School seismic safety map (DNR)
School seismic safety map (DNR)

Hap­py news to share out of Olympia tonight: All forty-nine Wash­ing­ton State sen­a­tors have vot­ed to pass a bill that would estab­lish a grant pro­gram to upgrade seis­mi­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble school build­ings in Wash­ing­ton State, pro­vid­ing sore­ly need­ed funds to ensure our kids have safe facil­i­ties to learn in.

Prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor David Frockt (D‑46th Dis­trict: Seat­tle), Sub­sti­tute Sen­ate Bill 5933 would pro­vide fund­ing for school dis­tricts and state trib­al com­pact schools to use in reme­di­at­ing seis­mic or tsuna­mi haz­ards in qual­i­fy­ing build­ings. The ver­sion of the leg­is­la­tion adopt­ed by the Sen­ate explic­it­ly states that ver­ti­cal evac­u­a­tion tow­ers (which some coastal school dis­tricts wish to build) are an eli­gi­ble reme­di­a­tion solu­tion for schools in tsuna­mi haz­ard areas.

SSB 5933 is one of NPI’s top ten leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties for the 2022 session.

Our research finds that a major­i­ty of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers (52%) think that upgrad­ing seis­mi­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble schools is pri­mar­i­ly a state respon­si­bil­i­ty, rather than a local respon­si­bil­i­ty (29%). We released our find­ing last week.

Thank­ful­ly, the Leg­is­la­ture is listening.

“Hun­dreds of school build­ings across the state, from tsuna­mi zones on the coast to seis­mi­cal­ly active areas inland, face a high risk of seri­ous dam­age,” said Frockt.

“Low-prob­a­bil­i­ty but cat­a­stroph­ic risks like earth­quakes and tsunamis are some of the hard­est for com­mu­ni­ties to guard against.”

“The cost is high, and the like­li­hood for any one town is that its schools will be spared a dis­as­ter, mak­ing it hard to jus­ti­fy funding.

“But when mul­ti­plied by all the com­mu­ni­ties in poten­tial­ly geo­log­i­cal­ly active areas across our state — one with an unusu­al­ly high risk of seis­mic activ­i­ty, as Mt. St. Helens demon­strat­ed so last­ing­ly — this prob­lem is urgent.”

We whole­heart­ed­ly agree, and we thank Sen­a­tor Frockt for intro­duc­ing this leg­is­la­tion and shep­herd­ing it through the Sen­ate. It’s not every day that a bill with a scope this big gets a 49–0 vote of approval! Because the roll call was unan­i­mous and no sen­a­tors missed the vote, there are only yeas:

Roll Call
SB 5933
School seis­mic safe­ty grants
3rd Read­ing & Final Passage

Yeas: 49

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tors Bil­lig, Braun, Brown, Car­lyle, Cleve­land, Con­way, Das, Dhin­gra, Dozi­er, For­tu­na­to, Frockt, Gildon, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Holy, Hon­ey­ford, Hunt, Keis­er, King, Kud­er­er, Liias, Lovelett, Lovick, McCune, Mul­let, Muz­za­ll, Nguyen, Nobles, Pad­den, Ped­er­sen, Ran­dall, Rivers, Robin­son, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Salomon, Schoesler, Sefzik, Shel­don, Short, Stan­ford, Trudeau, Van De Wege, Wag­oner, War­nick, Well­man, Wil­son (Claire), Wil­son (Lyn­da), Wil­son (Jeff)

It’s great to see this bipar­ti­san show of sup­port from all of our elect­ed sen­a­tors. Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans came togeth­er tonight to do some­thing real­ly, real­ly good for the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State. This is a vic­to­ry worth toasting!

We are absolute­ly elat­ed and look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing our advo­ca­cy for this impor­tant cause in the State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives with Ger­ry Pol­let, Liz Berry, and our oth­er cham­pi­ons. If the House pass­es the bill with no changes before the end of ses­sion, it would go to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee to be signed into law.

With levy and bond mea­sures in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties con­tin­u­ing to fail, this leg­is­la­tion will be a life­line for many Wash­ing­ton school dis­tricts that have strug­gled to fig­ure out how to upgrade or replace decrepit, unsafe build­ings that were built decades ago but remain in use today.


About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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