Town hall, veterans, and health insurance

Joint Town Hall: Filled to Capacity

Over the weekend, Sen. Jeannie Darneille, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, and I hosted a joint town hall meeting at Jason Lee Middle School. The local turn out was absolutely amazing and extra seats had to be made available to handle it. There were over 200 people in attendance! Our community continues to encourage me through strong engagement with and commitment to civic life.

The topics brought up ranged from expanding and increasing quality of mental health services to fully funding our transportation services. I had a chance to give an overview of the Connecting Washington transportation revenue package proposal and other opportunities for increased investment in our transit and transportation infrastructure.

This town hall was a great opportunity for us as your legislative delegation to hear about the issues that are important to you. There will be another opportunity for you to have your voice heard in a similar format when Sen. Darneille, Rep. Jinkins, and I host a tele-town hall on Wednesday, April 10th, 2013, at 6:00pm. Save the date!


Mid-session Bill Status Update

Having cleared the midway mark in the 2013 legislative session, we’re moving ever closer to the April 28th deadline for our 105-day session. We’ll soon dive into writing the State’s operating, capital, and transportation budgets.

At this point, most bills are headed to the opposite house of the Legislature for their approval. March 13, was the deadline for legislation to win approval in its “house of origin,” which is another name for the legislative chamber in which a bill was first introduced. Before sine die (the term used for the last day of session), the next significant deadlines, or “cutoffs,” are:

  • April 9, when bills must pass the standing committee in the opposite chamber.
  • April 17, when bills must pass the entire opposite chamber.

Any differences of opinion between the House and Senate on bills are worked out in conference committees. The only exceptions to the cutoffs before sine die are:

  • Budgets and issues involving differences of opinion between the two houses
  • Initiatives
  • Incidental or close-of-business parliamentary matters

The following bills my prime-sponsored bills that cleared the House of Representatives and have now moved on to the Senate for approval:

House Bill 1256
involves project-selection by the state’s Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board (FMSIB). The legislation removes the requirement that the FMSIB submit its project portfolio to the Office of Financial Management and the Legislature as part of the board’s budget request. It also directs that the FMSIB Investment Account and Multimodal Account can be used only for projects approved by the board. This will streamline and expedite the building and improvement of freight mobility projects throughout our community.

House Bill 1447 modifies the boundaries of certain heavy-haul corridors. Specifically, the legislation allows the heavy-haul corridor on a portion of our own State Route 509 in the Port of Tacoma area to continue to be extended by 1.82 miles. This will help ensure the Port of Tacoma’s economic vitality into the future.

House Bill 1644 concerns the transportation-planning objectives and performance measures for local and regional agencies. Specifically, the legislation allows a local or regional agency engaging in transportation planning to establish objectives and performance measures regarding the attainment of the state’s transportation-system policy goals or other transportation-policy goals.

It also encourages local or regional agencies engaged in transportation planning to provide any objectives and performance measures to the state’s Office of Financial Management for inclusion in its biennial report on attainment of the state’s transportation-system policy goals.

Opportunities for Our Veterans and Military members

Our troops put their lives on the line to protect our country, and it’s only right that when they return from deployment and transition back into civilian life, we help them achieve their educational and career goals.

Several measures that aim to boost educational and professional for veterans and other service members are now on their way to the Senate for consideration. These include:

House Bill 1858, which requires public colleges and universities to develop policies to award academic credit for military training courses or programs that have been completed by their students. The policies must be adopted by the end of 2014.

House Bill 1859, which provides that military training and experience satisfies requirements for professional licensing if the training or experience is documented and substantially equivalent to the licensing requirements in state law.

House Bill 1109
, which calls for state community colleges and universities that offer early course registration to some students to extend the offer to veterans and National Guard members so they can get into the courses they need to train for new careers.

House Bill 1909, which allows businesses owned jointly by a veteran and the veteran’s spouse or domestic partner to be certified as a veteran-owned business. It also encourages state agencies to award 5 percent of their procurement contracts to veteran-owned businesses.

Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population

Currently there are 830,000 people over the age of 65 in our state. That’s about fourteen percent of the population. But that number is expected to rise in the coming years. In fact, in about a decade over 30 percent of Washington’s population will be over of the age of 65. Some of the measures we passed over the last week to help us meet the needs of our aging residents include:

House Bill 1441 cuts the amount of time in which a long-term care denial can be made. Because a patient’s condition often worsens as they wait for a decision, this change allows critical decisions to be made in a more timely manner.

House Bill 1629 addresses the major roadblocks to getting quality long-term care workers certified, such as extending the time frame for certification and establishing a provisional certification for certain workers. Long-term care workers will continue to be in demand, and we need to make sure our state can meet that demand.

House Bill 1499 requires the state Department of Social and Health Services to allow clients enrolled in the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) to elect to remain in the program, even when their health status improves. These clients shouldn’t lose the services that are keeping them healthy.

House Bill 1727
makes it easier for individuals to stay in assisted living homes rather than going to a nursing home.

House Bill 1631 establishes the Joint Legislative Committee on Aging and Disability, which would be tasked with coming up with a plan of action to handle the needs that will emerge in communities as our population ages.

Do your kids need health insurance? The first open-enrollment of the year is underway!
Thanks to the federal Affordable Care Act, sick children can no longer be denied health care coverage. Beginning in 2014, this provision extends to anyone with a pre-existing condition – no matter their age.

In the meantime, should you need individual coverage for your child or would like to add them to your family’s plan, the first open enrollment of the year runs from March 15th to April 30th. The open enrollment period applies to all health plans in the individual market – where people go when their employer doesn’t offer coverage.

For more information on how to utilize the open-enrollment window, you can visit the Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s website.

Beginning in October 2013, you’ll be able to access Washington Healthplanfinder to shop for insurance. Washington Healthplanfinder is our state’s health insurance marketplace, which also comes courtesy of the Affordable Care Act. Using the website, you will be able to shop for and compare plans, so you can decide what is best for you and your family.