April 8, 2004
The 2004 Regular Session of the 58th Legislature adjourned Sine Die on Thursday, March 11, 2004. We thank you for the opportunity to be a witness to Friends’ testimonies among our elected officials in Olympia . Eve Rickert as our intern joined our Lobbyist, Alan Mountjoy-Venning to represent Friends Committee for Washington Public Policy during the session. Their efforts were supplemented with help from the other legislative committee members and those of you who acted on an alert or provided a word of encouragement. We also continued to develop our relationships with our allies. At the beginning of this year’s legislative session the Legislative Committee set two short-term priorities and one long-term priority. The short-termpriorities were: 1. Passage of a bill requiring accountability for corporate tax exemptions.
2. Passage of the Food for Hungry Families Act. Early in the session, we added stopping the “eco-terrorism” bill to our list of short-term priorities. The Food for Hungry Families Act (SSB 6411) was passed in the final days of the session by both the Senate and the House and signed by the Governor on March 22, 2004. This legislation will help reduce barriers to food stamp access, add school lunch programs and provide temporary benefits for those coming off Temporary Aid for Needy Families. We did not succeed in passing legislation requiring accountability from large corporations receiving tax breaks. HB 2654 would have required a report of all tax expenditures (otherwise known as tax breaks) in every biennial budget and HB 1869 required a review of all the existing tax exemptions. These bills would bring accountability and transparency to how businesses and others are benefiting from tax expenditures and what the benefits from these tax expenditures are (i.e. Jobs produced and wage levels of those jobs). Both bills passed the House, but died in the Senate.
The “eco-terrorism” bill died (and the portion of it that was resurrected in the supplemental budget was defeated). FCWPP’S leadership role in opposing the “eco-terrorism” bill was noted by animal rights groups and prompted a letter from Jeffrey Kerr, general counsel to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Norfolk , VA , offering assistance defeating the budget proviso “if you feel our assistance will be beneficial.” FCWPP’S long-term priority was to develop legislation and support to address post-release issues for people who have served jail and prison sentences.
Dan Clark has made substantial progress toward forming a coalition to address post-release issues. We also monitored and occasionally testified on a variety of issues, including anti-death penalty, restoration of voting rights to ex-convicts, sentencing issues, opposing repeal of the estate tax, pre-natal care for immigrant women, restoration of Medicaid coverage to children, poverty and homelessness, ecological stewardship, civil rights and participatory democracy (especially with regard to the primary elections legislation). Some Medicaid coverage was restored to children, although not as much as we hoped.
A bill that would have severely weakened control of storm water runoff from industrial and construction sites was substantially improved before passage, although another harmful bill, one delaying enforcement regulations for the control of off-shore ballast water discharge by international vessels, was passed largely as originally written. In the course of the session, Eve Rickert, FCWPP’S lobbyist intern, read testimony prepared by Dennis Mills, an Olympia Friend, before the House against a memorial requesting that Congress continue to maintain military bases in Washington at their current strength for economic reasons, and asked the legislature to seek ways for the state to begin building an economy that does not depend on war. Although the memorial was passed unanimously, both Rep. Armstrong (R) and Rep. Miloscia (D) sought Eve out to discuss the Quaker religion, its prevalence in Washington , pacifism, and the role of the military in a world where war has become unnecessary.
On the whole, FCWPP did very well this session and has made additional strides toward distinguishing its voice in the legislature. At Steering Committee Meeting on Friday, April 23 at Quarterly Meeting we will be looking for your input on how we can build on the successes we have had, and in particular, how we can increase participation among Friends with their elected legislators. We look forward to hearing your ideas. Thank you again for your support. Marilou Rickert and Deric Young FCWPP Legislative Committee September 24, 2004 FCWPP Steering Committee Legislative Report Dear Friends, We look forward to another stimulating year as a witness’ to Friends’ testimonies among our elected officials in Olympia. This will be our first year with Roger Kluck as our lobbyist. We look forward to working with him as our voice in the legislature. We also are excited about Alan Mountjoy-Venning’s outreach among our meetings. Before looking forward, at our last legislative committee meeting, we took time to look back and review our effectiveness as a lobbying organization?
