I am a committed advocate for racial, social, and economic justice. As a student, I fought for farmworker housing rights in Olympia. Race is a lens through which I view all my work. We know that people of color are disproportionately criminalized, and deprived of good jobs, quality education, and healthy housing. In my own life as a woman and a person of color, I faced race and discrimination. As your Senator, I am committed to tackling the underlying and intersectional roots of the problem.
Our elected leaders must work with community advocates to change laws that discriminate against people of color. We need targeted investments in education, economic development and safety net services for low-income families and families of color to overcome historic institutional barriers. Raising the minimum wage and paid family and medical leave is a definite start. In 2018, we made further strides by passing HB 2587 to ban the source of income discrimination for housing, and banning the box for employment SB 6110 and higher education!
We must continue this momentum and repeal I-200 - a law which prohibits the government from considering race or gender in the development of programs. We know that we live in a society where race and gender affect the arcs of our lives. Allowing the government to acknowledge this and design fair programs that deliver our opportunity for all of us is vitally important.
We need to improve our community policing programs. Police must be better trained to avoid racial profiling. We also need to set priorities for the police based on community needs. That’s why I was so glad to see the community support - from advocates and law enforcement - to improve policing by enacting I-940 De-Escalate Washington, and its companion bill SB 3003, into law in 2018. This will go a long ways toward ensuring everyone in Washington feels safe and protected.
A high-quality public education is the best way to prepare our kids for the careers of the future. This means ensuring that we fund a public education system that works for all children. Regardless of their starting place in society, our educational system should cultivate our children’s unique strengths. It must address the negative impacts of institutional racism so that education can create opportunities for every child to be successful in our community and our economy. In 2018, we worked together in the Washington State Legislature to make major advances in improving education for our young people. We funded an additional $1 billion in well-deserved salary increases for our educators and we funded Breakfast After the Bell, so more of our children will start their day with a full stomach. I will continue to work with my colleagues and community advocates to support the oversight and legislative recommendations provided by the Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight & Accountability Committee.
Now, through the newly created Department of Children and Family, we will be evaluating the implementation of these new programs.
On the higher education front, in 2018 we were able to extend the promise of College Bound to students who would be eligible to our Dreamers. College Bound is a program that helps low-income Washington State students with college tuition. We still need to do more on higher education. We still need to fully fund the State Needs Grant program so that all Washington residents can have the promise of education without debt. I also support continuing the tuition freeze and capping university operating fee increases to the average annual growth of the Washington State median hourly wage.
ENVIRONMENT & ENERGY
We have a responsibility to leave things better than we found them. As your State Senator, I committed to advancing policies and investments in a clean energy economy, fight for a fair transportation system, and work to strengthen our protections for clean air and water.
We must also defend against any new investments in carbon energy infrastructure or attempts to increase oil and coal transport in Washington.
We also need to invest in protecting our communities against climate change. This means tackling the climate gap - lower-income people of color do the least to cause climate change but experience the worst impacts from current pollution and future impacts. Our state will successfully and sustainably reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by centering our policy on the leadership of communities impacted most and ensuring investments are made equitably.
Much of my career has been focused on improving access for immigrants, people of color, and low-wage workers to the health care system. We need to continue to invest in the workers and infrastructure in our healthcare system to ensure patients receive the best possible care. As your State Senator, I have focused on working with unionized medical interpreters and community health clinics to improve access to quality, affordable, and timely medical interpreters for our providers and patients. Every Washingtonian should be able to communicate with their healthcare provider.
We also need to continue to ensure every Washingtonian has access to affordable health care. That is why I am so proud to have sponsored SB5683 that grants health insurance parity for Washington residents from the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau. I also I am supportive of efforts like we have seen in California and Nevada to implement more progressive single-payer healthcare systems, which is why I supported SB5701 this past session.
As a former union organizer, I’ve worked hard to protect the rights of workers throughout our region. I am dedicated to ensuring a thriving local economy. We should incentivize businesses to grow with good paying, permanent jobs. As your State Senator, I fight to keep “right to work” policies out of our state. I also fight for rights of those who have paid their debt to society and now want a good job. In 2018, we banned the box asking about criminal history on most employment applications in Washington State.
