NEWSLETTER: Session begins TODAY — you can testify in support of my bills — learn how

Friends and Neighbors,

Today marks the beginning of the 2024 Legislative Session. We operate on a biennial schedule, so this is the “short” year. This means we meet for 60 days, during which time we are tasked with making minor adjustments to the biennial state budget adopted in 2023 rather than writing an entirely new budget. We also can continue work on bills we sponsored last year.

My priorities this session are to make Washington a safer and more affordable place to live. I also will focus on making stronger headway toward eliminating learning loss among our K-12 students.

Some of my key bills this year will address:

As  these and other bills I’m sponsoring are granted hearings, I will let you know so you may testify in support of them if you like. Our final day of session will be March 7. The pace will be fast, but I will keep you informed along the way.

Happy New Year,

John Braun

Testify: My bill to curb chronic absenteeism to receive hearing Jan. 11

Senate Bill 5850, which I sponsored to address chronic absenteeism, will receive a hearing in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee at 1:30 p.m. this Thursday, Jan. 11. You may testify in support of the bill either in person or via Zoom. Learn how. 

Chronic absenteeism is a serious problem for our public schools. This makes it more difficult to combat learning loss from the pandemic and puts more students at risk for not graduating.

Teachers and administrators often feel as if their hands are tied, and the law is little help in getting kids who skip school to attend class.

Since some kids will go to school, but wander the halls and not go to class, the issue is more complicated than simply working with parents to make sure kids set foot in the building.

I encourage you to testify in support of my bill. You also may submit written testimony instead or in addition to testifying either in person or virtually.


A sham lawsuit threatens to disenfranchise WA’s Latino voters

In 2021 our state’s bipartisan, voter-created Redistricting Commission set Washington’s current legislative and congressional boundaries.

In August, a federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Soto Palmer v. Hobbs, who claimed the map of Central Washington’s 15th Legislative District violates the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). The judge ordered the boundaries to be redrawn.

Under state law, legislators can reconvene the commission at any time should district boundaries need adjusting. Instead, special-interest groups, with the help of local activists, are trying to circumvent that process to achieve a predetermined political outcome.

On Dec. 1, the plaintiffs proposed five maps to the court. Four move Eastern Washington’s first Latina senator, Republican Nikki Torres of Pasco, out of her district into the adjacent 16th Legislative District. The fifth map would keep her in her district but slash her proportion of Latino constituents — now 73% — down to 47%.

The plaintiffs make the unfathomable claim that a Latina’s election proves her ethnic community was discriminated against under the terms of the VRA. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, the VRA has never been twisted in such a way.

As a young girl, Sen. Torres woke before daybreak to pick fruit alongside her parents in Central and Eastern Washington. As a single mom, she struggled to get an education and achieve her American Dream. Family, hard work and education helped her exceed the expectations of those who told her she would never amount to much because of who she is and where she came from.

Sen. Torres should be proud. She has achieved so much already and is doing an outstanding job representing her constituents. She understands their struggles because they are her struggles.

Now, after being overwhelmingly chosen to represent her community, she is faced with this politically motivated push to take her job and diminish her worth.

While five registered Latino voters in the 14th and 15th legislative districts are listed as the plaintiffs, the lawsuit is clearly part of a national movement to politicize redistricting and weaponize the VRA to elect more Democrats from court-gerrymandered districts.

A prominent actor behind this lawsuit and the accompanying national strategy is Matt Barreto, with the UCLA Voting Rights Project.

Besides close ties to President Joe Biden’s political operation, Barreto claims in his online bio to have had a pivotal role in VRA challenges in other states, including Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

His organization and similar outside groups, with strong ties to the state and national Democratic parties, are the ones working hardest — behind the local plaintiffs — to challenge Washington’s bipartisan redistricting process.

Why would special interests attack a Latina senator in the name of helping her Latino constituents?

The plaintiffs’ proposed maps make the answer clear. They would cause the Yakima Valley district to go from having a 1.4% Republican advantage margin to margins that range from 10.2% to 11.1% in Democrats’ favor.

While such a radical shift would give the Democratic Party a major advantage, these proposed maps do nothing to strengthen the voice of the Hispanic community. Two maps would expand the Latino population by only 0.15% compared to the current district, which already has the state’s largest Latino population. The other three maps would, unbelievably, decrease the percentage of Latinos.

The real goal is clearly to have a court transform what is now a “swing” district in Central Washington — one either party could win — into a solidly Democratic-leaning district that guarantees the current Democratic legislative majority another vote in Olympia.

This outrageous scheme would violate U.S. Supreme Court standards, which require that replacement maps make only the minimum changes needed to fix a VRA violation.

A better solution is for the Legislature to call itself back into session immediately and reconvene the state’s Redistricting Commission. Even though the regular session is scheduled to start Jan. 8, this is an urgent matter that can be taken care of quickly. Let the commission fix any compliance issues with a bipartisan solution that is fair and transparent.

Anything less will disenfranchise the people of Sen. Torres’ district, harm Eastern Washington’s Latino community and put politics ahead of people.


Coming up this week

In addition to SB 5850 receiving a committee hearing (details below), several big things are happening at the Capitol this week.

Jan. 8:

  • Opening day of the 2024 Legislative Session

Jan. 9:

  • State of the State Address and the Republican response
  • Republican press conference
  • Meeting with the Consul from Japan

Legislative Cutoff Calendar (deadlines that help determine which legislation moves forward)


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