The 2014 legislative session is now one for the history books. The state Senate’s leadership can best be described as “doing the people’s business on time and on budget.”
It’s historic that we protected the two-year college tuition freeze – the first time in more than 30 years that middle-class families and students got a break from rising tuition costs. And, it’s historic that Washington is the nation’s first state to enact a four-year balanced budget requirement.
I am proud that great progress was made for veterans, foster kids, and for taxpayer protections and middle-class families. By sticking to important principles, we prioritized education, protected the vulnerable, and made sure that the state continues to live within its means, just as we do with our family budgets.
As your Senator, one of my greatest rewards is taking your input and ideas and working to see these ideas become law. Below are the highlights of what we did this session.
Click on the photo to enjoy the State Capitol ceremony honoring Washington’s Medal of Honor recipients SFC Leroy Petry, Captain William Swenson, and SSG Ty Carter (L to R).
New Benefits for Veterans
Washington’s veterans now have a new way to gain recognition for their service while accessing the benefits of a college degree through Senate Bill 5969.
The law requires Washington’s colleges and universities to adopt policies on awarding academic credit to individuals for certain military training courses or programs by the year 2016. I’ve often said that we ask so much of our men and women in uniform. They’ve made life-and-death decisions, mastered complicated information technology and communication systems and managed millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. This is valuable training and work they’ve accomplished and worthy of college credit.
UW Law School – Tacoma
We are now one step closer to realizing a Tacoma branch of the nationally acclaimed University of Washington Law School. I thank Valarie Zeeck and the many community leaders who are volunteering valuable time to this project. The governor just signed a supplemental budget that included seed money for this project.
“State Sen. Steve O’Ban then helped bring this vision into sharper focus by obtaining $400,000 in state seed money to move the project to the next level. I don’t know O’Ban personally, but I believe he deserves our gratitude for making a law school in Tacoma possible again.
Both O’Ban and I are graduates of the University of Puget Sound Law School. Both of us understand how important that institution was for the entire South Sound and how a University of Washington Tacoma Law School can again fill that important role.” ~ James Meade
No Per Diem Increase
Recently, Democrats on the Senate Facilities & Operations Committee followed the action taken by the House of Representatives earlier this year and voted to increase the per diem rate for legislators by 33% to $120 per day. I see this as a matter of fairness and have notified the Secretary of the Senate that I will not be taking the per diem increase. We can’t ask our teachers and state employees to forgo cost of living increases while increasing our own Senate pay.
As chairman of the Human Services and Corrections Committee a top priority for me this year was to guarantee legal representation for foster kids who no longer have their natural parents. Senate Bill 6126 is now law and adds important legal protections to help vulnerable children who may become victims of the growing crisis of child sex-trafficking.
I serve as a member of the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children Statewide Coordinating Committee. We know that 60 percent of teens lured into sex trafficking are foster kids. It’s the state’s responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in our society, and we have 10,000 foster kids in Washington. I can’t think of anyone more vulnerable than a child who is an orphan without parental guidance.
Best Session for Children:
Governor Jay Inslee listed my foster-care bill and Rep. Ruth Kagi’s juvenile-records bill, when he said,
“I want to note that this session has been one of the best sessions for decades for children and those of us who want to help children realize their potential…”
I was grateful to have played a role in the juvenile-records bill by negotiating a final version that was supported by all the stakeholders and easily passed the Senate.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) accountability and transparency reform I authored in 2013 became law in the last days of the 2014 session when we approved a supplemental transportation budget. For the first time, the DOT will be required to report highway project design errors and explain what went wrong and who was responsible and how it plans to make sure the error doesn’t happen again.