Saturday, February 11, 2012

Week 5 House Floor Speech Highlights

It was a historic week in the state House. After a very civil House floor debate earlier this week, Washington is on its way to becoming the seventh state in the nation to legalize equal marriage. The House also passed measures that will improve the lives of foster children, expanded suicide prevention training, and honored the National Guard. Check out these clips from this week's floor debates.

SB 6239 - Marriage Equality
Rep. Jamie Pedersen

Rep. Drew Hansen

Rep. Sam Hunt

HB 2592 - Extending Opportunities for Foster Care Children 
Rep. Reuven Carlyle

HB 2366 - Suicide Prevention Education 
Rep. Tina Orwall

HR 4655 - Honoring the National Guard 
Rep. Larry Seaquist

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Johns and pimps better beware or pay-up!

Currently a john only pays a $150 fine the first time he gets caught in the act of buying sex.  And a pimp only pays $300 the first time he’s caught selling sex.
Reps. Tina Orwall, a Democrat from Des Moines and Kevin Parker, a Republican from Spokane, decided that’s just not enough, so they put their political differences aside and worked on a couple of bills that increase the fines.
UnderHouse Bill  2692, instead of $150, johns will pay $1,500 for a first offense, $2,500 for a second offense, and $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense. And under House Bill 1983, instead of $300, pimps will pay $3,000 for a first offense, $6,000 for a second offense, and $10,000 for a third or subsequent offense.
The revenue from these fines will be put to good use to educate offenders about the negative costs of prostitution, and on prevention and rehabilitative services to help victims get out of the sex trade industry.
Both bills passed the House unanimously and are on their way to the Senate.
Read the press release here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rep. Darneille fights back for homelessness

Responding to a surge in homelessness from the Great Recession, the House approved a bill Feb. 9 to attack the problem – but not before an edgy partisan exchange.

The facts are these: On any given day, 23,000 people are homeless in Washington, and another 6,500 live in abandoned building or under bridges – or in cars.

“Sometimes, that (living in a car) is not a bad thing,” Republican Bill Hinkle of Cle Elum told the House, adding that it could provide motivation for self-improvement.

Rep. Jeannie Darneille of Tacoma would have none of that.

“This is not the way children should live in our society,” she said.

The measure – House Bill 2048, sponsored by Rep. Phyllis GutiĆ©rrez Kenney of Seattle –  would raise an additional $25 million a year for homeless programs via a $10 increase in the fee for recording property deeds, mortgages, and other real-estate documents with county auditors.

The 55-42 vote for the bill sends it to the Senate.

Watch Rep. Darneille’s remarks on the House floor:

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

New Opportunities for Foster Kids in WA

The House marked Youth Advocacy Day in Olympia by passing House Bill 2592, which opens the doors of higher education for foster care children in Washington State. The bill, prime-sponsored by Representative Mary Helen Roberts, extends foster care services for youth aged 18-21 that are enrolled in a postsecondary or vocational education program.
The legislation builds upon the successful Foster Care to 21 program established in 2006. In 2008, lawmakers at the federal level passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act which provides federal matching funds for similar programs at the state level. HB 2592 makes necessary changes to Foster Care to 21 in order for our state to be eligible for these federal dollars.
The bill now heads over to the Senate for their consideration.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Rep. Carlyle discusses tax exemption reform

Rep. Reuven Carlyle, a democrat from Seattle, introduced legislation that would fundamentally change the way the state approaches tax exemptions.  Rep. Carlyle introduced a bi-partisan plan at a press conference with Rep. Glenn Anderson, a republican from Fall City, last Friday.

House Bill 2762 would add expiration dates (also known as “sunsets”) to 251 tax preferences currently in state law. These tax breaks, some of which have been on the books since 1935, are worth about $2 billion in tax revenue that won’t be collected in 2013.

“Today, tax exemptions, credits, and loopholes in our state in effect can’t be terminated, they can’t be modified, and they can’t be changed,” said Rep. Carlyle. “That’s bad public policy regardless of how your politics come down.”

Carlyle is referring to the voter-approved Initiative 1053 that requires all tax increases to receive a two-thirds super-majority vote of the Legislature to become law.

