Hella Bus Blog
- 14,357 registered voters statewide
- 20,000+ doors knocked
- 95,000 phone calls to young people
- 4,000+ volunteer engagements
- Students couldn't get to school.
- Workers couldn't get to work.
- People with disabilities who are unable to drive couldn't get anywhere.
- Car drivers would find themselves sitting in far worse traffic when previous bus riders found themselves driving instead.
- Election Day Registration: Know what's a bummer? Not getting the opportunity to vote. Know how many Americans didn't vote in 2008 because they missed their registration deadline? 6. Effing. Million. (That's about four Idahos). That's why we're pleased as punch about these bills to extend the online voter registration deadline to up to 8 days before the election and registration in person before 5pm on election day. Learn more on Hella Bus.
- Motor Voter 16 and 17 year old Pre-Registration: This bill would allow 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote at the department of licensing. That means, when young Timmy shows up at the DOL to take his driving test, he can also pre-register to vote so when he turns 18 he's good to go. For more, see this attic dwelling philosopher.
- Washington State DREAM Act: Speaking of access to good things, the WA version of the DREAM Act would extend state-based financial aid to young aspiring citizens in Washington to make sure that talented young Washingtonians can pursue their higher education dreams. Yes.
- Increasing Ballot Dropboxes: Did you know that there are only 15 ballot dropboxes in all of King County? That is one dropbox per every 31 Seattle Starbucks locations. I know! Shock! Outrage! Luckily, there are several proposals requiring more ballot dropboxes including requiring ballot receptacles (we don't name these things) on college campuses. The best proposal is still under construction, but stay tuned for more.
- Washington Voter Rights Act: This was that extra wonky bill we've mentioned a bunch recently. The Voting Rights Act will make sure all communities will have a chance to elect the candidate of their choice in local elections. It's awesome. For info, check out wavotingrights.org.
Wanna make a difference in the youth and democracy? And have your difference make an even BIGGER impact? Make a gift to the Bus through the Seattle Foundation on May 15, all 24 hours of it, and your gift will be stretched!
In 2012, BUS supporters like YOU is what allows us to make amazing things happen across the state:
As thanks, for every giving milestone, the Bus will release a one of a kind .GIF on Facebook! Tomorrow, click on the Donate Now link below and help us fuel the Bus year round!
Remember two years ago when King County Metro was facing 17% service cuts? People came out in
droves mass transit to testify as to the importance of our beloved transit system. Estimates put between 500 and 1,000 people at the hearings. The rooms were packed, lines extended around the block and testimony that started in the early afternoon extended until 10:30 at night.
Not as crowded as your bus will be if these cuts go through.
I was there in the sweltering room listening to the passionate testimony. Over and over again I heard that with these cuts:
The intense outcry worked in 2011, and the County Council agreed to increase car tab fees by $20. But this was a stop-gap measure to get us through the next two years. It was never intended to be permanent.
Well, we're two years in and stuck in the same situation. Even worse, this time the King County Council isn't able to solve the problems themselves. They need authorization from the Washington State legislature in Olympia to grant the power to tax themselves to save Metro.
Did you get that? Olympia gets to decide whether King County is allowed to pay for the buses they want.
The House Democrats passed a transportation package that would protect King County from these cuts. But the Republican-oriented Senate Majority Coalition led by Sen. Rodney Tom is currently against the package.
Special session kicks off May 13th. Legislators will be focusing on the budget. It is crucial local funding options are addressed during the special session.
If you ride the bus, love buses, or drive on the same roads that feature Metro buses, speak out. You can attend a hearing at the King County Council next Tuesday afternoon.
Or if you, like many transit-dependent people, work from 4-7 on a weekday afternoon, contact your legislators.
Primarily Speaking is an on-going blog series brought to you by the Spring Interns at the Washington Bus. For questions on content, contact our series editor, Maya Garfinkel.
