From the office of Senator Jamie Pedersen, 43rd Legislative District
Greetings! We are now in week 9 of our 15-week legislative session. This week we reached the “house of origin” cutoff – a deadline for all non-budget bills to move from one chamber to the other. I am thrilled to announce that the last bill that the Senate passed before the cutoff was ESB 5023, which extends the “levy cliff” and averts a crisis for public schools. Roughly 1,300 bills, including Senate bills that would criminalize peaceful protests and require parental notification of abortion, are now dead. Our focus will now shift to considering the remaining 750 bills; passing the operating, capital, and transportation budgets for the next two years; and completing a plan for amply funding public schools.
I hope you will be able to attend the 43rd District Town Hall this Saturday, March 11, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Seattle First Baptist Church. House Speaker Frank Chopp, Rep. Nicole Macri and I will discuss the Legislature’s work and answer your questions on various issues before the state. Click here for more information.
Public schools update
Providing ample funding for Seattle Public Schools and districts around the state is my first and most important goal for this session. House and Senate Democrats have been advocating since early January for quick action to address the “levy cliff”. I know that at schools across Seattle, parents, teachers, and administrators are wrestling with impossible decisions about whether to cut counselors, math specialists, PE instructors, or teachers. That is true at my sons’ schools (Stevens and Thurgood Marshall) and at many others.
The House passed a bill in January that would allow school districts to collect the levies approved by the voters. Senate Republicans sat on the issue for 43 days without any action, insisting that there was no need for immediate action. They proposed tying action on the bill to several unrelated measures. Senate Democrats attempted several procedural moves to bring the bill to the floor, including trying to amend it onto another bill last week. And then last night, we finally reached a deal and Senate Republicans agreed to bring up the bill with some agreed-on language to ensure that future local levies are not used for basic education. The bill must now head back to the House, which has promised quick action. I feel hopeful that in the next few days, we will be past this needless fire drill and able to focus on long-term education funding.
In that regard, House and Senate Democrats have worked closely with the Governor on a comprehensive approach to meeting our obligations to kids in public schools. I support the Governor’s proposal. By contrast, I strongly oppose and twice voted against SB 5607, the Senate Republicans’ education plan. In a nutshell, it raises property taxes dramatically in Seattle and other “property-rich” districts ($250 million for our city) and uses most of the money to lower property tax rates in “property-poor” districts. Seattle Public Schools would actually be worse off.
I’m not sure what solution can achieve a majority in both the House and Senate, but am working very hard to make sure that whatever we do substantially increases funding for public schools and does not come at the expense of our safety net or support for higher education.
Seattle’s Right to Govern Itself
A disturbing trend this year is that large, monied interests that have lost (or expect to lose) fights at the Seattle City Council or with Seattle voters on a wide variety of issues have come to the Republican-controlled Senate seeking to have Seattle ordinances overridden. These have included:
• Overturning protections for tenants (SB 5569)
• Overturning protections for people seeking jobs after release from prison (SB 5312)
• Overturning protections for Uber and Lyft drivers (ESSB 5620)
• Preventing protections for small businesses (SSB 5286)
The last three bills have passed the Senate, but not without a fight. You can watch my speech on the small business bill here. Now we will work with House Democrats to make sure that none of these bills makes it to the Governor’s desk without being changed to protect the right of Seattleites to govern themselves.
Eight bills that I introduced have passed the Senate, including:
• SSB 5035, which would allow patients facing terminal illnesses to access drugs that have passed FDA safety testing but are not yet approved for prescribing
• SSB 5012, which would create an easier process to update old trusts, including those set up for people with disabilities
• ESSB 5552, which amends the universal background check initiative to make it easier to prevent suicides
Thank you for the privilege of representing you here in Olympia. I welcome your comments and questions anytime.