Net neutrality, orcas and more: the top stories of 2018 from the governor’s office

Of the 71 stories shared by Gov. Jay Inslee’s office this year, here’s a look back at the 10 most-read posts of 2018, starting with the clear winner: protecting net neutrality.

1. Washington becomes first state to pass net neutrality protections into law — March

Three months after state leaders vowed to safeguard net neutrality in the face of rollbacks by the Federal Communications Commission, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill to protect an open internet in Washington.

With his signature, Washington became the first state in the nation to pass a law to protect net neutrality.

Washington’s new law, House Bill 2282, protects those net neutrality rules at the state level, ensuring that internet providers cannot advantageously manipulate internet speeds and access to content.

“Today we make history: Washington will be the first state in the nation 
to preserve the open internet,” Inslee said during the bill signing ceremony. “We’ve seen the power of an open internet. It allows a student in Washington to connect with researchers all around the world — or a small business to compete in the global marketplace. It’s allowed the free flow of information and ideas in one of the greatest demonstrations of free speech in our history.”

2. Inslee’s budget takes big steps to save orcas and salmon — December

As part of his budget proposal announcement, Inslee announced an unprecedented range of investments aimed at protecting Southern Resident orcas and their primary source of food, Chinook salmon. His proposed 2019–21 state operating, capital and transportation budgets include a broad array of investments totaling more than $1 billion that will help restore and support orca and salmon populations.

“We are undertaking a herculean effort to save these iconic creatures. It will take action at every level of the environment across our entire state,” Inslee said. “We need to restore the ecosystem to one that sustains orcas, salmon and the quality of life for all Washingtonians.”

In March of 2018, Inslee issued an executive order directing state agencies to take immediate actions to help the struggling orca population and establishing the Southern Resident Orca Task Force to develop a long-term plan for recovering orcas. The task force includes nearly 50 members representing a wide range of sectors including state agencies, the legislature, and state, tribal, federal and local governments, as well as private sector and non-profit organizations. The governor’s budget investments are based upon the task force’s recommendations.

3. Clean electricity, clean buildings and clean transportation: Inslee plan would launch comprehensive clean energy transition and significantly drive down emissions — December

Inslee was joined by Democratic legislators and climate action supporters to unveil a plan that would launch a dramatic reduction of Washington state’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15 years.

The proposal would accelerate the innovation and efforts already underway across the economy to transition to 100% clean energy, construct ultra-efficient buildings, establish a clean fuel standard, electrify the state’s transportation system and phase down super-pollutants in certain products. Combined, the policies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035.

4. Agreement to boost salmon returning to Pacific Northwest waters — September

Inslee announced that representatives from the United States and Canada have agreed to recommend their governments approve new coast-wide fishing agreements under the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

The agreement outlines each nation’s fishery management plans for chinook, coho and chum stocks from 2019 to 2028. If approved, the treaty will result in more salmon returning to Washington and Oregon waters, where many populations are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. 
 
“This step comes at a crucial time as we continue to see declines in chinook salmon populations around Puget Sound,” Inslee said. “As we work with our international partners to send more fish into our waters, it becomes even more crucial that state leaders do what’s necessary to protect and restore habitat and address the dire needs of these fish.”

5. Inslee details budget investments to guide transformation of state’s behavioral health system — December

As part of his budget roll-out in December, Inslee announced a detailed plan for transforming Washington’s behavioral health system based on treatment in community-based facilities. His plan includes a first-of-its-kind partnership with University of Washington Medical School to establish an innovative new teaching hospital.

Speaking to providers, legislators and family members at a mental health treatment center in South King County, Inslee provided details for transforming Washington’s behavioral health system. The $675 million plan is part of his proposed 2019–21 biennial budget.

“Today, we’re bringing hope,” Inslee said at Navos Mental Health and Wellness Center in Burien. “We have an obligation to help our friends and family who depend on these services for their quality of life and recovery.”

Inslee said ‘we are doing what we said we were going to do’ by getting rid of an outdated model of mental health care.

Gov. Jay Inslee visits Navos Mental Health and Wellness Center in Burien, July 2016 (Office of the Governor photo).

In March, Inslee signed a new law that takes major step in transforming behavioral health care. The legislation will improve access to opioid-dependence treatment, mental health and other behavioral health services.

6. What are hubs and spokes and how can they help fight the opioid epidemic? — April

Cheryl Shifflett’s story of opioid addiction starts in way that may sound familiar: She was prescribed opioids for chronic pain and began taking more than she needed. She tried to stop misusing her medication multiple times, but could not do it on her own.

