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Morning Wire: Seattle elections, Q&A w/ Sen. Manka Dhingra, Build Back Better

Between the climate summit in Glasgow, elections and the infrastructure bill passing, the last week has been anything but slow. While these are important, here at the Wire we’re focused on finding out how the big picture impacts our readers here in Washington State, from Metaline Falls to Longview, and everywhere in between. 

In this newsletter, we have in-depth coverage of the Seattle races and what they could signal, a Q&A with Sen. Manka Dhingra on behavioral health and domestic violence legislation, an item on proposed child care expansion in the Build Back Better plan, and more. If you value the news you get from the Wire, please consider supporting us by joining us at our 2021 Re-Wire Policy Conference on Dec. 15. 

1. What could Seattle’s election results mean for progressives?

Of the four Seattle candidates who were characterized as hailing from the left-wing of the city’s progressive camp, only one is heading into office following last Tuesday’s general election. It’s the third election cycle in a row where voters have picked the more centrist mayoral option. 

So what’s going on? Last week, we spoke with several consultants and analysts to try and answer that question. Among the responses we heard were branding problems, trouble communicating a vision for the city, and a backlash by wealthy residents against progressive policies. The real test of the incoming officials will be whether they can make good on their promises to address the hot-button issues of homelessness and criminal justice while keeping voters happy.

2. Q&A: Sen. Manka Dhingra on legislative priorities

Since winning her senate seat in 2017, Sen. Manka Dhingra has been a strong advocate for addressing behavioral health and domestic violence from the legislature, work that she plans on continuing in the 2022 session. She’s planning on drafting legislation to tackle coercive control in the state, finding ways to boost the behavioral health workforce, and working with the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention to conduct gun violence studies.

Since the upcoming session is a short one, much of the work will be refining existing legislation. However, Dhingra said she will focus on expanding apprenticeships in non-traditional fields as well. It’s a goal that the state has been working on to offer more ways to break into careers in fields like health care. 

3. Universal Pre-K, Sen. Murray and Build Back Better

After the passage of the the $1 trillion infrastructure bill last Friday, members of Congress continue to hash out the details of Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which could include child care and universal pre-K clauses. That’s according to Sen. Patty Murray, who last week unveiled a number of child care provisions she’s hoping to see included in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. The bill itself has been whittled down from $3.5 trillion to less than $2 trillion

Included in her proposals are a child care cost cap set at 7% of a family’s income if they earn less than $254,000, grants to boost child care worker wages and encourage more child care centers to open, and universal pre-K. Affordable and accessible child care is difficult to find across Washington State, and the pandemic has only led to more shortages. 

4. Re-Wire’s Detailed Agenda drops next week

As our 2021 Re-Wire Policy Conference approaches, we’re preparing to release our Detailed Agenda next week. While this will be my first Re-Wire, I can confidently say that you won’t want to miss this conference. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a look at one of the panels we are looking forward to hosting entitled ‘Washington State, the national discussion and climate policy in 2022.’ 

In this panel, we’ll hear from Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, chair of the House Environment and Energy Committee, Becky Kelley, senior policy advisor on climate for Gov. Inslee’s office, and Todd Myers, director of the Center for the Environment at the Washington Policy Center. As a reporter who spent years diving into environment, energy, and climate justice, it’s a panel I plan on attending with notebook in hand. I look forward to seeing you there on Dec. 15, and don’t forget to register!

5. Universal Health Care Commission members appointed

The day after the Wire ran a story on how the appointment process for the state’s Universal Health Care Commission was behind schedule, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office announced their board appointments. Chalk it up to coincidence, and give our story a read here. The commission is tasked with exploring ways to implement universal health care in Washington State, and issue its first report to the governor and legislature by next November. 

Sen. Annette Cleveland, chair of the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee, said the state’s Health Care Authority had hired staff to begin working on the commission. It’s part of a broad push to reimagine health care in the state. “I’m feeling as if we’re working at all levels to make sure we’re continuing as a state to drive towards universal health coverage,” Cleveland told me recently

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