Despite the unprecedented challenges of the past year, the Washington state legislature successfully concluded its 2021 session this week, and we can all take pride in the progress our government has achieved for the people of Washington state. This session, Amazon partnered with Democratic and Republican lawmakers to advance key policies on education equity, clean transportation, and COVID-19 recovery. My colleagues and I had the opportunity to engage directly with Governor Inslee, legislative leadership, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and we are grateful for their time and efforts on behalf of the people of Washington.
While we recognize and appreciate the legislature's good work, we also believe more can be done to continue building a thriving economy and a better quality of life for all. Amazon is a strong supporter of education equity. Everyone deserves equal access to the highly skilled, high-demand, and high-paying jobs of the future. But not every student can move away from their community to attend a far-off college to earn a requisite four-year degree in computer science. This barrier to access particularly affects low-income students and students of color. That’s why Amazon was pleased to partner with Senator Joe Nguyen and Senator Ann Rivers on Senate Bill 5401, which brings these opportunities directly to the students who need them by allowing all 34 local community and technical colleges to offer four-year computer science degrees, significantly expanding educational access for diverse populations. Amazon also worked with Senator Lisa Wellman to advance policies and funding to help increase the number of computer science teachers and courses in our K-12 schools. And we backed passage of Senator Reuven Carlyle’s Senate Bill 5080, which extends support to the Pacific Science Center and the math and engineering programs it offers to local students.
This year, Amazon also helped lead support for state investment in transportation to sustain the region’s economic development. Within the next few years, Amazon will bring 25,000 new jobs to the Bellevue area, and we’re partnering with state and local governments to ensure this growth is responsible, sustainable, and positive for the broader community. We’re building offices adjacent to light rail stations, investing in electric delivery vans, funding housing equity, providing free transit cards to our employees, and supporting commuter options like bus rapid transit and bike and walking trails. As part of our commitment to sustainability, Amazon stood with Governor Inslee to advance a Low Carbon Fuel Standard, an important climate-action policy that helps reduce carbon in transportation fuel. We also helped maintain state commitments to key I-405 corridor improvements. However, more state transportation funding is needed to reduce congestion, improve safety, grow jobs, and help address climate change. We’re thankful for the important Bellevue transportation projects included in proposals advanced by Senator Steve Hobbs and Representative Jake Fey. But the Low Carbon Fuel Standard is contingent on a new gas tax, and passing a broad-based statewide transportation investment package remains unfinished business in Olympia. We will continue to work with lawmakers to move this across the finish line.
Amazon also engaged in many other bipartisan issues this session aimed at accelerating our economic recovery and cultivating innovation. This included successful efforts to expand cloud technology, as well as Senate Bill 5315 sponsored by Senator Mark Mullet and Senator Perry Dozier, which allows “captive” insurance to help businesses manage risk. I was also encouraged to see the legislature pass a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction; Amazon’s lawyers and legal professionals contribute thousands of pro bono hours each year to support King County’s Housing Justice Project and our own Mary’s Place Clinic, and we know that representation for those facing eviction will be needed this year more than ever. Thanks to Senator Patty Kuderer for her work on the bill. And although a well-balanced digital privacy rights bill led by Senator Reuven Carlyle passed nearly unanimously in the Senate for the third year in row and became model legislation for Virginia and other key states, we were disappointed that it again stalled in the House. We will continue to advocate for digital privacy rights that protect consumers and allow for innovation.
Finally, in addition to partnering on critical legislative proposals, Amazon was appointed as a charter member of Governor Inslee’s VACCS command center, a public-private partnership to boost mass vaccination. As part of that effort, Amazon is making it easier to book a vaccination appointment over the phone by providing surge support to the state call center with Amazon customer service agents and an Amazon Connect system, which has virtually eliminated wait times and processed nearly 100,000 calls.
All of these efforts are examples of the power of public-private collaboration to deliver meaningful results for Washingtonians. Amazon thanks the governor and legislators for their leadership and partnership this year. We look forward to building on these collective achievements and continuing to advocate on behalf of our employees, partners, and neighbors across the state.