Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom decides not to seek re-election in 2014

“This past weekend I made the decision not to seek re-election to the state Senate in the 48th Legislative District. After a series of events that have impacted my family and health, the decision not to run is the right one for me and my family.

Since the end of session, I have continued to work through some health issues, but the main reason for my decision is my 85-year old father who was hit by a car last week while walking in a grocery store parking lot. He’s going to require a lot of physical therapy over the next several months and I’m the only son who lives close to him. I have always said that health and family are the most important values — and beyond campaign slogans — I really do try to live by those values.

It has been an incredible honor to serve in the Legislature and to serve the people of the 48th district over the past 12 years. Working with the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) and serving as the Majority Leader, has been historic for Washington and an opportunity of a lifetime for me personally.

I am very proud to have worked with such talented and dedicated individuals. We have changed how things get done in Olympia by focusing on jobs, requiring a sustainable budget that empowers our economy, and making education a priority with real action from pre-kindergarten programs to the first college tuition freeze in 26 years.

The MCC has proven that when our public leaders stay true to core principles and to what really matters on Main Street, the people of Washington benefit most of all.”

Rodney Tom

Senate Majority Leader

Senate coalition leads Legislature to advance education benefits for veterans

In-state tuition, college credit for military training now law for Washington’s 600,000 veterans

MCC Soldiers LearningCalling the 2014 legislative session one of the “most beneficial for veterans in a generation,” Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said the passage of five major veteran-related bills is “one more example of how the Majority Coalition Caucus is changing priorities in Olympia.”

Last week Gov. Jay Inslee signed Senate bills that removed the one-year waiting period for veterans or active members of the military to qualify for in-state tuition rates, and award college credit for military training. There are 22,000 veterans, active-duty personnel and their dependents enrolled in Washington’s community and technical colleges; the University of Washington has 1,344 enrolled veterans alone.

In addition to education benefits, new state laws expand access to home- and community-based service programs for dependents of military-service members, provide for special recognition on state driver’s licenses and identification cards, and provide additional support and maintenance for state veteran retirement homes and facilities.

“The Majority Coalition Caucus is working to put people and solutions above politics, which is a change for Olympia,” said Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “The people we serve include many veterans who were stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord or other Washington installations and chose to make our state their home after transitioning out of the military. Our coalition is acknowledging them and their service with these new opportunities.”

Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, is one of three veterans serving in the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus. “We are keenly aware of the sacrifice and personal cost that service in the military requires,” said Dammeier, a Navy veteran and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. “We want to keep veterans and their families in our state and make sure they have the best possible transition into civilian life.”

Veterans serving in the Majority Coalition Caucus include Dammeier; Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, who serves as a commander in the Naval Reserves; and Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, an Army veteran.

According to Defense Manpower Data Center, 11,173 service members left the military in 2013 and made Washington their home; more than 600,000 veterans reside in Washington.

The Senate bills that benefit veterans and became law are:

-   Senate Bill 5318, introduced by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor: Removed the one-year waiting period for veterans or active members of the military for the purpose of eligibility for resident tuition.

-   Senate Bill 5969, introduced by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County: Awards academic credit for military training

-   Senate Bill 5691, introduced by Hewitt, R-Walla Walla: Establishes a state veterans’ home in Walla Walla.

-   Senate Bill 5775, introduced by Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver: Provides veteran designation on drivers’ licenses and identification cards

-   House Bill 2363 /SB 6351, introduced by Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn: Expanded home and community-based service programs for dependents of military service members in Washington.

Washington Medal of Honor recipients recognized in Olympia

Today Washington State honored three resident Medal of Honor recipients in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, Staff Sgt. Ty Michael Carter, and Capt. William D. Swenson had their names inscribed on the Medal of Honor monument on the Capitol Campus.

Also Governor Inslee signed House Bill 2397 that allows Medal of Honor recipients to receive special license plates without additional fees or taxes. The companion Senate Bill 6150 was sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R- Oak Harbor.

“This is a small token of appreciation that our state can give to those who have received our nation’s highest honor for valor. The timing was ideal that we would hold a ceremony recognizing several Medal of Honor recipients’ contributions to our country and sign this bill into law. I was very proud to have the opportunity to sponsor the companion bill in the Senate,” said Bailey.

Currently Medal of Honor recipients are allowed to receive one license plate with a special designation. This bill allows them to receive up to three without additional costs.

Bailey veteran in-state tuition bill signed into law

Governor Inslee signed Senate Bill 5318 into law. It removes a mandatory one year waiting period for veterans and their families to receive in-state tuition. Prior to the bill, non-resident veterans were unable to fully utilize their education benefits in Washington State as the GI Bill only covered the cost of in-state tuition. This was unclear to many veterans who had called Washington home for years but never officially established residency.

“I have been working on this issue for two years. I am so glad that we have been able to eliminate the one year waiting period to qualify for in-state tuition,” said Bailey. “We owe it to our veterans to pass this legislation. They and their families now have certainty that they can go to college in our state and receive in-state tuition.”

Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, chair of the state Senate Higher Education Committee, has been working over the last two legislative sessions to remove barriers for veterans to fully utilize their education benefits. Bailey, former chair and current member of the Select Committee on Veteran and Military Affairs, has been a long time champion of veterans’ issues in the Legislature.


Washington will join over 20 other states with similar laws.

Change in high school graduation requirements means better outcomes for students

OLYMPIA…Students in Washington State will soon have new graduation requirements aimed at improving their success after high school. Governor Inslee signed Senate Bill 6552 into law which increases the number of credits required to graduate from high school to 24 credits, and provides funds to do so. The law directs the State Board of Education to develop rules regarding the changes for the graduating class of 2019.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue was a key sponsor of the legislation to improve student achievement. “We really need to make sure our students are prepared for an increasingly challenging work environment. By making sure students have a well-rounded education and a solid foundation in the basics, we will be setting our students up to compete in a highly competitive global economy,” said Tom

The law also makes needed enhancements to school funding formulas for secondary schools by expanding the number of science lab classes, increasing counselors and allocations for maintenance, supplies and operating costs.

Braun’s companion bill signed by governor boosting tourism in the state

Sen. John Braun introduced Senate Bill 6195 this session that would create a task force to study how the state can better market the state’s tourism industry. Tourism is the fourth largest export industry in the state and accounts for more than 150,000 jobs. Today the governor signed the House companion to Braun’s bill that directs the Washington Tourism Alliance to identify sustainable private funding sources for the state’s tourism marketing needs.

In 2011 the Washington State Tourism Commission was defunded due to budgetary constraints. The commission’s purpose was to find ways to expand tourism in the state with public and private stakeholders. Since the commission was defunded, Washington became the only state in the nation without a state-funded tourism office.

“We need to expand and promote the tourism opportunities in our state because they are such an important part of our economy. However, when identifying what government should do, I think we can look to the private sector to step up and find a sustainable solution for marketing our state’s tourism industry,” said Braun.

“The tourism industry applauds Sen. Braun for his leadership on the legislation.  He recognized that this industry is a critical part of the economy in all parts of the state and that we need to have a statewide program to market our tourism assets.  Because of this legislation we will be able to develop a plan for a statewide tourism marketing program,” said Cheryl Kilday, president of the Washington Tourism Alliance board of directors.