"To Olympia and Back with Ed Murray" by Brigit Rossbach
Ed Murray is currently the Leader of the Democratic Party in our state Senate and is running to be your mayor! He has served in state legislature since 1995, representing the 43rd district, which includes Fremont, the University District, Capitol Hill, Madison Park, and parts of Downtown. In his years in the Senate, he has done some great things for the young people in the state of Washington. He helped keep the Guaranteed Education Credits alive, allowing more Washington youth to go to college at an affordable rate. He was the prime sponsor of an act in 2002 that has protected LGBTQ youth from harassment and discrimination in schools, and was the prime sponsor of the Marriage Equality bill that passed last year. He was endorsed by the National Human Rights campaign and is a powerful leader for equality. There are some concerns about whether he has a vision for Seattle and a firm grasp on the issues facing the city, considering that his long standing focus has been on state issues. Overall Ed Murray has championed progressive issues that are good for young people of both our city and state.
Check back soon for Primarily Speaking Vol. #3, where we'll discuss fellow challenger Tim Burgess.
Primarily Speaking is an on-going blog series brought to you by the Spring Interns at the Washington Bus. For questions on content, contact our series editor, Maya Garfinkel at hellabus[at]washingtonbus[dot]org.
Overview by Maya Garfinkel
Still recovering from November? In Washington State political withdrawal? Still cleaning out your inbox of campaign emails? Well, get excited, because here in Seattle we have a whole lot of influential seats up for election this November! Primarily Speaking will discuss our city's candidates, political structure and all the mystery that comes with both. Following the August 6th primary, two mayoral candidates will advance to the November election. We are kicking it off with a glance at the incumbent, Mayor Mike McGinn. For more information on this unique candidate, check out his op-ed in response to his fellow candidate Ed Murray.
"The Unconventional Incumbent, Mike McGinn" by Thomas Shewe
This blog post was written by Paloma Pineda, a Sophomore at Holy Names who spent her Spring Break volunteering at the Bus office:
Even before I started volunteering at the Bus I was passionate about human trafficking, having completed an independent project on sex trafficking and the effects on the victims in the 8th grade. So when Emilio presented me with Senate Bill 5563 - a bill that puts in place training programs in public schools about sexual abuse - I knew this was my cup of tea. In retrospect, during my years of elementary and middle school I was never educated or talked to about sexual abuse. The topic of sex trafficking remained a mystery to me until I learned about it through my own research in the 7th grade. This is what excites me so much about this bill; the power of education gives us the opportunity to take a step towards stopping child sexual abuse and sex trafficking.
In researching sexual abuse in the United States, I came across jaw-dropping statistics on the abuse of children. About 20% of women and 5–10% of men in the United States have experienced sexual abuse as children. Showing just how crucial public school education is on this issue, some 9.6% of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct (in same-sex schools this number can range to between 18-28% of reported cases). Despite these horrible statistics concerning child sexual abuse, little is being done to inform teachers and K-12 students about sexual abuse of minors. This is where Bill 5563 comes into the picture. This bill requires the training of school employees in the prevention of sexual abuse on the laws related to sex offenses, how to recognize behaviors of sex offenders, how to prevent victimization, and how to prevent children from being recruited into sex trafficking.
Another question that has been raised is the funding that is needed to implement this program in the public schools system. Yet, let’s consider the bigger picture; preventing child sexual abuse saves scarce dollars that would be needed to treat victims in future circumstances. Children who are sexually abused are more likely to engage is risk-taking behaviors, including school dropout, substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, and may even be subject to the sex trafficking trade. In fact, 75 to 95 percent of all prostitutes and people in the sex trade were sexually abused as children. Laws and education of the sex trade are focused on combating sex trafficking, while we need to focus on the root of the problem, child sexual abuse. This bill would not only inform young students about the dangers of abuse, but help to prevent further abuse from continuing.
As of April 3, this bill has officially passed both the Washington State Senate and House of Representatives with unanimous bi-partisan support! Success! Keep an eye out for this bill being enacted in public schools in your neighborhood!
