NEWS & UPDATES
FROM GERRY

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GOVERNOR INSLEE SIGNS TRIBAL PARTICIPATION IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT PLANNING BILL

March 31, 2022

On Thursday March 31, 2022, Governor Inslee signed legislation I've worked on with our sovereign Tribal Nations to undo a wrong which has lasted 32 years. When the Legislature passed the Growth Management Act, it refused to recognize that federally recognized Tribes have Treaty rights, that local governments land use and infrastructure plans often impact or even destroy, to preserve and access plants, fish, habitat, religious and archaeological sites.

I was one of the authors and lobbyists for the groundbreaking Growth Management Act in 1990. It has succeeded in preventing much unplanned sprawl from destroying forests, farmland, wetlands and focusing development in cities tied to transportation and job, schools and shopping. But, in 1990 many legislators were still refusing to recognize that federally recognized Tribes were sovereign nations with Treaty rights that have to be honored for lands and resources that not limited to Reservations.

Watch the entire event including welcoming song and Governor Inslee and Tribal leaders speak on signing legislation for missing and murdered indigenous people [https://www.tvw.org/watch/?clientID=9375922947...] or jump to my remarks followed by Rep Debra Lekanoff [https://www.tvw.org/watch/?clientID=9375922947...

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REDISTRICTING COMMISSION WITHHELD TEXT MESSAGES ADDING TO ITS VIOLATIONS OF OPEN GOVERNMENT LAWS

March 18, 2022

Gerry assisted Crosscut's investigative reporting exposing how Washington's Redistricting Commission violated our open government laws

When the Redistricting Commission met in secret out of sight of the public and reporters on November 15 through the night into November 16, it adopted maps that broke up communities without any chance for people to have their concerns taken into account. Partisan electoral outcome negotiations trumped the legal requirements to keep communities together and even to honor Voting Rights Act requirements. 

Records provided by Gerry through a Public Records Act request helped establish that Crosscut and other news media were denied records and that text messages were deleted. 

"The messages show the degree of the Legislature's involvement in redrawing political districts — a process handled by a bipartisan commission."

"[Pollet] said members of the public have the right to know how the state’s new political maps came into being."

Map above was drawn for the 46th District two days before the Redistricting Commission deadline. In it, the University District and Wallingford were still not split in half as done in the final map drawn outside of any public meeting and without comment after midnight on November 16. Aurora Ave was still being used as a logical district line.  In a legal settlement, the Commission agreed never again to adopt maps outside of public meetings. 

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PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN FROM TOXIC PCBS IN SCHOOLS - SEATTLE TIMES

March 11, 2022

Seattle Times and ProPublica:

Washington lawmakers dedicated $1.5 million to remove toxic fluorescent lights from schools and an additional $125,000 to study environmental hazards and create new standards to protect students from exposure to harmful substances.

In requesting the funding, lawmakers cited an investigation by The Seattle Times and ProPublica into a Monroe campus where children and staff were exposed to a combination of harmful conditions, including elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a banned chemical that the Environmental Protection Agency has linked to cancer and other illnesses.

More than 200 students, parents and teachers at Monroe’s Sky Valley Education Center filed lawsuits claiming they developed cancer, brain damage, hormonal problems and other illnesses after exposure to PCBs on campus. Two of the lawsuits have resulted in extraordinary jury awards against Monsanto, the manufacturer of the chemicals, totaling nearly $250 million to 11 people. At least 15 lawsuits are pending.

The school district knew as early as 2014 that PCBs were leaking into classrooms from aging fluorescent lights but were slow to respond to the unfolding crisis, The Times reported.

“These are first steps,” said Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, one of a handful of lawmakers who pushed for the funding. “If we have a report to the Legislature in December, we will have a first look at what standards need to be adopted to protect children’s health in schools, how to remediate and from there we will learn how much we need to fund.”

An additional $1.5 million is earmarked for the state department of education to remove fluorescent lights known to contain PCBs, which were banned by the EPA in 1979 but are suspected to linger in building material and light fixtures in aging campuses across the country.

Those same lights leaked oily PCB liquids into classrooms at Sky Valley, releasing the chemical into the air and onto surfaces. At that campus alone, it cost more than $1.6 million to remove PCB-laden material once it seeped into carpets, furniture, air filters and other material.

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WASHINGTON BILL CURBING LEAD IN SCHOOL DRINKING WATER HEADS FOR INSLEE’S SIGNATURE - NATIONAL MODEL

April 12, 2021 - Seattle Times

Washington’s public schools soon will be required to take new steps to curb children’s exposure to lead after passage of a bill that mandates schools fix or replace fixtures that leach the toxin into water sources...

Exposure to lead, which is found in old paint, brass valves and fixtures inside drinking fountains and sinks, is unsafe at any level. It is particularly dangerous for young children whose brains are still developing. It can cause damage to the nervous system and permanent cognitive or growth delays.

“It is actually a model for the nation, this bill,” said state Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, who sponsored the bill. “So I feel quite good about it.”

The policy is a long time coming. This legislative session marks the third year in a row that Pollet has introduced a version of the bill. And its passage Sunday afternoon came just a few hours before the legislature’s cutoff to pass bills this session.

Schools now will be required to test water outlets — including drinking fountains, but also bathroom sinks and those used to prepare lunch — in schools built before 2016. The state Department of Health (DOH) is tasked with conducting the tests, but schools are also allowed to contract with private testing companies, which can be more expensive. They’ll need to test every five years and post results publicly on DOH’s website. Testing should begin shortly after the bill takes effect, Pollet said, barring any new or dangerous concerns related to the pandemic.

If outlets come back with high lead levels, schools have to fix or replace them. The bill provides $3 million to support this effort, plus an additional $1 million for DOH to coordinate testing.

... Voluntary testing among nearly 200 of the state’s elementary schools has shown that 97% of schools had at least one faucet with a lead concentration of more than one part per billion, the recommended threshold for safe drinking water according to The American Academy of Pediatrics. 

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