Legislative session 2015 update | Guest column

Kevin Ranker

Kevin Ranker

by Kevin Ranker

State senator, D-Orcas

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday filled with family and friends. The 2015 Legislative Session began Jan. 12. Here are my top priorities for this year.

1) A balanced budget that funds education while protecting other critical programs. As the No. 2 Democrat responsible for our state’s operating budget, I will work tirelessly to create a budget that successfully balances full funding for K-12 education while protecting other critical programs such as mental health, higher education, foster care and Apple Health for Kids. We must make sure that while we repair vital areas of the state’s budget, we don’t do so at the expense of other areas.

2) Protect access to contraception and family planning. A handful of us in the Senate Democratic Caucus have spent many months working with our exceptional staff to develop legislation that will virtually eliminate the U.S. Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision in Washington State. That decision allows employers’ beliefs to be put ahead of those of their employees and puts at risk the ability of women across the country to make their own reproductive choices. The vast majority of Washingtonians strongly support access to contraception and family planning. Now is the time to pass this legislation and allow women the freedom to make their own health care choices – independent of their employer’s “values.”

3) Make polluters pay. We are the first generation to experience the impacts of climate change.  Fortunately, we are the last generation with the opportunity to do anything about it.  Having worked for years with past Gov. Gregoire and now with Gov. Inslee to advance climate action, this session I intend to prime sponsor comprehensive climate legislation that makes polluters pay when they harm our communities and environment. In what will truly be a win-win, this legislation will not only improve the health of our communities and environment, it will raise a billion dollars a year to help us meet our multi-billion dollar deficit to rebuild our educational and transportation systems.

4) Protect our communities from dangerous oil trains and increased vessel traffic. During recent years, Washington State has seen a dramatic increase in oil trains and vessel traffic.  Last year, Senator Christine Rolfes and I introduced the strongest oil response and protection legislation in the nation.  While it did not pass last year, we will reintroduce this critical legislation that protects our communities from the dangers associated with these massive increases in dangerous materials going through our communities.

In the end, I believe strongly that it is possible to give our kids access to a world-class education while making sure they have a healthy home, breathable air and freedom from want. From making sure we protect reproductive choices and family planning to ensuring our communities are safe from potentially dangerous oil trains, there are many critical issues that the vast majority of Washingtonians expect the legislature to address.

We are presented with great opportunities to work together on behalf of our state. I for one do not intend to miss that opportunity.

Please feel free to contact me at any time should you have questions about the legislative session or anything else.

My office phone number is 360-786-7678 and my email is kevin.ranker@leg.wa.gov.