GOOD THING ALERT: Seattle Works, the non-profit that "brings together individuals seeking to take the next step in their community engagement and causes seeking to connect the next generation of leaders" (or, good people doing good stuff for good reasons), is having a big 'ol bash of volunteerism on Saturday, 5/18 and they want you there!
Read all about it here or see the info below to learn how to get involved.
Coal is so uncool. UnCoal you might say. Check out this action alert from Climate Solutions about updates in the other Washington!
Big Coal and their allies are at it again. This time in the US Senate. They're attempting to attach an amendment to the budget that would undermine the ability of federal agencies from considering greenhouse gas emissions produced outside the U.S. when permitting export proposals, including for coal. Senator Barrasso's budget amendment, #184 is likely to come up for a vote on the floor of the Senate in less than 24 hours.
Please call your U.S. Senator today and let them know you are very concerned about coal export proposals in the Northwest and that you OPPOSE Amendment 184.
Senator Cantwell, WA:
Senator Murray, WA:
(866) 481-9186 toll free Seattle office
Senator Merkley, OR:
Senator Wyden, OR:
* Under the National Environmental Policy Act, an agency that issues a permit for a major project involving the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels has to consider the impacts of burning those fuels on the health and well-being of Americans, regardless of whether those fuels are burned in the U.S. or whether they are exported and burned somewhere else in the world.
* It's the agency's duty to consider the health and environmental impacts that fall on Americans, regardless whether the pollution is released here at home or takes place abroad.
* When it comes to greenhouse gases, the impacts on Americans are exactly the same wherever the fuel is burned, because carbon pollution spreads globally and respects no boundaries.
* So under the amendment, agencies reviewing major projects involving extraction and combustion of coal, oil, or natural gas would still have to consider the impacts on of Americans' health and well-being of burning those fuels inside the U.S. That's as it should be. But under this amendment the agencies would be compelled to ignore the same impacts on the health of the same Americans, just because the fuels were exported.
* All this does is protect the profits of the big corporations that export American energy, at the expense of the health and well-being of the American people.
Please call now.
Thank you for speaking up!
This post is written by Washington Bus Wintern Maya Garfinkel:
I have been involved with the Washington Bus since September. As a high school volunteer and then intern, I put in countless hours of organizing phone banks, attending events, and canvassing for the fall 2012 elections. And if you're wondering, no, I can't vote yet.
So this November, when I was walking up a busy street with my lists of addresses reminding folks to vote and a man shouted from his car, “You’re too young for this!” I shouted back, “No, I'm not!” Creepy-ness aside, I'll tell you why this bothered me. Young people, whether or not they can vote, should be encouraged and welcomed in the political realm. This is also why a bill like Pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds is so exciting.
House Bill 1279, or Senate Bill 5270, is being reintroduced in Olympia this year, and would enable 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote when they get their license. According to the Washington Secretary of State, currently 40% of voter registrations already come from the Department of Licensing. This bill would only result in a one-time cost of $100,000, along with relatively low costs to accommodate the new procedure. If this law is passed, when I am eligible for the next election, I would receive a confirmation slip reminding me that I have registered, and later, a ballot in the mail. I can’t tell you how exciting this is for me.
Not as excited for the notoriously long lines.
At the Bus, we believe that no matter what party/ideology you adhere to, getting young voters to the polls (or to their mailboxes) and engaged in their government should be a top priority. Currently, seven states and the District of Columbia hold a similar pre-registration law, and studies show that not only has this increased young voter registration, but folks who pre-register actually vote at a higher rate than their peers. More young people registered, more young voters, I'd call that a win/win.
This bill would enable students like me to not only think of our future in voting, but also would encourage us to get involved in our democratic process. This bill is what the Bus is all about: creating a more inclusive political environment for young people. And I believe that Olympia should be about this, too.
