Hello Democrats! I’m happy to be back home after a big week in the other Washington at the DNC meeting. You can read about some of the organizing work I’m doing at the DNC level to strengthen the Democratic Party in this Washington Post article - lots of productive work happening and lots more to do!
Let’s Get Into the Details on the Legislative Session - Last week was the end of the legislative session, and we shared a brief, high-level overview of some of the broad issues that Democrats delivered for the people of Washington. This week, we wanted to cover some of the bills and budget items that passed this year in a little bit more detail.
Democrats made record investments in communities across Washington through the operating budget, by ensuring that housing is more affordable, and that those living on the margins are able to climb out of poverty. Our legislators invested in working families, the environment, education, public health, and made targeted tax cuts to help stimulate the economy and create clean energy jobs across the state.
Democrats passed a transformative transportation investment plan – Move Ahead Washington – that takes bold action to combat the climate crisis, prioritizes an active transportation system, and invests in the needs of our community through the creation of thousands of family-wage jobs without placing additional costs on Washington families. And legislators built on our work in 2021 to increase public safety, refine police accountability policies, strengthen common sense gun laws, and go after perpetrators of domestic violence, cyberstalking and other forms of harassment.
Let’s dive into some of the specific bills and budget items, issue by issue.
The pandemic and its effects on mental health and economic wellbeing have led to an increase in some forms of violence nationwide. However, according to the best data we have, the overall effect of the last two years on crime in Washington has been mixed, with increases and decreases in some types of crime in different places in the state. At the same time, domestic violence has surged recently, with DV homicides in King County nearly tripling in 2020 and remaining at that elevated level in 2021. 2020 stats from WASPC show that domestic violence makes up half of all crimes against persons. In King County, more than a quarter of all murders and attempted murders were committed by men who had a prior conviction for domestic violence.
There’s no simple solution, but we are taking carefully targeted action to address the specific issues that have arisen. Democrats passed bills to:
- Allow DV victims to seek civil protection orders if they are victims of abusers who use coercive control to oppress and instill fear (HB 1901).
- Address catalytic converter theft (HB 1815).
- Cut down on cyber harassment and stalking (SB 5628).
- Establish a Missing Indigenous Person alert system to prevent the crises of missing and murdered indigenous people in our state from getting worse (HB 1725).
- Ban high-capacity firearm magazines, of the type often used in mass shootings (SB 5078).
- Ban ghost guns (HB 1705).
- Ban the open carry of weapons at local government and school board meetings, and all weapons at election offices and voting centers (HB 1630).
Reducing Poverty and Homelessness
Democrats know economic stability is essential to healthy kids, strong families, and thriving communities, yet we know too many are struggling to make ends meet. This year’s budget focuses on poverty reduction while strengthening benefit programs to give people a better chance at gaining financial stability. The budget invests:
- $272 million to increase access to lifelines for people across the state: Working Connections Child Care, behavioral health services, child visitation, and in-home care.
- $58 million for the Farmers-to-Families Food Box Program to get fresh, healthy food to food banks across the state.
- $45 million for rental assistance to help at-risk families stay in their homes.
- $45 million to help transition people camping on certain public roads and highways to emergency and permanent housing.
- $37 million to increase financial support for people eligible for the Aged, Blind, or Disabled program.
Climate Action and the Environment
The fight against the climate crisis and the urgent need to protect our natural resources is the challenge of our lifetime. We must take action to protect communities from wildfires, flooding, and other increasing extreme weather events. This year’s budget makes necessary investments in public lands and rehabilitating threatened salmon species while building toward a clean energy future:
- $180 million for salmon recovery projects across the state, including the Duckabush estuary restoration project.
- $57 million for solar energy infrastructure projects, including solar resilience hubs, electric vehicle parking canopies, and solar energy projects that benefit low-income communities.
- $103 million to build electric vehicle charging infrastructure in rural areas, office buildings, multifamily housing, ports, and state and local government offices.
- $15 million to speed up repairs and improvements at state-owned recreation lands and facilities.
Washington’s future depends on healthy communities, but too many people face barriers accessing care or support when they need it most. This year’s budget makes dozens of new investments for our neighbors in need:
- $450 million to increase access to services for individuals with a developmental disability and/or with long-term care needs.
- $100 million to address workforce shortages in and improve access to behavioral health services.
- $200 million for reinvestment grants to communities disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs.
- $350 million to strengthen our state’s groundbreaking paid family leave program.
- $28 million to support recent immigrants and refugees arriving in Washington, including for their immediate and long-term physical and mental health needs, to assist with children's successful integration into school, and more.
The pandemic has created major disruptions for students and their families, which exacerbated the educational opportunity gaps that existed prior to the pandemic. This year’s budget adds more school counselors and nurses across the state to meet students’ social and emotional needs. We are ensuring our schools are fully staffed and prepared for a return to pre-pandemic enrollment levels, when our students will need them more than ever before:
- $345 million to stabilize school districts that experienced enrollment declines because of the pandemic.
- $90 million to add nurses and counselors in schools to meet the physical and social emotional needs of students.
