican lawmakers from the House and Senate spoke to the crowd of students who filled the legislative building rotunda.
Rep. Larry Seaquist
“We still have about 28,000 students that qualify who are not getting student aid,” said Rep. Larry Seaquist, chair of the House Higher Education Committee. “We can’t cut that anymore.”
The state is facing a $1.5 billion shortfall for the remainder of the current budget cycle. At this point, lawmakers are considering all budget cutting options, including higher education, in order to balance the budget.
Higher education tuition has risen dramatically in recent years due to the slow economy. In 2008, undergrad students at the University of Washington were paying $6,679 a year in tuition and fees. For the current school year, those same students are paying $10,223 a year – a 35% increase in three years.
Like most political rallies, the students were armed with creative signs to express their messages about higher education.
  • Please open your minds to other options.
      Our future depends on you.
      Our children depend on us.”
  • “Education = Economic Recovery”
  • “Do not cut the solution”
  • “Education is a right

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Thousands of 38th District folks tune in for lawmakers' tele-Town Hall

The vast majority of policymakers really do work hard at increasing public participation in the legislative process. Take the Telephone Town Hall staged the other night for many thousands of Snohomish County people.
True, not every single one of the 28,086 Tulalip, Marysville and Everett citizens who received a telephone call from their three state legislators actually got a chance to get their two cents in. But 5,152 folks answered the phone.  And then they stayed on the line long enough to take in at least part of this second in an ongoing series of 38th Legislative District Telephone Town Halls. State Reps. John McCoy and Mike Sells, and state Sen. Nick Harper sponsored the tele-forum to emphasize more public participation for their 38th District constituents. The legislators are always on the lookout for ways to get more people more engaged in the state-government process. They held their first tele-forum a year ago, and they'll very likely do another one sometime after the 2012 session finishes up in March.
Some people who "attended" the January 31 teleforum asked questions of their lawmakers. More than a few had a desire to give them a piece of their mind. And others decided they wanted to do both. People talked about everything from the marriage-equality legislation, to funding for schools and social services, to tax reform, to government waste, to -- well, you name it.
McCoy, Sells, Harper and their 144 legislative colleagues just recently cleared the third-of-the-way mark in the 2012 Legislature. They're endeavoring to close the Olympia books by the 12 midnight, March 8, deadline for this year's 60-day legislative get-together.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rep. Probst honored twice for boosting student success

For his legislative accomplishments in lowering dropout rates and broadening future economic opportunity for students, Rep. Tim Probst of Vancouver received awards last week from two organizations long-experienced in advocating for education.
The national Jobs for America’s Graduates dropout-prevention organization recognized Probst’s support for its Washington state chapter and his successful sponsorship in 2011 of the Pay for Actual Student Success (PASS) bill, which funnels money to high schools with proven records of reducing dropout rates.
The Washington Student Association, which represents undergraduate and graduate students at public colleges and universities in the state, gave Probst its “legislator of the year” award for “his focus on securing our state’s prosperity through innovative solutions.” The association cited his success in 2011 in creating the Washington Opportunity Scholarship program, which established a public-private partnership to finance scholarships for students working toward bachelor’s degrees in high-demand fields.
To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Washington White Board - Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is a valuable piece of health care reform enacted by Congress just over a year ago. As Rep. Marko Liias explains in this week’s Washington White Board, the PPACA has many benefits for Washingtonians and would help many state residents receive the quality health care they require.
  •  For instance, 26,000 students who reside in Washington state are able to stay on their parents’ insurance until they reach age 26.
  • Did you know that approximately 90% of businesses in Washington are small businesses? Small business owners are now able to extend health care coverage to thousands of employees due to a tax cut received under the PPACA.
  • Many seniors experience great difficulty covering the cost of their life-saving prescription medications as a result of the Medicare Part D donut hole. With the PPACA, 63,000 seniors across Washington state are able to receive those medications they need to survive.
Unfortunately, these benefits have not stopped the PPACA from being the center of controversy and the subject of legal action. On January 12, Rep. Liias joined 417 others on a legal brief defending the constitutionality of the PPACA.
To learn more about the PPACA from Rep. Liias, watch his latest Washington White Board below.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Public disclosure measure advances

