The 2014 legislative session is coming to an end this week. Although last Friday was the cutoff for hearing bills on the floor, a few items still remain that will be addressed before session ends. They are:
- The supplemental budget was tweaked and amended. Both sides of the aisle are working over the weekend to come to agreement on those adjustments. I expect the final vote to be taken on Monday or Tuesday.
- Certain bills that support the final supplemental agreement must be approved.
- There is still hope that SB5318 will be brought to the House floor and passed. This is the bill that addresses veterans, and provides them with in-state college tuition rates immediately after their service commitment without having to wait a year, as is the current law. This bill has been in the House all session without being addressed or brought to the floor for a vote.
Tomorrow, Monday, March 10th, we will have a special ‘Navy Day’ resolution presented in the Senate honoring our U.S. Navy personnel. You should be able to view the ceremony at 1pm on the TVW network.
Join my Telephone Town Hall!
Wednesday, March 12th, at 7pm will be a great opportunity for you to ask questions or just listen in as we talk with people from around the district. Your input is extremely important to me, so please consider joining us!
To do so, call in on the night of the event at the following number: 1-877-229-8493 (toll free) and enter the PIN 15431.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for all your support. We will have a post-session newsletter shortly following the end of this session.
On Friday the State Senate voted to pass two bills as part of a package relating to higher education:Senate Bills 6523 and 5318, which together form the “Real Hope Act”. There has been a lot of talk about what happened in the few days since then. Today I want to address you directly and honestly about these bills so you can have the facts as you form your own opinions. So please, read on and then share your thoughts with me.
A Little Background on the “DREAM Act”
You may remember that last year a number of legislators pushed to pass what was called the DREAM Act–a piece of legislation designed to give children of undocumented immigrants the ability to apply for State Need Grants to assist them with college tuition.
My feeling has always been (and I know a great number of you agree) that, while most or all of these students are not responsible for their parents’ decision to break the law, it wouldn’t be fair to implement this policy since so many students are already unable to receive this financial aid because there isn’t enough money to go around. More than anything, my opposition to the DREAM Act has been that it isn’t fiscally prudent or fair. Here’s something I wrote in an e-newsletter last year after I decided to not support the DREAM Act:
While I always keep an open mind to legislation as it changes during legislative session…I decided it was my duty to make the decision I have made. In the coming weeks I will continue to work to make sure that we put more funding into higher education, which I believe will later on afford us the ability to revisit discussions like this one.
This year the same legislation was being pushed again. The bill that House Democrats were pushing stayed the same, which meant I had the same objections as before. But some factors changed this year, which is why I and the Majority Coalition Caucus Leadership proposed and passed the “Real Hope Act”.
The Real Hope Act
What the Real Hope Act does is as follows:
- Expands opportunities for ALL students by adding $5 million to the State Need Grant program
- Allows children of undocumented immigrants the right to apply for State Need Grants
- Lowers the waiting time for veterans and active military to receive in-state tuition
The Senate vote was strongly bipartisan: 35 Yes, 10 No, 4 Absent.
What changed? First, last year the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus put an additional $140 million into higher education. This was just a start, but it was the beginning of meeting a high priority of mine: making sure adequate funding is in the system, which then in turns allows us to expand opportunities.
Second, it had become clear to me during this session that there were enough votes to pass the DREAM Act, but it was also clear that it was potentially a false promise: a bill technically allowing more money to be distributed without allocating the additional funds for that to happen. The Real Hope Act takes a step in the right direction by adding $5 million to the State Need Grant program.
Third, it was evident from the start that passage of the Dream Act was not intended for the benefit of all students. In fact, it was intended to be a wedge that would divide the Senate and render it less effective in other areas of legislation. I could not allow that to happen. It would be much better to “own” the bill and guide the direction it could go than to sit back and accept the outcomes of the Dream Act as it was written. The Real Hope Act made those changes, and in the process enabled all our students to have a fair shot at affordable college education.
It also was clear to me that we first needed to take care of our active and retired military personnel who needed legislative help to get lower tuition costs, but House Democrats were unwilling to pass that bill without passing the DREAM Act.
Because of these reasons and others I made my decision to take leadership on this issue and forge a better solution. Under the Real Hope Act all students will benefit.
No, this solution isn’t perfect. The federal government is refusing to resolve ongoing immigration policy failures and enforce the law, which makes the position of states like ours awkward at best. We should help people who have lived in Washington most or all of their lives and want to contribute to our society but can’t because of the choices of others. At the same time, we can’t promise to give away more money when there just isn’t any, and when students who are legal residents don’t have the opportunity to receive the financial assistance they need.
The Real Hope Act is a step in the right direction. It is my best attempt at taking legislation that was going to become law eventually and turning it into a policy that is realistic and helps everyone.
All my best,
A big ‘thank you’ to those who filled out my December health care survey. The results have been finalized and are below. Click on the images to view larger versions.
Well, the holidays definitely feel long gone now that we are into the 2014 legislative session in Olympia. Last Monday was our first day of this 60-day session.
With the new year comes new opportunities and new challenges, and I am looking forward to getting the work done that is ahead of us!
What to Expect in the Legislature
What should you expect during the course of this Session? Here are a few important things to know at the start:
- This is the first time since 2008 that Washington isn’t facing a budget deficit, thanks to last year’s bipartisan success at passing a balanced budget.
- Boeing’s Machinists recently voted to accept the contract the company offered in order to keep the 777x production in the state. Hopefully this will help the state avoid losing a huge employer and contributor to our economy. Because of that vote I don’t expect issues related to Boeing will be a part of the upcoming session.
- Transportation, however, will be a significant issue of discussion and (hopefully) action. I will continue to push for implementing reforms before we ask transportation users or taxpayers for any more revenue.
Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Making a Difference for Families
Before we get into any more details about this Legislative Session, I want to share an article I recently read that shows how the GET program has been having a positive effect in the lives of some Washington families. I’ve long fought for continuing to fund GET because I know it is a program that working families rely on.
This article talks about one family, the Etengoffs. Hannah and Gabe Etengoff will both finish their undergrad degrees without any student loan debt, thanks to their father, Loren, who setup GET accounts when they were born.
I know New Years is the time when families often make new financial goals and plan for the future. GET is a great way to help navigate the difficult financial waters of funding college degrees.
You may visit the GET website to learn more at www.GET.wa.gov.
Friday is an important deadline that I don’t want you to miss. It’s the last day that I can accept donations this year.
After Friday we will enter a contribution freeze period because the legislative session will start 30 days later. We will be unable to raise funds again until after session is over, which may be the end of March or even later.
That’s why I’m asking you to consider helping my campaign out today. Please click here to make an online donation today!
It’s important for me to continue to raise money to help fund important activities for which I can’t use legislative funds. I need to maintain tools and systems that need to be kept running even when we’re not in the middle of a campaign, such as this website and my email newsletter system. These and other tools along with staff support are vital for me to effectively communicate with my constituents.
But all these cost money. So today I’m asking you to consider chipping in to help me continue to do all I can to serve you.
Any amount helps–whether that’s $100, $50, $25, or just $10.
Thank you for your support! And, if you haven’t yet, please don’t forget to fill out my recent survey on health care. This is an example of the kind of two-way constituent communications I can continue to accomplish with your financial support.