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Inside Olympia — Senator Andy Billig

Inside Olympia: “After 14 years as a legislator, it just feels like it’s time; it’s been an incredible run.” Those words from Democratic State Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig of Spokane, who announced he’s retiring from the Legislature. He talks about the diversity and strength of his caucus, and the importance of making room for others to lead. He has no current plans to again run for office, but doesn’t rule it out in the future.


Host Austin Jenkins sits down for the full hour with Senator Billig, who during his time in office has experienced life in the majority, and in the minority, during the years when the Republican-led Majority Coalition Caucus was in charge of the State Senate. He talks about how that experience of being in the minority made his caucus better able to work across the aisle, when Democrats regained the majority. Two keys, according to Billig: communication, and relationships. He discusses his relationship with Senator John Braun of Centralia, who leads minority Republicans in the Senate. 


Billig says most of the Legislature’s work is bipartisan, though some of the hot button issues – firearms, abortion rights, climate legislation – are contentious, result from real differences in values and priorities, and draw much of the media attention. And, some issues are just as contentious within a caucus, such as this year’s rent stabilization legislation, which had strong supporters and opponents within the Senate Democratic Caucus led by Billig.


He shares stories from inside the Legislature – like the time a special session seemed imminent, but a last-minute series of meetings resulted in tough issues being decided and the Legislature adjourning on time, with minutes to spare.


Other topics discussed: COVID and how it was handled in Washington state; Governor Jay Inslee’s legacy, centered on climate and environment; the political climate in Washington and the state of our democracy; the redistricting process and subsequent court case, which Billig views with regret and and describes as “messy”; progress on K12 education under the McCleary decision, including bringing Washington from one of the lowest-paid states for teachers to one of the highest states, and attention to special education, early childhood education and child care; elections and voting; aviation biofuels and how he became closely involved in the issue; and more.