Under HB 2762, these types of tax preferences would expire every ten years unless the Legislature votes, by a simple majority, to reauthorize them.

Rep. Carlyle emphasized that this is not intended to be a short-term budget fix. He hopes this bill will help get a conversation started with other lawmakers about problem of “philosophical inconsistencies” in the legislative process of enacting and repealing tax breaks.  “This is about instituting long-term, structural, responsible reform.”

You can read about more about Rep. Carlyle’s proposal here, here, and here.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rep. Laurie Jinkins on CNN!

Yesterday, history was made in the House of Representatives with the passing of the Marriage Equality Act.

During the floor debate leading up to the monumental vote, members on both sides of the aisle gave impassioned and emotional speeches in support of marriage equality and – believe me – there wasn’t a dry eye in democratic side of the house.

In fact, the speech given by Rep. Laurie Jinkins was so moving that the video was posted on CNN and you can watch it here

Here is the full text of the speech:
This is about family. About kids. It’s about love and commitment. It’s about encouraging people who want to spend their lives together to send out invitations, buy a wedding dress and dance.
Because life isn’t about having a 5,000 square-foot house and four BMWs in the garage.
We talk a lot about education here and how a college degree is the surest ticket to the American Dream.
A decent house in a safe neighborhood with good schools. Getting a good education and a good job, with benefits like health care – we work so hard for those things because they let us do what matters most: taking care of our family.
I don’t drive a BMW. I drive a 1999 Honda and my partner drives a minivan. My family and I live in a modest home in Tacoma, not a mansion.
And that doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter one bit.
Because when I come home from work every night, to my partner of 23 years and to our son Wulf, I have all the riches and treasure a woman could want.
So I am voting YES for families,
YES for the two female sailors who showed the world the right way to walk off a warship in Bremerton,
YES because I’m proud of the courage shown by senators and representatives from both parties,
and YES not just because marriage is a good and noble institution to encourage and celebrate, but because all we do here – education and jobs and health care – in the end, we do all those things for one, simple, beautiful reason:

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Next stop: Governor's desk!

Photo: TVW
The Washington House of Representatives just passed the Marriage Equality Act by a vote of 55 - 43.  The Senate passed the bill last week, so the bill is heading straight to the desk of Governor Gregoire, who has said she will sign it early next week.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

House Transportation leaders advance focused revenue package!

Exciting news!
Yesterday, House transportation leaders addressed urgent state and local needs while creating, or sustaining, thousands of jobs all over Washington by advancing a great revenue package!
“Low interest rates and very low bids from businesses competing for construction contracts make this an ideal time to take care of some of our most pressing needs in transportation,” said Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), who chairs the House Transportation Committee.
The centerpiece of this package, which passed out of committee yesterday, is HB 2660 which is expected to generate about $1.35 billion over the next ten years by adding a $1.50 fee on barrels of refined oil in our state. Revenue from the oil-barrel fee would be split 50-50 between the state and local governments. This new plan exempts oil that is exported to other states or used for non-highway purposes, such as aviation and marine fuels.
“Just by itself, the oil fee we’re proposing would support around 1,100 jobs annually,” said Marko Liias (D-Edmonds), a vice chair of the committee.  “These are good-paying, private-sector jobs for construction workers, who’ve been hit harder than anyone else by the economic downturn.”
In addition to the revenue measures, the committee passed a proposal (HB 2704) by Rep. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) to create a task force for exploring new approaches to funding transportation as the state becomes less reliant on fossil fuel.
“Today we passed a focused revenue package for urgent needs,” said Billig, also a vice chair of the committee.  “It doesn’t try to replace the nearly $5 billion of gas-tax revenues that we’re expecting to lose over the next dozen or so years due to increased fuel efficiency and other factors. But it will put people to work right away on state and local needs that just can’t wait.”

Marriage equality slated for House vote today

The whole House will consider the issue of marriage equality for the first time this afternoon when they begin debate of SB 6239.  The companion measure is sponsored in the House by Rep. Jamie Pedersen and 49 other members.