We'll be phone banking for pre-registration (and three other bills) this Wednesday, March 6th and continuing every Wednesday through the end of the month, from 5:30 to 8pm at the Bus office. if you'd like to join us, please sign up on our events page.
If there's one thing we here at the Bus really, really like, it's registered voters. And we should - over the years Bus volunteers have registered thousands upon thousands of young people to vote. Literally.
As young people, there are a lot of things between us and staying registered: we move a lot (once every three years on average) and sometimes we change our names (Marriage Equality anyone?).
The biggest challenge to youth voter participation is not apathy - it's access. Access to a political system that can, and should, meet us where we are.
That's why we're excited about five simple and simply awesome bills that will help make sure everyone can sippeth from the cup of democracy.
Five bills that are cause for legis-elation:
Bus volunteers, interns, and staff are already on the ground making moves to support better democracy. Keep any eye out for updates on the bills above, and news about other fabulous bills that encourage voter participation. Want to get involved? Sign up for one of our weekly phone (pronounced "fun") banks on our events calendar! Wednesday's no good for you? Email Abigail at abigail[at]washingtonbus[dot]org and we'll find a time that works!
Earlier this morning the Washington State Supreme Court finally released their ruling on the constitutionality of requiring a 2/3rds supermajority in order to raise taxes.
Their finding: Unconstitutional! In a 6-3 ruling (aka 2/3rds!) the Justices found that requiring a supermajority in order to raise revenue represented "a tyranny of the minority", and that "such a result is antithetical to the notion of a functioning government and should be rejected as such".
Strong words and about freaking time. Tim Eyman ran and passed his first 2/3rds requirement in 2007. Once implemented, it gave 17 Senators the power to stop any legislation that would raise revenue. Even in those good economic times this was crazy. Then the housing market crashed.
Since Washington State's regressive tax system brings in a huge proportion of its revenue from sales and property taxes, we were hit hard. Year after year the state legislature was forced to cut vital state services because they were unable to do so much as close a tax loophole on private jets or plastic surgery.
Name your pet issue, this 2/3rds requirement hurt it. College tuition skyrocketing. Bus routes closing down. Washingtonians without health care. Failing to fund Basic Education at a constitutional level.
This is a big freaking deal.
The Washington State Dream Act passed out of Committee Thursday morning with strong 14-4 approval. The bill (HB 1817) extends access to tuition assistance to low-income undocumented immigrants who have been granted deferred action under Obama's Deferred Action executive order.
"The bill grants access to state-based financial aid to young aspiring citizens," explained Emily Murphy, Policy Manager at OneAmerica.
The bill earned strong support during its public testimony earlier this week, when 110 supporters showed up to testify and absolutely no one came to oppose the bill.
"Our normal practice is to hear a pro panel and a con panel on bills, in this particular case we had no cons signed up," remarked Larry Seaquist (D-26), the Chair of the House Higher Education Committee.
Washington would join four other states who offer tuition assistance to aspiring citizens: Texas, California, New Mexico and Illinois. The diversity of those states illustrates an important fact: The DREAM Act is a bipartisan issue.
"There is probably no community in the state that is more affected by this bill than mine," testified Rep. Bruce Chandler (R-Yakima), one of the sponsors of the bill. "These are kids that have grown up in our communities."
"I absolutely believe that every student who graduates from a Washington State High School ought to be given the same opportunity, ought to be treated the same."
One such student is Elizabeth Lara Velázquez, a 20-year-old undocumented immigrant currently attending Yakima Valley Community College. Velázquez came to Washington State when she was 8 years old.
"My parents were always struggling to pay for my sibling's and my education," said Velázquez. "They had a full time job but that wasn't enough to cover their weekly expenses. They wanted to make sure their children had a better life."
Velázquez and other DREAMers testifying in Olympia.
Photo by OneAmerica.
Velázquez grew up attending Washington State Public Schools, and is now holding a 3.9 GPA in Community College. But lacking access to financial aid, she is only able to afford to take a few classes at a time, paying out of pocket as she goes.