We reviewed our experiences, comments from a friendly legislator and excerpts from our lobbyist evaluations. Here are highlights. Legislative Lobbying Work: At our Spring 2004 Steering Committee meeting, you made it clear that you want us to speak truth to power. We were mindful of the need to speak truth to a broad spectrum of legislators.
We talked generally about how do we “go beyond testifying?” Comments included: build on our collaborative relationships with allies and legislators who share our values; focus on finding the “good” people and find out how we can help them as opposed to convincing people to change their mind; play a role in information gathering about issues, and letting legislators know where others may be standing on an issue. We have a role as catalysts, stemming from our unique Quaker perspective, listening for and touching that of God in all our contacts. Constituent Involvement: We are particularly appreciative of the support FCWPP has received from you. You have amazed us with your resolve to support a Quaker voice in Washington State public policy issues. A concern is how we empower your activism with your legislators and community in coordination with FCWPP’s work. The legislators have been clear they need to hear from their constituents. We will look to encourage Meeting involvement in the legislative process. Is FCWPP coming up in Meetings for Business?
We discussed Alan Mountjoy-Venning’s Fifteen Minute Plan, where meetings and individuals would pledge 15 minutes a day, week, or month on FCWPP related contacts. We will also research some options regarding a constituent database’s that might simplify targeting specific areas. We next turned our attention to the future. A query from the North Pacific Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice asks: “How are we working for changes in government when change is needed?” (p. 47.) Clearly, changes are needed in Washington State.
Transition Reentry Reform: FCWPP’s current initiative focuses on how we can reintegrate offenders who have served their time into the web of society and enhance their chances at becoming fully functioning members of society. Incarcerated people have always faced an unfriendly and often unfamiliar world on their release. Provided only $40 and a bus ticket, it is not uncommon for released prisoners to have no means to obtain housing, work, health care, transportation, and other needs. Family relationships are severed, and support networks from the past are no longer in place. The released person also faces an array of legal and practical problems. These include substantial debt due to legal financial obligations for court costs, fines, victim fund assessments, restitution, attorney fees, and other assessments, all of which currently bear interest at the rate of 12% per annum, and will prevent the restoration of the released individuals voting and other civil rights until paid.
Other handicaps include the public posting of criminal records, along with unfamiliarity with social services and other community resources. Dan Clark has written a study (available at www.fcwpp.quaker.org) convened several meetings in Seattle focusing on this issue, and as I write this, he is arranging for legislator appointments. Roger Kluck is working closely with him on this initiative. Tax Structure Reform: FCWPP’s second initiative focuses on Washington’s tax structure. Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the country, with our low and middle income residents paying more than their fair share of taxes. How can we fund vital state services in a fair way to educate our children, prevent poverty, and provide health care services? In 2002, we instituted our Secure Society campaign with the belief that every resident of Washington State wants a society that is reasonably secure. We want to be secure from crime, secure in our ability to access needed health care, secure in the wholesomeness of our food and environment, secure in our sources of income, and secure in our personal privacy and liberty. Yet insecurity lingers for Washington families. We will continue our involvement with our allies in the Tax Fairness Coalition, providing a supporting voice and continue with educational outreach programs such as the one presented at the 2002 Spring Quarterly Meeting and at several community outlets and Meetings since. If your Meeting is interested in an informative presentation on the tax issue, please contact me. Roger is also familiarizing himself with the participants and issues in this arena.
In addition to these challenges, FCWPP welcomes your input into issues that touch your passions. Friends who have interests and experience in the issues are the most effective advocates. If you have an issue in which you are willing to invest some time, we can help you find the right people and may even be a voice. We have in the past followed the death penalty issue, hunger issues, civil liberties and environmental issues.
We look forward to serving Friends’ values in the coming year, and your support and input.
Deric N. Young Legislative Committee Clerk