Democrats in the Washington state Senate have chosen Andy Billig as the new Senate majority leader.
Billig has been in the state Senate since 2010, and served as minority whip, deputy minority and deputy majority leader. He says being majority leader should put him a good place to work on issues important to Spokane.
“My first priority is my constituents from Spokane. I work for them, they elected me and are my bosses,” he said.
He says a major priority during the next session will be the state's new two-year operating budget and that will include prioritizing work not finalized with the so–called McCleary decision. This year the legislature allocated much more funding for education.
Billig says much can be done by improving conditions for the youngest students.
"If we invest in high quality early learning, we not only change the trajectory of a child’s life, we also save taxpayers money because a child who gets high quality early learning is going to be more productive later in life, less likely to be in jail, less likely to be on public assistance, more likely to have a productive job and pay their fair share,” he said.
And he says a report about special education by the state school superintendent should provide a road map to more ways that can be improved.
“We now have that report back, and based on that, we hope to make some policy changes to make special education funding easier to access for school districts and families. I believe we will increase the funding for special education,” he said.
Billig also hopes more can be done for health care, but he likes to think of the priority as health rather than fixing health problems.
"How do we be healthy and ensure people don’t need health care? And that’s very broad, looking at transportation, so people that who want to walk or bike have safe ways to do that. It’s looking at school nutrition,” he said.
The Washington legislative session will begin January 8.