"Every summer I work in the fields and in a warehouse," explained Velázquez. "That is how I am able to pay for my college tuition. I also crochet and make scarves, doing that helps me save up money that helps me pay for college textbooks."
DREAMers are already members of our community. The Washington State Constitution guarantees all residents, regardless of immigration status, access to public education. These students are invested in the state, and the state has already invested heavily in them. Allowing these students access to higher education provides the same economic benefits to local economies as it does for people fortunate enough to be born here.
Velázquez is determined to complete her education, no matter the hurdles. "Once I graduate college I want to have a good stable job, help out my parents, and continue giving back to my community."
"But I know a lot of students who feel discouraged because of their immigration status, feel like they can't go to college because they can't qualify for financial aid."
"I just tell them there is a way, to continue doing good in school, and never give up on their hopes and dreams, to continue with their education."
Cynthia Miceli of Vancouver did everything right. She worked hard as a nurse for 35 years, settled down and got married, and even started her own business, one of those job creators politicians are always raving about.
"We were going along living our life as middle class people like a lot of people," explains Miceli. "Then there was the downturn in the economy and my husband lost his job so we didn't have insurance for a couple of years."
In 2007 Cynthia's husband Frank was laid off and both lost access to their health insurance. Cynthia continued to run her own business, but was unable to pay insurance premiums on the private market. Then in 2009 Frank started losing weight. His back would hurt him without reason.
"We knew that if we went to the ER it would cost a lot of money and he didn't want to do that," says Miceli. "We were busy living our lives. He was home helping with paperwork since he was unemployed."
Frank's problems got the best of him one day - as he was exiting the bath tub he lost feeling in his legs and fell.
"You can never be prepared for that moment, financially or otherwise," says Cynthia Miceli. "We were thrown into crisis mode."
Frank was paralyzed and needed immediate surgery. Doctors operated on his spine, removing multiple tumors. He underwent chemotherapy.
"He had two 30 day hospitalizations. We couldn't even think. With all of this, the bills go up. We were finally approved for Medicaid and that part worked out - he got disability thank god."
Cynthia is now unemployed, working full time as a caretaker for her husband. Although he receives coverage under current Medicaid guidelines, she is ineligible for coverage and has no health insurance. With cruel irony, she is forced to go without preventative care because she has no way to pay for it. If she were to find a job, her husband would lose his Medicaid eligibility. Even though she falls below the income thresholds, she is unable to receive Medicaid under current guidelines.
But the Washington State Legislature has a chance to help Cynthia and other people in similarly vulnerable positions.
Medicaid Expansion and the Supreme Court
When the Affordable Care Act passed (a.k.a. Obamacare), one of its provisions was a rather drastic expansion of Medicaid to each of the 50 states. Individuals earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level, or less than $16,000 a year, would be eligible for the premium-free program. When the Supreme Court took up the case last summer, they ruled that states had the right to opt out of the Medicaid expansion. This was somewhat of a surprise - opponents of Obamacare believed the individual mandate would be found unconstitutional.
Now individual state legislatures are able to choose whether or not to accept the expansion of Medicaid. Which brings us back to Washington.
"We are looking at providing coverage to over 250,000 more people who have previously fallen through the cracks," says Molly Firth, Director of Public Policy for Community Health Network of Washington. "Right now the programs that we have have very limited enrollment opportunities."
"There will be 80,000 young adults between 19 and 24 who would be eligible for the Medicaid expansion. That's a pretty high number."
The Federal Government will pick up 100% of the price of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years. After that they are set up to pay 90% of the cost of expansion in perpetuity. This expansion alone is estimated to save Washington State around $225 million in the first two years alone. That's $225 million that could make a good down payment towards McCleary.
A 100% federal match is very different from what we pay now," explains Firth. "Right now we get a 50% match. This is a good deal, especially if we can save money at the same time and cover 250,000 more people."
What's the Hold Up?
