by John Stafford
The Washington State Legislature will begin the 2021 legislative session on Monday, Jan. 11. The legislature operates on a biennium basis: it conducts 105-day full sessions in odd-numbered years (like this year) and 60-day short sessions in even-numbered years. In the odd-numbered years, three budgets are created – the operating budget, the transportation budget and the capital budget; in the even-numbered years, these budgets are modified.
This article will discuss the upcoming legislative session. There are three sections: a review of the background issues that establish the context for the session, a summary of legislative priorities, and a discussion of themes.
Continue reading A Preview of the 2021 Washington State Legislative Session
by Mark Van Streefkerk
Representing the 37th district position 2, newly elected Kirsten Harris-Talley built her campaign and platform by organizing with her neighbors. In fact, she ran for office because members of the community asked her to. The first out, Black, queer femme to serve in the Washington State Legislature, Harris-Talley has spent the last 20 years building movements for progressive change. She was a founding board member at SURGE Reproductive Justice, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and former program director of Progress Alliance of Washington, as well as being involved in grassroots movements like No New Youth Jail. In 2017, she was the second Black woman ever to serve on the Seattle City Council, where she introduced the first version of JumpStart Seattle, a progressive revenue measure that passed this year to help fund COVID-19 recovery.
Now that she’s on her way to Olympia, Harris-Talley pledges to be transparent about policies and decisions that affect people in the 37th district through a future podcast, accountability council, and other tools. Her work is informed by aunties and elders in the community, as well as youth-led activism in the South End, where she has lived with her husband and family in Hillman City since 2004. “I’m going to be organizing with my neighbors. It’s the only way we can win,” she said. “Because I think politics is an organizing game. I don’t think it’s an ideas game — it’s an organizing game.”
Continue reading An Abolitionist in Olympia: How Kirsten Harris-Talley Became the 37th District’s New Legislator
by Melia LaCour
This article is the first in a series of articles following Persist PAC’s efforts to support Black women running for the Washington State Legislature. We will follow their process and explain the tools used within the campaign process so that anyone can learn how to support candidates running for office.
The poisonous roots of white supremacy are anchored in every system in the United States. Its pernicious shoots thrive on systemic racism, secrecy, and confusion. Among its many destructive goals, white supremacy deftly obscures the path to power for Black people while clearing and paving a road for white people.
One need look no further than the Washington State Legislature as evidence that the path has been obstructed for Black candidates. Currently there are only two Black women legislators, both in the House of Representatives. Representatives John Lovick and Jesse Johnson, both Black men, are also in the House of Representatives. There are currently no Black people in the State Senate.
Continue reading Persist PAC: Centering Black Women on the Campaign Path to the Washington State Legislature
by Jennifer Tran and Misha Werschkul, Washington State Budget & Policy Center
(This piece was originally published in longer form on the Washington State Budget & Policy Center blog.)
Since the first U.S. COVID-19 case was confirmed in Washington State in January, the public health crisis has rapidly evolved into an economic crisis. In recent weeks, we have spoken with many nonprofit and community leaders in our region to find out more about the specific economic needs emerging from this crisis. And we’ve heard the same sentiment over and over: We can’t make the same mistakes of the Great Recession. At that time, lawmakers made deep cuts to public services and community investments, and they increased our state’s reliance on regressive sources of tax revenue. This created continued hardship and growing inequalities for countless people in our communities.
Continue reading OPINION: Lawmakers Must Focus on Building a Just and Inclusive Economy for Our State
by Reneeka Massey-Jones
In Washington State, we like to think we’re progressive, but I’m not convinced we know what that means. Washington State has some of the most backward, upside down systems in place that do an injustice to low-income folks and people of color: like our regressive tax code, over-policing students of colors in our schools, the ever-growing homeless population, and child hunger, to name a few.
Continue reading Why I Rally For Equity
by Laura Van Tosh and Janine Bertram
State lawmakers in Olympia are debating House Bill 1394 (and its companion bill, Senate Bill 5431), an expensive proposal to build more hospitals with inpatient beds for people suffering from mental health or substance use challenges. This bill has gained wide appeal, and yet it takes a very awkward and giant step backward in terms of reforming what has been called, “a broken system.” We don’t believe our system is “broken” but we do believe Washington State policy makers are on the wrong path, thinking that more inpatient beds are the answer.
Continue reading OPINION: State Lawmakers Seek the Wrong Answer by Demanding More Mental Health Beds
by Rep. Debra Entenman
I remember growing up in a housing project in Seattle and my mother having to make choices. Choices like which of my siblings got to go on the field trip or which store to shop at to get the cheapest groceries to stretch her teacher’s paycheck just a little bit further.
Continue reading OPINION: I Grew Up Witnessing How Washington’s Tax Code Hurts Families — Let’s Fix It
Program cuts have stark racist impacts
(This article originally appeared on budgetandpolicy.org and has been republished with permission.)
by Liz Olson
As the Washington State Budget & Policy Center has previously written, Washington has made deep cuts to its WorkFirst program, our state version of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), in the last decade. New data reveal that these cuts have disproportionately harmed Black and American Indian families, who — under the harsh, inflexible time limit policy — are more likely to be cut off WorkFirst/TANF than their white counterparts. So although the WorkFirst program is intended to provide critical support to families who are excluded from opportunity, punitive policy decisions have instead further marginalized people of color from basic resources — threatening to deepen racial income and wealth disparity.
Continue reading OPINION: Punitive WorkFirst Policies Disproportionately Harm Families of Color
by Virginia Parham
Last year my son, Willie Nobles, got the chance I want for every family in Washington state. Having served 22 years in prison of a 96-year-sentence, a compassionate judge reviewed Willie’s case and said he couldn’t, in good conscience, keep him in prison.
Continue reading OPINION: Senate Bill 5819 Offers a Second Chance to Inmates
by Mia Gregerson and Manka Dhingra
Ensuring mother and child thrive in childbirth and beyond are among the highest on our list of American values. However, the United States remains only one of eight nations in the world with a rising maternal mortality rate — and black mothers are dying at 1.5 to two times the rate of white mothers in childbirth.
Continue reading OPINION: Statewide Office of Equity Can Reduce Systemic Racial Inequalities