STRENGTHENING OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
I entered politics because I believe all of our kids deserve an excellent quality public education. My two children attended schools in the Bellevue School District so I know we have excellent quality schools in the 48th Legislative District. I also know we have smart, compassionate and talented teachers. I witnessed it firsthand when I volunteered in the schools – from sick room monitor, to library aide, to in-class helper and more, ultimately earning the Golden Acorn for my service as co-President of the Chinook Middle School PTSA. I strongly believe the opportunity my kids had should be afforded to all our children so they graduate either career- or college- ready with skills that prepare them to successfully navigate higher education or the 21st century workplace.
But we can’t meet this goal without ample and sustainable funding for basic education – including teacher salaries – and ensuring our educational policies maximize opportunities for our students. That was the basis of the McCleary decision that ordered the state to fully fund basic education. It is also our constitutional duty. This past session we again increased funding for our K-12 students intended to fulfill the state’s McCleary obligation and will provide resources for school districts to repair or replace deteriorating buildings.
We know kids learn best on a full stomach, so this past year we passed breakfast after the bell and made it less stigmatizing to be on free or reduced price lunch. We extended financial aid access to DREAMers and established a Student Loan Bill of Rights. We also expanded protections against bullying for our trans students and barred the so-called “conversion therapy.” In a previous session I was proud my bill passed to afford our deaf and hard-of-hearing students with the resources they need to be successful in our public schools.
But there is more work to do to ensure each student has the opportunity for an excellent quality education. And by “each” I mean the entire student population including special needs students, ESL children, and those who are gifted. We also have some districts with crowded classes, insufficient para-educators in the classroom, and run-down school buildings. Some schools even lack basic, high speed internet, essential to how students learn today. I will continue to champion education, students, and our local schools in the Senate. It is truly one of the best investments we can make in our state!
FIXING OUR BROKEN TAX SYSTEM
Washington is dead last, with the most regressive tax system in all 50 states. Simply put, folks in the bottom 20% of the wealth spectrum pay seven (7) times more of their income in taxes than those in the upper 1%. And while we are all feeling the property tax hike, those on a fixed income, folks with health issues, our veterans and working families are feeling it much more. Enough is enough, and it’s long past time to fix our broken tax system.
Last year, when Republicans controlled the Senate, the only revenue option they supported was a substantial increase in property taxes. That was by design. First, so Republicans could go back to their districts and say they did not vote for any “new” taxes. Second, they knew those of us who lived west of the mountains would shoulder the lion’s share of the burden. I voted NO, in large part because I knew a substantial hike in property taxes would it cause some of my constituents to lose their homes.
We are tax fatigued. So the incremental addition of new taxes is not the answer. Changing our entire tax structure to a more progressive approach is part of the solution. That includes reducing regressive taxes like property and sale tax, reforming the ridiculous B&O tax, and adopting better, more progressive options, like a capital gains tax. The bill to include a capital gains tax would have affected less than 1% of the 7.1 million people who live in our state, but would have raised about $1B per year dedicated to education. It would have done all that without affecting retirement accounts, sale of your home, agricultural property and equipment or the first $25,000 of profit if single/$50,000 if married.
It also includes creating a public infrastructure bank that keeps our tax dollars in our state, funding infrastructure and economic development with much lower interest rates, and paying ourselves back. In other words, a bank that makes money for the people of the state. We moved a step closer to that reality this past session under Democratic leadership with a budget proviso to hire professional banking consultants to develop a business plan to create the country’s second public banking institution in 100 years.
GETTING OUR REGION MOVING
We have to face facts. We failed to invest in our transportation infrastructure when we had the chance to do so on the federal government’s dime and before our population grew, outpacing road capacity. Businesses have been hurt by an inefficient system that leaves goods and service providers idling on the roadway. On top of that, we expect another 1 million people to relocate to Washington by 2040, most of whom are expected to live west of the Cascades. This population increase will only add to the stress on our roads. That’s the hand we have been dealt, and voters decided in 2016 not to kick the can down the road any further.
Currently, I-405 is the most congested roadway in our state. In my first session, I listened to hundreds of I-405 commuters (I’m one of those, too!) and signed on to bi-partisan legislation that would have, among other things, reduced the hot lanes from two to one. When it became clear that legislation was not gaining traction, I asked to meet with WSDOT and invited my colleagues whose districts are in the I-405 corridor to relay constituent concerns and to find another way to improve the situation. Shortly after that meeting, WSDOT voluntarily lifted tolls on weekends and evenings and made other improvements such as better ingress/egress points to the hot lanes. The hard shoulder running near Highway 527 is now open and has gone a long way to alleviate congestion in that area. The data we have shows commute times have improved, but we still need to reduce congestion at peak times. I will remain a strong advocate and voice for the 48th and the Eastside to keep us moving.
REDUCING GUN VIOLENCE
Gun violence is undoubtedly one of the most pressing issues of our time. Indeed, this past session it was the number one issue that I heard about from my constituents in emails, phone calls and at our town hall. No one should be afraid of going to school, work, the movies, church, or a concert because they might end up the victim of a mass shooting. Despite disgusting efforts by NRA and their minions to silence people – including high school students who just survived a mass shooting – for demanding common sense gun legislation, I am proud that we were finally able to make progress on gun responsibility this year under a Democratic majority. But we are not done yet.
