Our top four priorities for the 2018 legislative session
6 Years. 70 months. 305 weeks. 2,134 days.
No matter how you count it, it’s been a long time since three Democratic Senators switched parties to hand control of the state Senate over to Republicans. Over the last nearly six years, the Senate Republicans have stymied every major progressive reform in Olympia. Thanks to grassroots organizing and a wave of progressive activism, Democrats finally regained control of the Senate last November, giving them full control of the Legislature and the Governor’s mansion. The million dollar question is what is possible now that the Senate Republicans can’t grind progress to a halt.
Our message to Democratic legislators is quite simple: be bold. We, your constituents, are ready for a state Legislature that shows real leadership and drives forward an ambitious agenda that works for all of us.
After six years of Republican obstruction, there is a bevy of worthy progressive reforms and initiatives that have been waiting in the wings. The greatest challenge facing lawmakers in this short 60 day legislative session may be deciding what to prioritize.
With the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans attacking working families to bolster the profits of their billionaire donors, Washingtonians need our state elected officials to protect our communities and lead during this time of political turmoil. Voters have made it clear that we want to see a change, so legislators should not be timid about rising to this occasion by passing long-overdue reforms that work for every Washingtonian.
Here are the four top priorities for Fuse this legislative session where we’ll focus our grassroots organizing:
- Voting Rights
One of the most exciting things coming down the pipeline this legislative session is the Washington Voter Rights Act sponsored by Senator Rebecca Saldana (D-Seattle) and Representative Mia Gregerson (D-Kent). These two rising stars, along with dozens of their Democratic colleagues, are tackling the insidious challenge of suppressed representation. Due to major demographics shifts across the state and an age-old tactic used to dilute the votes of minority voters in local elections, at-large elections in racially polarized areas have allowed the votes of one group to overshadow the voices of another. If passed, the Washington Voter Rights Act would create a pathway for local governments and communities to rebuild the electoral system. In addition, we’re supporting voter registration reform efforts like the one being proposed by Rep. Zach Hudgins to make registration automatic. Automatic Voter Registration would create a more accurate voter registration system while simultaneously streamlining the registration process for voters.
- Equity and justice for all
This is the year to make progress in creating a more equitable Washington. From gender pay equity to improving police accountability, progressives in Olympia should lead with their values and work hard to undo oppressive structures that disproportionately impact women and people of color.
- Tax Reform
Our state legislators should show Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative Paul Ryan how real tax reform is supposed to be done. Washington has a perennial revenue shortfall because of our state’s upside down and antiquated tax system. Our 1930’s era tax code relies on regressive taxes and has far too many loopholes for the wealthy and corporations. In fact, low-income Washingtonians pay seven times more in state and local taxes than wealthy families, which siphons money out of our communities and makes it harder to invest in services we need to thrive. Cleaning up our upside-down tax code by adding accountability mechanisms and closing wasteful tax breaks is a top priority that mustn’t fall by the wayside. Washingtonians shouldn’t have to compromise the health of our neighborhoods and institutions to preserve unjust tax breaks for corporations and special interests. In addition, the Legislature should get the ball rolling on both a carbon tax and closing the capital gains tax loophole.
- Fighting climate change
Safeguarding the environment from greedy special interests remains a top priority for progressives. In the face of constant attacks by the Trump administration, leadership in Olympia should strive to reduce carbon pollution and create a clean energy future for Washington.
As we think about our legislative priorities for 2018, progressive lawmakers must simultaneously defend against attacks on our rights and shared values. In this age of rising authoritarianism and daily mass shootings, state governments are our last line of defense against far-right legislation that could open Washington up to legal forms of discrimination, oppression, and risks to our safety.
Fuse will be fighting to make sure that legislators defend our communities and advance a strong progressive agenda. From the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements to the wave of activism by young undocumented youths, legislators must listen to the growing movement for change across the country. After six long years of stalled progress, tepid incrementalism will not suffice. With your help, we will support leadership in Olympia and push reluctant elected officials to advance a bold progressive agenda that creates a brighter future for all of us.
Jamielyn Wheeler is the Campaign Director at Fuse Washington