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Hitting the Ground Running: Our 2018 Legislative Session

This session, we focused our advocacy efforts on Governor Jay Inslee’s Carbon Tax Bill (SB 6203). Throughout, we never lost sight of our frontline communities. We worked tirelessly to center those living near high levels of pollution and dealing with related negative health outcomes. We secured commitments from elected officials that revenue from a carbon tax would be invested in the communities most affected by pollution. We reminded folks that lowering levels of pollution, providing opportunities for economic development, and reduce negative health outcomes starts with communities of color—our communities.

This was the first legislative session that we had an advocate on the ground in Olympia. Our Government and Legislative Director David Mendoza started at Front & Centered in late January with session in full motion. Front & Centered leaders like Kim Powe of Puget Sound Sage and Rich Stolz of OneAmerica had already testified in front of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee about their concerns regarding SB 6203.

As introduced, the bill did nothing to identify highly impacted communities—much less direct funding to those communities. As it progressed through three different committees, however, we changed that. We successfully lobbied for over two dozen specific changes to SB 6203 that put the health and safety of our communities out front.

We won critical changes like mandatory use of an environmental justice mapping to identify highly impact communities and prioritize funding to those communities. We supported Tribal governments in attaining ground-breaking language that respected tribal sovereignty And we secured a requirement that directed financial assistance to low-income families, ensuring they would not be hurt as a result of a carbon tax.

While we did not get everything we advocated for—and the bill ultimately never passed out of the Senate—it was clear that Senators were taking our point of view seriously. This was due entirely to the breadth and depth of our coalition. They had no choice but to listen to us.

Senators Rebecca Saldaña, Kevin Ranker, Guy Palumbo, and Reuven Carlyle, Chair of the Energy & Environment Committee, deserve our thanks and gratitude. They gave us their time, support, and effort to ensure so many of our requests were added to the bill.

We have been shaping climate proposals in Olympia for three legislative session. However, this was the first time Front and Centered had our own advocate. It won’t be our last! It allowed us to engage in deep and meaningful ways in Olympia—and was a major reason so many legislators listened to our communities’ concerns. Soon we will be reaching out to to our members to discuss what our priorities should be in 2019 and how we can best engage our own representatives during the interim and the 2019 session.