Earlier this year, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that military-style semi-assault weapons are not protected by the 2nd Amendment. I agree with that position and my hope is that the U.S. Supreme Court will, too. We need to ban the sale of military-style, semi-assault weapons and high capacity magazines and follow the military’s lead and require the rest to be inventoried and stored in a safe location other than a home. I believe we need to ensure safe storage of firearms in our homes to ensure that they stay out of the hands of children. I also believe we should require insurance given gun accidents have and continue to sadly happen with some regularity. We should also remove the state preemption on gun laws, allowing cities and counties to decide how to handle access to guns within their own communities. I have been and remain a strong advocate for common sense gun legislation and will continue to use my voice to accomplish these goals.
COMBATTING CLIMATE CHANGE
While the President pulled our country out of the Paris Climate Accords, we in Washington know this is the most important challenge of our time – and the time to act is now. We have been and continue to see the impacts of weather disturbances due to rising temperatures. First, we need to ensure our legislative actions are based on science, and take into consideration the advice and recommendations from respected groups that advocate for our environment every day. Second, we need to continually publicize the immediate and direct impacts of climate change on our daily lives and do what we can on societal and individual levels to mitigate these effects. That includes helping to transition carbon workers into green jobs. Finally, the state must continue to lead by example, by upgrading to green fleets, using green technology in our buildings, and innovating to reduce waste. The bottom line is we must reduce carbon emissions and I will continue to support common sense legislation to accomplish that goal.
I believe that healthcare is a human right and that no person should die because they cannot afford health insurance or care. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, people should not be forced to use the emergency room for primary care because they cannot afford health insurance. That is simply unacceptable.
Let’s not forget that our health insurance industry is for-profit. At least 20% of an over $3 trillion (yes, “trillion”) industry goes to profit. That’s an enormous incentive. And while Americans pay more for healthcare than any other high wealth country, we have a lower life expectancy and poorer outcomes overall. We should be getting better bang for our buck.
That’s why I’m proud to serve on the Senate Healthcare Committee as the Vice Chair. In that position, I have advocated for increasing access to care for all Washingtonians and helped pass the first meaningful step forward in women’s reproductive healthcare Washington has seen in recent years, expanding access to contraception for women across Washington State. I am so grateful we passed my bill to include 3D mammograms in preventative care services in all Washington-licensed insurance plans. That will help save lives and healthcare costs through early detection. I am continuing to work on the “public option” to compete with private insurers to drive down premiums and ensure no Washington county is left without access to health insurance. I am also working to make drug prices more transparent and fair, and to raise the age of smoking/vaping to 21. We also have an opioid epidemic throughout our state that requires us to face some hard facts about how we respond. I will continue to use my voice to stand up for those who lack basic healthcare and will continue to look at ways to expand access in our district and across the region. Like education, healthcare is one of the best investments we can make in the people of Washington!
PRIVACY AND PUBLIC RECORDS
As a former city attorney, I have years of experience in government transparency and public records. I believe that the public has a right to know what our elected officials are up to and that we have to balance the right to information with protecting the privacy of both constituents and public employees. I am in strong support of including legislator emails, calendar information, and correspondence in public records requests. However, I also believe that sensitive and identifying information, such as birthdates and home addresses, needs to be protected from public consumption. Our constituents have a reasonable right to express their opinion to their elected officials without sensitive information then being released.
Last session I voted for the Legislative Public Records Act because I believe the policy is right. But the process we used was wrong. And process matters, because the ends do not always justify the means. After hearing from many of you, I joined many of my colleagues in asking the Governor to veto the bill so it can go through the regular process. I am committed to continuing to find the right balance and look for ways to make it easier for my constituents to engage in the democratic process.
Last year I talked a lot about the unwelcome hike in our car tabs and the Republicans’ “simple fix” bill that looked more like a guaranteed lawsuit, costing us more and doing nothing to lower car tabs. I also told you I was committed to solving this problem without forcing Sound Transit to cancel or delay voter-approved projects. I sponsored legislation that would have accomplished both goals, but it did not make it out of the legislature this year. I am continuing to work on it over the interim, looking for creative solutions that puts money back into the pockets of taxpayers while maintaining the integrity of the voter-approved transit projects.
CHAMPIONING WORKERS’ RIGHTS
Collective bargaining is and should continue to be a fundamental right. In their attempts to limit the political power of labor organizations and their workers, the far right has attacked workers’ fundamental freedoms. People should be free to organize as a group and collectively ask for better, safer, and fairer working conditions and to share in the success of their labor. I deplore the tactics of organizations like the Freedom Foundation that seek to manipulate working people into weakening their bargaining position in the workplace. I will do everything I can as your Senator to speak up for workers and their right to organize, and will oppose attempts to make Washington a “right to work” state, an Orwellian-named policy that in truth undermines workers and their ability to make their voices heard.
STANDING UP FOR WOMEN
In today’s climate, it’s more important now than ever to fight for women’s rights and reproductive healthcare. While Congress continues to be eager to strip away women’s most fundamental rights, including access to contraceptives and abortion, we must do more to show that Washington won’t back down for the women in our state. I was proud to vote for the Reproductive Parity Act (RPA), a law that requires insurance companies who cover maternity care to also cover abortion care, ensuring all women have all options available to them. After trying to pass this legislation for six years, the new Democratic majority brought the bill to the floor where it passed with bipartisan support.
We also passed several bills aimed at eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace by creating model policies and stopping the practice of “nondisclosure agreements” and forced arbitration clauses in sexual harassments cases. And in those instances where justice in the courts is sought, we also passed my bill to severely limit an abuser’s access to a victim’s medical records. Time’s up!