Washington State Sen. John McCoy, Tulalip Tribes, was elected chairman of the state Senate’s Democratic Caucus for 2016-17, November 15.
Democrats also elected Sen. Marko Liias of Lynwood, a Seattle suburb, as floor leader.
After the November 8 general election, Senate Democrats are in the minority in Washington. McCoy and his Republican counterpart will be working together to “try to keep everything civil and on task,” McCoy said. “Keeping everybody on the same page is a challenge because you’re working with human beings – in this case, political human beings.”
The legislature is under court mandate to provide adequate funding for basic education in grades K-12, and to ensure individuals with mental health issues have access to proper care. Western State Hospital, one of three state hospitals providing inpatient treatment for people with mental health needs and substance abuse issues, lost its accreditation and is working with the federal government on a 13-month improvement plan. Among the issues: a patient waiting list and inadequate staffing.
McCoy is one of three Native Americans in the state legislature. The others are Democrat Rep. Jeff Morris, Tsimshian, of Skagit County; and Republican Rep. Jay Rodne, Bad River Band of Chippewa, of Snoqualmie.
McCoy served in the state House of Representatives from 2003-2013, when he was appointed in to a Senate vacancy from the 38th District (Everett, Marysville, and Tulalip). He was elected to a full term the following year. He was formerly the general manager of Quil Ceda Village, an incorporated community on the Tulalip reservation.
McCoy is a champion of education, economic development, and the environment, and he authored the law requiring Native culture and history be taught in public schools. He is a member of the Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee, Government Operations and Security Committee, and the Trade & Economic Development Committee.
This year, McCoy sponsored legislation to allow Native communities to recruit and train dental therapists to help increase access to oral health care in Indian country; make renewable energy incentives more available to low-income individuals; provide preparation programs for teachers who must integrate Native American curriculum into existing history and government studies; require wastewater treatment plants be equipped to remove at least 80 percent of pharmaceutical or personal-care product chemicals from wastewater being discharged; and close the educational opportunity gap by reducing the amount of time students of color are excluded from school because of suspension, increasing the cultural competence of educators, and requiring educators of English language learners to be certified.