I will work with local businesses and worker advocates to ensure fair implementation of our statewide minimum wage and paid leave laws. Raising labor standards is essential to allow historically low-wage workforces more stability and autonomy to provide for their families and reinvest earnings in our local businesses. Working with business and worker advocates to ensure implementation of our new labor standards is also key to making sure that we have an economy that works for everyone. Businesses that treat their workers fairly and pay them a living wage should not have to compete against bad actors. We need to make sure that Washington residents have the ability to work with dignity and make a living whether they are classified as independent contractors or employees regardless if they work through an app or at a worksite.
In addition, we know that communities of color face the biggest barriers when it comes to access to good jobs. We are working on increasing apprenticeship utilization and funding for pre-apprenticeship programs proven to get women and people of color into good construction careers and expanding it to other industries.
In 2018, we made a lot of progress to make compensation more equitable. We advanced a slew of bills to protect workers rights to organize and addressed sexual harassment in the workplace. We also passed legislation bringing us much closer closing the gender wage gap and ensure that women of color - who are the most impacted by the gender wage gap - are at the front and center of passing this policy.
Every Washingtonian deserves to live with dignity and our respect. I believe that access to public and private services should never be denied because of someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. I will fight any legislation that takes away the ability of transgender people to use single-sex facilities according to their gender identity. I’m proud that the legislature passed legislation in 2018 that bans conversion therapy and protects our LGBTQ children.
We must also ensure that no child is bullied because of who they are and that our LGBTQ elders have access to the support they need as they age. Finally, we need to provide healthcare services in a culturally appropriate way for our transgender citizens.
I draw strength from the pride my daughter feels in me as her State Senator. Working together we will build a Washington where our daughters have more opportunities. In 2018, we passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act which makes it more difficult for employers to discriminate based on gender for similar work for both compensation and promotion opportunities. We took an important step forward in 2017 when we passed one of the most progressive family and medical leave laws in the country. It's not nearly over. I'm fighting every day for equal pay for equal work. And I will never accept any infringement on a woman's right to choose the medical care she needs. That's why I supported legislation that requires private insurers to give women the right to access a 12 month prescription for contraceptives. In 2018, we also passed the Reproductive Parity Act which requires insurers to provide contraception with no deductible or co-pay.
I'm proud of my work to improve the care that pregnant women and their children receive in our healthcare facilities. I co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that requires hospitals to allow mothers to have their babies on their chest immediately after birth and keep their new baby in the room with them. It also requires the Department of Labor and Industries to provide education to employers on their responsibilities to pregnant women. It requires the Attorney General to investigate any complaints if these responsibilities aren't met. This bill was signed into law by Governor Inslee on May 16, 2017.
Too much of our tax burden rests on those least able to afford it. We know that we have the most regressive tax structure in the country. We need to stop relying on taxes that put a larger burden on low income and working families and fight to ensure the wealthiest among us pay their fair share to fund the services we all depend on.
That's why I voted against the property tax increases in 2017 and voted for the one-time Democratic property tax cut that homeowners will receive in 2019. Overall, we must introduce progressive taxation in order to fund our social, educational, health and public safety needs. I support a capital gains tax and a progressive Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) to hold those at the top accountable for paying their fair share. In addition, I support sunsetting corporate tax breaks that serve to only line the pockets of large, multinational corporations rather than investing those dollars in our community. I also support an equitable carbon revenue policy and the creation of a public infrastructure investment bank.
Equitable transportation is a priority for me, which is why I serve as Transportation Committee Vice-Chair. New transportation investments must directly address the historic segregation and unequal opportunities caused by our past transportation and development policies. Our region is growing and lower income people are being pushed further out of central Seattle. It is critical that we have a transportation system that serves all communities in our region - regardless of income level. I have fought for transportation equity in the 37th district and continue to do this work as your State Senator.
We also need to look at additional funding options for transportation. I support an equitable carbon policy that would generate new revenues. Some of these should be invested to advance carbon neutral transportation choices. Working together we need to create a state-owned infrastructure bank so that we can leverage more revenue out of our bonded projects. Instead of sending our taxpayer dollars to Wall Street to service debt, we can keep that money in Washington to invest in our communities.