- $37 million to expand nursing education at state universities and colleges.
Supporting Small Businesses
- $71 million for programs to help Washington’s small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- More than 125,000 small businesses across Washington will no longer pay the state business tax, saving approximately $50 million each year (SB 5980).
Legislative District Caucuses Coming Up - We want to remind everyone about the legislative district caucuses coming up on Saturday, March 26th, when all 49 Democratic legislative district organizations will elect the delegates to represent them at our state convention in Tacoma in June. We need a strong and diverse set of delegates from across the state at our convention, and that starts with folks like you stepping up to run for delegate at your LD caucus (and recruiting your friends, neighbors, and family to run, too)!
An important part of the convention will be approving the party platform for 2022. You can read the draft platform from our Platform Committee here. Only elected delegates to the convention will have input on the platform from here on out, so if you want to be able to weigh in, running for delegate in your LD caucus is the first and most essential step! This year, the initial draft of the Platform aimed to take on an ambitious restructuring to make it more clear for delegates where amendments would be necessary, in response to the recent shift that allows delegates to directly amend the platform. As a result, readers will notice areas which require additions, and we encourage all Democrats to run for delegate on March 26th at your local Legislative District caucus to propose those needed additions. Please send any questions to PartyAffairs@wa-democrats.org.
Each legislative district organization is running its own caucus, but they’re all happening at 10 AM on March 26th. Find information about your legislative district party’s caucus on this list. Most caucuses will be held virtually! Your participation will help make our party stronger!
A Look At Gas Prices - If anybody wants to argue with you that President Biden’s policies are driving up the price of gas, show them this:
Oil prices are decreasing, so gas prices should too. Last time oil was $96 a barrel, gas was $3.62 a gallon, on average, nationwide. Now it’s $4.31. Why? Because oil and gas companies are taking advantage of an international crisis to pad their profits at the expense of hardworking Americans. Don’t let the Republicans play the blame game here!
Matt Shea in Poland - I’m sure you remember the Washington state legislature’s own domestic terrorist, former Rep. Matt Shea, a white nationalist who helped plan and prepare for armed conflict and right-wing political violence here in the Pacific Northwest and who authored documents like ‘the Biblical basis for war’.
Now, Shea is trying to organize some extremely concerning “adoptions” of Ukrainian refugee children:
Former Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, the far-right Republican who was found by a House-commissioned investigation to have planned and participated in domestic terrorism, is in a small town in Poland with more than 60 Ukrainian children, trying to facilitate their adoption in America.
Shea has said his group helped rescue 62 children and their two adult caregivers from an orphanage in Mariupol, the city in southeastern Ukraine that has been bombarded by Russian forces.
But international agencies say, with the chaos and confusion of war, now is not an appropriate time for international adoptions from Ukraine. And Shea’s presence, and the lack of information surrounding the American group he’s with, has raised concerns among some residents of Kazimierz Dolny, the small Polish town where the children are staying at a hotel-guesthouse.
“I asked him many times, ‘What are you going to do with these children?’ and he told me that it’s not my business,'” Weronika Ziarnicka, an aide to the mayor of Kazimierz Dolny, said of Shea. “I got the feeling in my gut that something’s wrong with this guy; he didn’t want to tell me his last name.”
“I do not know what Matt Shea and his friends are doing here around children,” Pomianowski said in an email. “Mr. Shea and his friends have given us some contradictory information and, for that reason, it is difficult for us to trust them.”
The National Council for Adoption said this is not the time for U.S. citizens to be considering adoption from Ukraine, as many families fleeing the war become separated. “It is paramount that the identities of these children and their families be clearly established, and their social, legal, and familial status is fully verified by governmental authorities,” the council said. “For most of these children, we cannot do that at this time.” The United Nations High Commission on Refugees and UNICEF put out a joint statement calling for temporary and foster care for children but saying “Adoption should not occur during or immediately after emergencies.”
We want to keep our eyes on what Shea and his right-wing disciples are up to, whether it’s this strange scheme putting Ukrainian refugee children at risk, or it’s his friend Rep. Bob McCaslin running for Spokane County Auditor so they can control elections in this critical county. I don’t know exactly what Shea is up to here, but I know I wouldn’t entrust custody of children with a man who endorsed training child soldiers for a holy war. With all that these children have been through already, I pray for their safety and that they are reunited with their parents.
Deborah Senn Celebration of Life - As many of you may have heard, former Washington State Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn passed away last month. She was a fierce advocate for the public who fought to make insurance companies pay for the care people need and hold them accountable. Her family asked us to share information about a Celebration of Life event for folks who knew her. The details are below.
Who and what: Friends are planning a Celebration of Life for former Washington State Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn — a champion of healthcare for all, advancing Democratic women in politics (and a few good men, too), a progressive advocate for Jewish values, and participating in and supporting the arts.
When: Sunday, March 27, 2:00 - 3:30 p.m.
Where: Temple De Hirsch Sinai, located at East Union Street and 16th Avenue on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Parking is available on 16th Avenue across from the main entrance of TDHS.
Thank you all for reading and for your support!
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