A measure that would improve the transparency of who contributes financially to ballot measures – or who spends big money to defeat them – was voted out of the State Government and Tribal Affairs committee yesterday afternoon.  Its sponsor, Rep. Andy Billig, calls it “a victory for public disclosure.”
The bill would apply to advertising costing $1000 or more that is for or against a ballot measure.  It would require disclosure of the top five financial contributors within the advertisement itself.
More info about the bill and why Rep. Billig thinks it’s the people’s right to know these things can be read here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Best way to fight gangs? Keep kids off the streets to begin with!

Street gangs are a problem in Washington. Children as young as 10 or 11 are recruited to join gangs and engage in criminal activity to prove they “belong,” and the deeper they go, the harder it is to help them get out.  Are there effective ways to break the cycle of crime before it breaks our kids?

Read this guest column in the Everett Herald by Reps. Connie Ladenburg and Luis Moscoso on the strategies they’re proposing to fight criminal gangs in our state.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

One step closer to marriage equality in Washington

Rep. Jamie Pedersen, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and his family testify in favor of HB 2516  
A week ago the House Judiciary Committee heard moving testimony from families, military veterans, religious leaders, and community organizers in favor of House Bill 2516, which would make Washington the seventh state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.

This afternoon the equal protection measure cleared a key hurdle when the committee took executive action. 

The HDC has supported Washington’s march toward the establishment and maintenance of equality for gay, lesbian, and bisexual citizens in recent years. This bill builds upon the work already carried out; including the voter-approved Referendum 71, which established domestic partnership laws in our state.

To read this story in Spanish, click here

Lawmakers reaching out to keep in touch with citizens

Heads up, good people of the 38th Legislative District -- the state capital is comin' at ya! And in a good way, too. Folks in the Snohomish County communities of Tulalip, Marysville and Everett are encouraged to keep their dance cards open early Tuesday night, January 31, for a Telephone Town Hall.
That's right; you read right. The three lawmakers who serve the 38th District -- state Rep. John McCoy, state Rep. Mike Sells, and state Sen. Nick Harper -- are hosting an hour-long tele-forum that evening from 6 to 7. It's a grand opportunity for citizens to engage their legislators in a frank conversation about what's going on in the 2012 legislative session.
Shortly before 6 o’clock the night of January 31, thousands of 38th District citizens will receive telephone calls inviting them to stay on the line and participate in the tele-Town Hall. People who want to join in will be given simple, uncomplicated instructions on what to do. But wait! What if you are a 38th Legislative District resident and you want to join in but you don't get the call between 5:45 and 6 Tuesday night, January 31? In that case, simply call this toll-free telephone number directly, 1-877-229-8493, and then enter PIN code No. 18646 when prompted. And you'll be in!
McCoy, Sells, Harper and the 144 other lawmakers are about a third of the way to an early March deadline for completing their work in the 2012 legislative session. The three lawmakers emphasized that citizens should always feel free to contact one, two, or all three of them whenever the citizens want to ask a question and/or share an opinion.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Stay in the know!

Want to keep up with the floor debate happening on the floor right now? You can follow along on TVW, or you can track progress on the floor calendar.

It's your democracy - participate!

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Stopping cyber scams

Malicious identity thieves on Facebook, Twitter, craigslist and other social networks and online services would face greater legal penalties under a bill passed by the House Jan. 23.
The bill makes harmful electronic impersonation a civil offense, meaning a victim can sue the impersonator. It would add another level of protection to existing privacy laws.
“We’ve had some awful stories, in fact that sometimes have led to suicides, with abuse of social networking, including deception and harassment and fraud and intimidation,” Rep. Roger Goodman of Kirkland said during floor debate on the bill.
The bill was approved 95-0 and moves to the Senate. It was originally sponsored in 2011 by then-Rep. David Frockt of Seattle, who is now a senator.
To read a newspaper article on the bill written before the House vote, click here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.