We are expected to start debate around 1:00 pm, and you can follow it on TVW. We will also be live-tweeting during the debate; please follow us @WaHouseDems.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Energy-banking is an idea whose time must come

Slowly but surely, the science/technology of energy-banking left the realm of pipe dream and made its way into the real-life land of pipeline.
Energy-banking, stowing power away to be used a later day, is an idea whose time very much has come. In fact, according to a recent newspaper item (the [Vancouver] Columbian, "Northwest energy storage concepts explored," 2/5/2012): "… a group of researchers led by the Richland-based Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Bonneville Power Administration are exploring whether that idea can be" restyled into our own Pacific Northwest version of the "natural gas storage facilities that are common across the country." Study participants estimate they'll finish their work later this year.
The idea is to put excess energy in the "bank" -- sock it away "in the form of compressed air and water in the Northwest’s expansive, porous underground basalt formations." It is very important to keep the research ball rolling because our Northwest power grid is under a great deal of pressure. Notes the newspaper item: "Excess energy has been a problem in the past. Just last year, unusually high flows in the Columbia River Basin put the region’s hydroelectric dams at maximum capacity."
Enter the Legislature. Just recently the House Technology, Energy & Communications Committee conducted a fact-finding work session on energy-storage issues. The committee has already passed to the House Rules Committee an energy-storage bill, House Bill 2198, which is prime-sponsored by state Rep. Jeff Morris. The measure directs that electric utilities must do an assessment of energy-storage systems in the integrated resource plan that already must be done by the utilities. Energy-banking backers emphasize that energy-storage has huge potential, especially as it relates to renewable portfolio standards requirements.
What's more, federal Energy Secretary Steven Chu maintained in a February 2010 statement: "Without technological breakthroughs in efficient, large-scale energy storage, it will be difficult to rely on intermittent renewables for much more than 20 to 30 percent of our electricity."
A good example of the "intermittent renewables" to which the secretary refers would be a wind farm that generates power only when it’s windy. It's very difficult to count on these energy sources for consistent power, unlike a natural-gas plant.

Saving kids means saving tax dollars

Did you know that providing high-quality preschool for all children who want it could save Washington up to $120 million every year in special education costs alone? That’s the Feb. 7 “Early learning fact of the day” from the Children’s Alliance
A recent analysis of why High Quality Pre-K Programs Save Taxpayers Money Right Away shows why these savings are so big: Taxpayers typically pay nearly $100,000 more for kids in special education, compared with kids who don’t need these services—and  high quality early learning can cut the number of kids who need special education in half (48%, to be exact). 
Washington recently netted $60 million in federal dollars by winning a national Early Learning Challenge Fund grant, because we know how to do early learning right.
 Ask Kylee’s mom. Kylee’s family doctor suspected developmental delays. Teachers and others within a Tacoma ECEAP program swung into action, tailoring a plan to help Kylee get ready to learn in kindergarten. The result? Kylee avoided special education (and its costs), and is now a top notch fifth-grade student. In fact, she just earned a Governor’s Award for having one of the highest WASL scores at her elementary school.
 ECEAP worked for Kylee. It works for taxpayers, too. That’s why teachers and people who care about kids say that passing the High Quality Learning Act (HB 2448) proposed by Rep. Roger Goodman could save far more children—and tax dollars—in the years ahead.

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rep. Roberts is on the phone!

Tomorrow night State Representative Mary Helen Roberts will be calling residents of the 21st Legislative District to discuss what she’s been up to in Olympia, as well as to take questions from constituents.

This isn’t the first telephone town hall for Rep. Roberts, but if you’ve never participated before, here’s how it works:

1. At around 6:00 PM your home phone should receive a call from Rep. Roberts.
2. Pick up the phone and follow the prompts.
3.Stay on the line for as long as your schedule allows, and feel free to press *3 if you have a question for Rep. Roberts.
Easy as 1-2-3!
Please keep in mind that you must be a resident of the 21st LD to participate. If you are a resident of the 21st and don’t receive a call, you can dial into 1-877-229-8493, and then enter PIN code No. 18646 when prompted.

In addition to the telephone town hall tomorrow evening, Rep. Roberts will be holding two in-person town halls on February 18th with seatmates Rep. Marko Liias and Sen. Paul Shin. The first will be at the Mukilteo City Hall at 10:00 AM, and the second will be at the Edmonds City Council Chambers at 1:30 PM.  

To read this story in Spanish, click here.