Greetings Bus Riders!
The Washington Bus is incredibly proud of the powerful legislative advocacy and political organizing we undertook this past legislative session. This year we saw how the Bus and our community came through and secured incredible wins with a robust legislative agenda! Our agenda covered four core issue areas with 16 bills that were introduced that we worked on and advocated for!
The Bus has a lot to be proud of in this session and gush endlessly about in this blog post, but we would be remiss to not start out with the amazing Bus session stars, our Winterns! Our Winterns came through, learned about their bills and our issue areas, and learned how to mobilize their peers. Backed by our organization and community, Bus Winterns:
- Researched our existing buckets of core issue areas and selected bills they were interested in working on during session,
- Contributed to our robust legislative agenda through our Let Youth Thrive section, where Winterns chose their own bills to add and advocate for during session.
- Learned the ins and outs of the legislative session and engaged in intense community mobilization. Returning to our roots as the Washington Bus, our Winterns participated in our very first in-person Youth Power Lobby Day in collaboration with Latino Community Fund! We had 35 young people descending on the capitol and they made our youth agenda known.
- Winterns and Bus community met with 11 legislators and legislative offices during our Youth Power Lobby Day. We heard amazing speeches from legislative champions Sen. Yasmin Trudeau and Rep. Sharlett Mena!
- With our agenda at the forefront, the Winterns met with several members on Ways and Means to ensure that our bills made it through the fiscal-committee cutoff and were prioritized for floor readings and votes. Every single bill we worked on that made it through the gauntlet of its house of origin went on to survive the opposite chamber and become a law.
- Executed a powerful advocacy and lobbying strategy that ended up with an astonishing 443 actions taken by our Bus community.
Our Wintern Adaora even had the amazing opportunity to write and publish an article in the Everett Herald advocating for the Wealth Tax, a key policy on our legislative agenda. In continuing the advocacy train, Bus Staff engaged with local media in podcasts such as “All Policy Is Local” and Hacks and Wonks in order to advocate for Democracy bills that were running through the senate. Also, for the last few weeks we had our amazing Campus Organizer Edgar, who showed up and helped guide our amazing Winterns through Olympia. We’re so glad to have you Edgar! I hope you read this.
We also wanted to highlight how thrilled we are on getting SB 5208, Updating Online Voter registration passed. Why? Because this is a bill that we came up with after noticing barriers young people were facing with our current online voter registration system, brainstorming with our partners in Oregon. We collaborated with Senator Trudeau and the Secretary of State’s office and advocated hard to move it forward, getting it signed into law within one legislative session.
Moving forward, the Bus is determined to continue our legislative advocacy. This session we got 6 bills passed, but we’ve still got 10 more to work on. Moreover, we’ve got many more issues that we’re really excited to work with, like expanding the right to vote to 16 year olds in local elections. And a huge shout out to statewide democracy vouchers (HB 1755), which didn’t get a hearing, yet, but we are determined to get passed next session.
Writing and passing legislation is no easy task—but we’ve got a lot of allies in the wings in Olympia who do their part to make a better world possible. The Bus wants to make some space to shout out and thank our various prime sponsors and supporters, the legislators who made things happen, and sparked powerful conversations.
Huge thanks to Senator Yasmin Trudeau for championing SB 5208! Also known as the “Online Voter Registration Update” bill, which makes registering to vote online more accessible by allowing applicants to provide the last four digits of their social security number to verify their identity! And another huge thanks to Representative Tarra Simmons & Senator Sam Hunt, who championed HB 1229 and SB 5112, bills that provided a plethora of well needed updates to our voter registration system. For that, we crown these three Registration Royalty, as our special way of shouting out their incredible leadership in improving our democracy.
Can we get a “woot, woot!” for Senator Claire Wilson for championing SB 5225? This bill aims to increase access to the working connections child care program. At the Bus, all think this is incredibly amazing and totally based. Not only does it expand access to undocumented students, but it also expands eligibility to include many child care employees, which is critical to ensure we have childcare workers and that more students and workers are able to afford childcare! We’re proud to dub Senator Wilson as our amazing Childcare Champion.
KEEPING CORRECTIONS ACCOUNTABLE:
It’s undeniable that our correctional facilities are in crisis. Nationwide, in 2020, around 6,182 people died in U.S. prisons. Locally, people are dying in our correctional facilities, and that includes privately owned detention centers. It’s a grim reality that we face every day that the conditions in which we keep our incarcerated neighbors is, if left unattended, deadly. Because of these grim realities, we are incredibly thankful for Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self for championing HB 1470, known as the bill regarding “Private Detention Conditions.” This legislation ensures that proper inspections of our detention centers are conducted, along with a swath of other regulations which keeps these centers accountable and saves lives. For that, we are incredibly grateful for Representative Ortiz-Self for Keeping Corrections Accountable.
PROTECTING INDIGENOUS LIVES:
Indigenous women and people make up a disproportionate amount of missing persons and murder cases in our nation. And in collaboration with a uniquely positioned coalition, Representative Debra Lekanoff & Senator Manka Dhingra championed HB 1177 and SB 5137, which established a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Cold Case Investigations Unit. We want to thank Representative Lekanoff and Senator Dhingra for Protecting Indigenous Lives through establishing this investigations unit, and we look forward to continuing to work with community and the legislature on future legislation that will further our fight to end the disparities in missing persons and murder cases in our nation.
FEEDING OUR KIDS:
Across the nation, more and more states like Minnesota, New Mexico, and potentially Rhode Island are adopting free school meals for our public schools—which absolutely feels like a straight-forward policy, feeding kids in a place where they’re legally mandated to be. Surprisingly, the lunch line is a place where some of the most blatant examples of wealth injustice can be seen. Youth who don’t have the money often go days without healthy meals (or meals at all), which impact their ability to learn and grow. Representative Marcus Riccelli put down a proposal through HB 1238 that would establish free school meals in our public school systems. We’d like to thank Rep. Riccelli for putting forward this legislation for Feeding Our Kids. We are bummed that it did not fulfill its intentions and are looking forward to expanding this legislation again once we’re able to.
THANK YOU, WE’LL BE BACK!
BRING THE ULTRA-WEALTHY TO HEEL:
Economists and working families both know the unfortunate reality that Washington State has the most regressive taxation system in our country. With each year under this regressive tax model, funding our public schools, public infrastructure, and support systems for communities in need become more and more difficult. However, Senator Noel Frame and Representative My-Linh Thai rose to the occasion to challenge our regressive tax model with a progressive proposal: SB 5486, a Wealth Tax. More specifically, an incredibly narrow property tax on extreme wealth. While this bill did not pass into law, we are determined more than ever to fight for progressive tax models. For too long, the ultra-wealthy have not been paying their fair share in taxes, and we thank Senator Frame and Representative Thai for their bills to Bring the Ultra-Wealthy to Heel, and we hope to continue working with the two on future legislation that will correct our regressive tax model.
FUND WORKING PEOPLE:
Time and time again it’s becoming more difficult for working families to catch up with rising costs with stagnant wages. However, Representative Liz Berry brought back to the table an amazing proposal to create a guaranteed basic income pilot program through HB 1045, which would have provided 24 payments to around 7,500 qualifying participants in an amount equal to 100 percent of the fair market rent for a two-bedroom dwelling unit. A basic income program would be a game changer for working families, allowing them to catch up, afford their expenses, and keep themselves housed. And for that, we thank Rep. Berry for putting forth legislation that would Fund Working People. Though this bill did not pass the legislature yet, we continue to be determined to work on solutions to keep people furthest from wealth justice and economic equity housed, fed, and thriving.