A recent Elway poll finds that Medicaid Expansion is incredibly popular. A poll of 407 Washington residents found that 67% thought expanding Medicaid would help their communities. That means Washington residents want Medicaid expanded by a 2 to 1 margin.
The House of Representatives is widely expected to pass the Medicaid expansion through their chamber. But it's unclear how the Republican controlled Senate will act. The Washington State Republican Party released their platform last June. In it, they call for "the repeal of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare."
But the Republicans only have a majority because two Democrats, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon decided to form the Majority Coalition Caucus. This leaves a fair amount of uncertainty around how this caucus will approach Medicaid Expansion.
"There are a lot of people who are supportive," says Firth. "It's still not a done deal, anything that has to pass the legislature is going to be tricky. We need a bipartisan majority and we can't take it for granted when people are grappling with other issues. All we can help them understand is that it is the clear choice for our state."
Holy S**t, another election!
King County is holding a special February election to renew two expiring school levies. A yes vote would maintain the current level of school funding, a no vote would lower it.
Ballots need to be postmarked by February 12th, which is Tuesday. This ballot may not be as sexy as the last, but it's equally important. And just as likely to end with another epic dance party on Capitol Hill.
Those lacking stamps (a.k.a. everyone) can drop off your ballot at one of the local Ballot Drop Boxes. Bonus: there's a new one at the Rainier Community Center in South Seattle.
The United States Postal Service is looking to cut Saturday delivery as a way to deal with its current budget problems. CBS News first reported the story, calling the cuts necessary to deal with the $41 billion shortfall caused as "more and more Americans turned to private shippers, email, and online banking."
Completely absent from this discussion is why the Post Office is broke in the first place. As I wrote about last May, the reason the Post Office is broke is not the Internet, it's the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act signed into law by none other than George W. Bush.
The law set unreasonable standards for pre-funding retirement accounts for postal workers. No private business or other government entity was held to the same standards the Post Office was held to, and once those requirements went into affect: Blammo, Post Office went broke.
Halting Saturday delivery means that the Post Office will be cutting 1/6th of their service, which will mean laying off or forcing early retirement upon more postal workers. Postal workers who up until this point had solid union-supported middle class jobs.
The private sector economy has been recovering from the recession pretty well, but public sector jobs haven't had that same uptick. Teachers, postal workers, and police officers are still being laid off as state governments try to deal with huge budget shortfalls from the recession.
If our desired outcome is to stop
letters from Grandma junk mail delivery on Saturday morning, then fine, stop the service. But let's not pretend that this will solve the underlying budget issues.
In order to to vote in Washington State, an eligible voter must submit a voter registration form at least 29 days before election day or show up in person at their county auditor's office at least 8 days before an election. People who miss the deadline are out of luck even if they otherwise should have the right to vote.
Meanwhile, 10 other states in the U.S. currently allow voters to register up to election day. But that could soon change.
Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) has introduced HB 1267, which would create same-day registration in Washington State.
"The states with the highest voter turnout in the nation are Minnesota and Wisconsin, both of which have had Election Day registration for many years," says a competitive Fitzgibbon. "Washington is in 4th place, and passing Election Day registration will help get us into 1st place, where we belong.”
Eligible residents would be able to register to vote up till 5:00PM election day at the county auditor's office. The window for online voter registration would be extended until eight days before election day.
"Online voter registration is the easiest and cheapest way for county auditors to process voter registrations," reports the frugal Fitzgibbon. "By moving the online voter registration deadline to eight days before the election, we can not only increase the number of voters who are able to register, we can help save local governments money.”
The state government is currently trying to find more than a billion dollars to fund Basic Education per the Supreme Court's McCleary decision. Saving a few bucks by not cutting back social services is beautiful.
Fitzgibbon's bill will have a public hearing this Wednesday, February 6th. Senator Andy Billig (D-3) has introduced companion bill SB 5268 in the Senate. A hearing has not been set for the Senate version.