Consulting • Lobbying • Advocacy • Speaking Resource

Partners for Social Change is an organization dedicated to collaborating with individuals, organizations, and coalitions that are working to create systemic change that will bring about more racial and economic equity here in Washington State.

We do consulting for faith-based social justice advocacy efforts at the congregational level and lobbying on a variety of bills with our partners at the local, state, and federal levels.  We partner with many coalition and organizations that are working on social change in several areas.

2022 Legislative Summary
2021 Legislative Successes

Consulting

Partners for Social Change provides its 20 plus years of experience regarding advice to leaders and or organizations who are engaged in or want to get engaged in social justice and political advocacy related issues.

Advocacy

Partners for Social Change meets with faith communities, community organizations, and individual leaders in Washington State whose desire and goal is to deepen their advocacy work for social change.

Lobbying

Our Executive Director works as a lobbyist on social change related bills with many partners as well as contracting to advocate for or oppose bills before the state legislature, congress, or at the city / county level.

Speaking

Paul Benz can guest preach/ speak at faith communities or community assemblies on the religious vision to advocate for social change or lead Bible studies that highlight examples of advocacy in the Bible.

Our Policy Work

The current focus at Partners for Social Change is on these major areas of legislation in Washington State:

Police Reform

PSC’s goal is for the transformation of our Law Enforcement (LE) system in our state so that ALL of our communities feel that they can trust those in uniform. Our specific and measurable goal in this transformation work is to not only increase that trust between LE and communities of color but to also decrease the violent and fatal encounters between police and the community. Our primary partner in this policy change area is the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability (WCPA) where PSC is an active member. One LE state association that PSC works with is the Washington State Fraternal Order of Police (FOP); our current shared policy goals are to implement the Office for Independent Investigations (HB 1267) and to establish via statute a parallel Office for Independent Prosecutor (HB 1507 – which did not pass in the 2022 session). We also partner with Not This Time Action on police reform advocacy efforts.

Criminal Justice Reform

PSC’s goal is to transform the criminal legal sentencing systems in Washington State. Two good examples over the years are – one, making our Legal Financial Obligation (LFO) system less onerous for both impacted people but still responsible for the offender and the victim as both are victims of the system. The second example is the three strike you’re out initiative/law where we have eliminated inclusion of non-violent offenses like Robbery Two where no weapons are used. PSC’s primary partners here are Disability Rights Washington, ACLU of Washington, and Civil Survival. We also partner with a new Multifaith Coalition on these efforts.

Racial Justice

PSC’s goal is to support the many communities of color working on ensuring that there is more racial equity reflected in the bills during the legislative session and in our state programs. PSC does this in at least two ways: empowering the African American voice and presence in the legislature by working with the A. Philip Randolph Institute Seattle Chapter (APRI) to assist with their annual advocacy day in Olympia and secondly by being a part of the Racial Equity Team which is a collaborative coalition of many organizations that have a lobbying presence in Olympia working to advance racial equity policies. We also partner with NAACP Washington Conference and One America on these efforts.

Housing Justice

PSC’s goal is to transform our state’s housing system so that those who’ve been impacted by the criminal legal system cannot be discriminated against by a landlord because of their prior criminal record (HB 2017 did not pass this session). Our primary partners for this effort is a housing justice coalition that is led by impacted family members, the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, and Pioneer Human Services. PSC is also working in partnership with many to advocate that our state invests more of our tax dollars into affordable housing – particularly in to the Housing Trust Fund. We also partner with Civil Survival and  Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle  in these efforts.

Native American Tribal Sovereignty

PSC’s goal is to honor the tribal sovereignty of all 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington State but to also honor and support our historic treaty tribes (those who’ve signed treaties but were never federally recognized) such as the Duwamish and Chinook tribes.  PSC works with the Duwamish Tribe to regain their federal recognition and with the Friends Committee on National Legislation on issues/bills in Congress that are important to Indian Country such as the recently passed reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Reducing Domestic Terrorism & White Supremacy

PSC’s goal is to urge our state government and governor to do more to monitor and prevent acts of domestic terrorism (like on Jan. 6th here and in our nations capitol) and white supremacy groups. We will monitor a new study being done by the Washington State Attorney General’s office and well as public education efforts. PSC is partnering with the Anti-Defamation League Pacific Northwest and UNIDOS of Snohomish County in these efforts.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8

2022 Legislative Summary & Outcomes

The 2022 legislative session of 60 days (short session January 10th through March 10th) was one of stark contrast to the 2021 session which animated some historic bills for social change. These included bills in the areas of police reform (e.g., statewide standard for deescalation and the new office of independent investigation), tax reform (capital gains), and voting rights restoration for those who have been formally released from a state prison facility. This session saw the effects of a major ‘push back’ by law enforcement associations and their supporters in the legislature as well the elections coming up later this year (but play a major role in what bills come up for a vote) where all 98 house seats are up for and almost half of the 49 senate seats. In the 2022 legislative session there were some very good bills with social change impact listed below that I worked on. I will use three categories: bill successes, bill disappointments, and budget victories.