She lost her job, she lost her home, and she damaged important family relationships.

Cheryl’s story of recovering from opioid addiction, however, is not so typical.

The University Place woman is one of the first Washingtonians to receive treatment for opioid use disorder through the state’s new hub-and-spoke treatment model, which helps make addiction medications more available, including methadone, buprenorphine (brand name Suboxone), and naltrexone (brand name Vivitrol).

Meeting the treatment demand for opioid addiction — also known as opioid use disorder — is part of Washington’s strategy for fighting the opioid epidemic, which kills two people a day on average in the state.

7. New law offers Breakfast After the Bell program for hungry students — March

For kids who struggle to get three meals a day at home, free or reduced-price breakfast at school is crucial — but not every student is able to make it to school early enough for that meal. In some instances, there is very little time between when the bus arrives to school and when classes begin.

That is why Breakfast After the Bell programs have gained in popularity, including in Washington, where Inslee signed a bill into law to increase the number of these programs in high-need schools. Such programs allow students to eat breakfast in the classroom.

Under House Bill 1508, schools that serve a significant number of low-income students would offer a Breakfast After the Bell program. These would be in place by the start of the 2019–20 school year and be available in schools where at least 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

8. Investing in Washington’s continuing success — December

In December, Inslee released his 2019–21 biennial budget that makes significant investments in clean energy, behavioral health, orca recovery, education, statewide broadband and other crucial budget investments.

“Washington is the only state that consistently ranks as a top state for business and ranks as the top state for workers. But we know that prosperity is not shared equally and we must make investments to grow our economy, protect the most vulnerable and ensure that everyone has access to opportunity,” Inslee said

Watch Inslee’s budget release on TVW.org.

Read about the supplemental budget highlights.

Visit the Office of Financial Management budget page.

9. Inslee kicks off new Department of Children, Youth, and Families — July

Inslee was joined by youth, family advocates and state leaders to celebrate the launch of the state’s new Department of Children, Youth, and Families. The agency’s opening on July 1 was the culmination of a two-year effort to transform the way Washington serves at-risk children and families.

Not only does the new department bring together early learning and child welfare services previously housed at separate state agencies, it supports the philosophy in Washington state that all children get an equal opportunity to succeed and that families benefit when services and policies take a preventative approach to problems.

“We shouldn’t be waiting until a child is harmed to step in. There’s so much we can do starting as early as a mother’s pregnancy to reduce the chances of harm to children and increase the chances they can succeed in school and in life,” Inslee said. “By bringing together the staff who work most with children and families, we’re going to be much better able to identify children and parents or caretakers who are struggling and need support.”

Gov. Jay Inslee and First Lady Trudi Inslee visit Fruit Valley Elementary School in Vancouver, Washington on April 4, 2018 (Office of the Governor photo).

10. Supreme Court deals a blow to vulnerable workers; Inslee announces executive order to support workers’ rights — June

Mandatory individual arbitration. It’s a tactic used by some employers who want to quickly and secretly settle employee complaints and prevent employees from coming together to challenge widespread violations such as failure to pay overtime or provide rest breaks.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis that when workers sign a mandatory individual arbitration agreement as a condition of employment, employers can limit workers’ rights to seek redress against workplace violations through class action ligation or collective arbitration action.This decision will inevitably make it more difficult for employees to hold companies accountable for wage-and-hour or other workplace violations.

“This stunning court decision overwhelmingly favors employers who repeatedly or systematically mistreat their workers,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Forced individual arbitration reduces transparency, accountability and access to justice. It means those with power and money are more likely to win, while most employees are left to manage a confusing and intimidating arbitration process. And if the employer’s unlawful practice is widespread, this decision means you can’t stand with others. You are on your own.”

In response to the Court’s decision, Inslee in June issued Executive Order 18–03: “Supporting Workers’ Rights to Effectively Address Workplace Violations,” establishing new state procurement procedures that allows agencies to consider whether a company seeking to contract with the state requires its employees, as a condition of employment, to sign a mandatory individual arbitration clause or collective action waiver.

Gov. Jay Inslee signs Executive Order 18–03, “Supporting Workers’ Rights to Effectively Address Workplace Violations,” on June 12, 2018, in Olympia (Governor’s Office photo).

“In our state, we value companies that respect workers’ rights,” Inslee continued. “There is power in numbers. There is power in transparency. And there is power in our pocketbook to influence companies to do the right thing. We can’t change the Supreme Court’s ruling but we can change how we do business.”

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