Washington State House Democrats


Blake’s 3/13/2017 Update: Another Cutoff / Nurse Breaks / Levy Cliff / Equal Pay

House of Origin Cutoff

To survive the House of Origin Cutoff, bills must be passed out of the chamber where they were introduced.

The House of Origin cutoff deadline was Wednesday, March 8, at 5 p.m. With some exceptions –primarily bills that are necessary to implement the budget– the House will now be turning its attention to bills, passed by the Senate, that are now being referred to House committees. The next few weeks we’ll be busy with more public hearings.  Over in the Senate, they’ll be doing the same thing, holding hearings on bills we sent them.

Remember, you can sign up for email updates from committees so you can keep up with what is happening in your state legislature. And you can also look up specific legislation to see its latest status.

Patient safety and worker fairness

Every person who goes into a hospital should feel confident they’ll get the best care possible. Front-line health care workers like nurses want to provide the best care possible for patients.


But when they are forced to work long shifts without breaks, or put in mandatory overtime, that quality of care is at risk. Additionally, fatigue and burnout are taking a toll on the nursing profession, at a time when we need more qualified health care workers to serve our growing –and aging– population.

That’s why HB 1715, which passed the House last week, is so important. It guarantees meal and rest breaks for nurses and prohibits mandatory overtime. The bill is needed because even when collective bargaining agreements stipulate meal and rest breaks, employers don’t always comply with those agreements.

HB 1715 is a win for both patient safety and worker fairness.

Schools can take a breather

Last week, on an 87-10 vote, the House of Representatives passed ESB 5023 to fix the looming $358 million levy cliff crisis facing public schools next year. Without this bill, school districts have been forced to write budgets for the upcoming school year that include teacher layoffs and other reductions in spending.

In an effort to lessen the negative impacts from the Great Recession on school budgets, in 2010 the Legislature gave local school districts some additional leeway to raise local levies to help make up for state funding shortfalls. This additional flexibility is set to expire this year.

levy cliff map

The levy cliff bill extends temporary levy provisions for one year and avoids a $358 million cut to local schools. It ensures that school budgets won’t be cut while the Legislature continues to work on an education funding solution.

Click on the Google map for a breakdown of how much each school district stood to lose if the Legislature did not approve a levy cliff fix.

Equal Pay Passes

Last Wednesday, on International Women’s Day, the House passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, which prohibits pay secrecy policies, allows discussion of wages, and prohibits retaliation for asking for equal pay.

Too many people still believe that lawmakers and policy folks are just imagining there’s a problem, but gender discrimination in pay does, in fact, exist.

equal pay

Many women are taking home smaller paychecks and they don’t even know it because their employers actively discourage—or outright ban—workers from discussing wages among themselves Keeping women in the dark about pay differences limits their ability to negotiate for higher pay. This bill will hold employers accountable and make it harder to discriminate against women.

This is the third year in a row the House has passed a version of this legislation. I’m hoping the third time’s the charm and the Senate finally sends it to the governor’s desk.

Washington has a longstanding pursuit of equality in the workplace. So much so, that our state got ahead of the federal government and passed equal pay protections ten years earlier. That was in 1943, we’re due for an update.

Somewhere between then and now we dropped the ball and fell behind.

You may find this hard to believe but our neighbors in Idaho have better equal pay laws than we do. The Dakotas, New Hampshire and even Tennessee, among many other states, have better equal pay protections in place.

It’s time to pick up that ball and get it rolling forward again.

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