PSC supported most of the bills listed below by doing a formal sign in before the committee hearing or by letting the prime sponsor or other lobbyists know of PSC’s support.  For about 8-10 of these bills Paul worked as a lobbyist with other partner lobbyists and partner organizations during the legislative session.

Successes

HB 1412 – Legal Financial Obligation reform – Rep. Simmons – Bainbridge Is. This will help those trying to succeed in fully re-entering society to not be burdened with debt.
HB 1571 – better services for MMIW victims (Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women) Rep. Mosbrucker – Yakima Valley
HB 1616 – charity care – requires large hospitals to provide more financial assistance for low income households
HB 1630 – limits gun possession in certain places – Rep. Senn – Mercer Island
HB 1705 – prohibits the manufacture, distribution, and sale of ghost guns – Rep. Berry – Ballard
HB 1723 – will bring about more racial equity in digital technology use/access and reduce the digital divide – Rep. Gregerson – Sea Tac
HB 1725 – creates a silver alert status for MMIW victims – WA is first in the nation to do this – Rep. Lekanoff – Anacortes
HB 1814 – creates greater equity access to build and install solar home and business systems. Rep. Shewmake – Bellingham
HB 1818 – extends housing vouchers (from 3 to 6 months) for those who are re-entering society from prison – Rep. Simmons – Bainbridge Island
HB 1866 – provides supportive housing for those receiving medical assistance – Rep. Chopp – Capitol Hill
HB 1878 – expands access for eligible households for the CEP (Community Eligibility Program) school food program – Rep. Riccelli – Spokane
SB 5078 – restricts gun magazine size to 10 rounds – Sen. Liias – Mukilteo
SB 5505 – provides a property tax exemption for non profits that hosts farmer markets – Sen. Rolfes – Bainbridge Island
SB 5623 – defeated this credit scoring modification bill from advancing
SB 5919 – defeated this set back on reforming how police do vehicular pursuits

Disappointments

HB 1169 – weapons enhancements – this would have reformed the prosecutorial/judicial system by preventing longer sentences – Rep. Goodman – Kirkland
HB 1507 – would have created a state office for Independent Prosecutor – Rep. Entenman – Auburn
HB 1756 – would reform the solitary confinement policies of the DOC(Dept of Corrections) Rep. Peterson – Edmonds
HB 1868 – would have created better working conditions for nursing staffs in our hospitals
HB 2017 – housing justice act would prohibit landlord discrimination to those seeking housing who’ve done their time in prison. Rep. Davis – Shoreline
HB 2037 – passed and signed by Gov Inslee – this bill is a major set back for police reform in our state – allows law enforcement to use force for traffic stops – Rep. Goodman – Kirkland
HB 2048 – expands our TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) system to be accessible to more impacted by covid – Rep. Peterson – Edmonds
SB 5036 – this bill would reform our clemency board and allow those serving longer sentences to petition this board for a hearing – Sen. Dhingra – Redmond
SB 5426 – would tax extreme wealth in our state – Sen. Hunt – Olympia

Budget Victories

  • $125, 000 for the Attorney General’s office to study and report back to the 2023 legislature what our state is doing, the resources, and gap regarding domestic terrorism & white supremacy in our state.
  • $1million is established to set up a community re-investment grant program in the Dept. of Commerce (funds will be available in the 23-25 biennial budget) HB 1827 – which did not pass but was added as a budget proviso.
  • $28.4 million was budgeted for refugee resettlement – particularly for Afghani & Ukrainian refugees.
  • $700 million for building affordable housing via the Capital budget ($300m for rapid housing and 113m for the housing trust fund)
  • funding for families that qualify for an extension of their TANF hardship time limit exemption

2021 Legislative Session Successes

Paul was very involved in the passage of these bills in the 2021 Legislative Session via his lobbying role and the many social change partners that he has worked with for many years on social justice issues before the legislature.  The expertise and experience of Paul and his partners and their organizational capacity/strength helped get these bills passed to become state law and help continue to bend the moral arc towards justice and racial equity.

Police Reform

HB 1054 – prohibits law enforcement officers from using chokeholds as well as no knock warrants
HB 1267  – establishes an office of Independent Investigations for use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer that results in death, great bodily harm, or bodily harm.
SB 5051 – strengthens our state laws on decertifying a law enforcement officer and adds more community members onto the Criminal Justice Training Commission.

Criminal Justice Reform

HB 1078 – this new law restores voting rights for those who’ve completed their sentence with the Dept. of Corrections.

Racial Justice

HB 1016 – this establishes a state holiday for Juneteenth
HB 1072 – removes restrictions on use of legal aid funds by undocumented residents

Native American Rights

HB 1356 – Respects Native American culture in our state by prohibiting the use of mascots in high school competition.

Tax Reform

SB 5096 – this establishes a tax on capital gains which is currently being heard in Superior court in Waterville, Douglas county.

Immigration Reform

HB 1297 – working families tax exemption – this now sets up the system in our Dept of Revenue to send out tax credits for some of our poorest as well as our undocumented