2022 LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK
community Advocacy and Support
As the weight of the pandemic continues to harm our community disproportionally, there are longstanding systemic barriers affecting Black families, youth, and people. Systemic barriers such as redlining and gentrification; access to livable wages; and racism within the criminal legal system impact our community’s access to housing and generational wealth — all of which have adverse effects on our mental and physical wellbeing. These barriers have exacerbated the complications from COVID-19 and the economic hardship of the last 18 months.
Proposed Policy Overview
The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS) and Tacoma Urban League (TUL) empower Black people through economic parity by providing direct service in housing and financial empowerment; workforce and talent development; education and youth development; health and wellness; and advocacy and civic engagement. Through connecting with participants, we see the disparities within our community as more than statistics; we know them by name. This influences the policies we advocate and support. The policies below will provide a necessary step towards systemic change and racial equity.
2022 Policy Priorities
legislative goals we support
Focus Area ONE
Housing as a Human Right
It is simple. Every person deserves adequate, affordable, and stable housing. Unfortunately, due to historically racist policies and practices, stable housing is inaccessible for many. We are advocating to dismantle these barriers because every person, regardless of their past or income, deserves a constant place to stay that is adequately warm with running water to call home.
We are advocating for the Housing Justice Act which would bar the practice for landlords to use criminal history in advertising or to deny tenancy. Those who have been impacted by our legal system want to pursue careers, go to school, and contribute to our community. A stable home is a foundation on which they can rebuild a healthy life.
Key state legislation coming soon!
Focus Area two
An Innovative Criminal Legal System
Currently and historically, the criminal legal system disproportionality affects Black, Brown, and Indigenous people and communities. To protect those currently impacted by the system, we must think innovatively on how to address harm and trauma that does not cause further harm and trauma.
We are advocating to restrict and eventually end the use of Solitary Confinement. As it may go by many different names, the practice of isolating a person for any amount of time without access to fresh air, comfortable quarters, and other people is inhumane. Prolonged solitary confinement is recognized by the United Nations as torture. We support reform to limit the use of solitary confinement and establish requirements for the conditions while in confinement. This will bring the state one step closer to eliminating the practice all together.
We are supporting Legal Fines and Obligations Reform that would allow thousands of Washingtonians who are struggling to pay fines and fees tied to a court case. Unpayable fines and fees keep Black, Brown, and Indigenous people from achieving financial stability. Judges must have greater discretion to reduce fines and fees for people who do not have the ability to pay down their debt and ensure people are free of old debt after 10 years.
Focus Area three
Youth Enjoyment & Safety
Black boys and girls deserve to dream of a future full of joy rather than a present marred by fear. They deserve to learn about their culture and history, have fun, and feel safe from harm, either systemic or within the community.
Amid a devastating pandemic, our youth receive repeated messages that their life may not matter in the eyes of police or others who hold power. We need to have a conscious effort to ensure that Black youth from newborn to adulthood receive the support needed to have a future of success.
We are advocating for an accredited Black Studies curriculum within the public education system in Washington state. Our youth need to learn about their history not only in history class, but also in math, biology, and English. This empowers them to become doctors, lawyers, and the first in a field as they learn how many of their ancestors have done so.
In addition to empowering our youth, this is also one step toward acknowledging the entire history of the United States and the Pacific Northwest.
We are supporting the need for Youth Mental Health Days within our schools. Students currently only have 10 unexcused absences a school year to step away, and the definition for an excused absence is narrow. As students are losing loved ones and being isolated from their peers, taking on a full school day in-person can be difficult. Allowing students to take time for their mental health is critical to show them we care holistically about their development and will provide the necessary resources for them to receive help.
Focus Area four
Environmental Justice is Economic Justice
A zip code should not determine the health and life expectancy of a community. This is a health determinate because years of zoning certain communities near air or water polluters and destroying the tree canopy. Environmental disparities are further exacerbated by the effects of climate change.
As we create innovative ways to ensure that we counteract climate change, we must focus on neighborhoods that historically have experienced the most harm.
We are advocating for a Just Transportation package to ensure that when planning transportation systems there is a focus on people disproportionally harmed by our current transportation choices. No one should be burdened by pollution from transportation, or unable to access groceries or school without a car. This package must be a catalyst towards protecting future generations from the climate crisis today.
Many low-income households must choose between staying warm during the winter or avoiding the financial burden of high energy bills. Thus, we believe access to energy is a human right, rather than a privilege. This year, we are supporting HB 1490, that will prohibit utility service shutoffs for space heating between November 15th and March 15th. This bill will also protect people who are low-income and people with disabilities by banning electricity and heating services shutoffs due to delinquent or unpaid energy bills, at any time of the year.
HB 1490 – Maintaining residential electricity and heating service for low-income households and households with people with disabilities.
Focus Area five
An Effective Behavioral Health System
The current resources for behavioral health are not adequate nor culturally intuitive and responsive.
We are supporting ways to expand access to behavioral health resources. There must be expansions to access funding to provide direct behavioral health services, accessible pathways to become a licensed professional, and inclusion of services such as text therapy to be covered by insurance.