Hello from Olympia!
What an exciting week it’s been for Washingtonians! Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks and the 12th Man on an impressive Super Bowl victory! On Wednesday, we had a “Moment of Loudness” at 12:12pm at the Capitol Flagpole to celebrate here in Olympia while many of you welcomed the team home with a parade in downtown Seattle. The Seahawks’ performance on Sunday night has instilled a sense of renewed enthusiasm and vigor throughout the Capitol Campus; we hope this energy will stay with us over the next several weeks so we can finish this session strong—and on time!
This week is the first of what we call “cut-off weeks” here in Olympia—the time of late nights and weekends tirelessly devoted to hearing, debating, amending, and finally passing bills out of committees. Yesterday marked the first cutoff deadline, meaning that any measures in policy committees, such as the Health Care & Wellness committee or the Environment committee, that aren’t voted forward will likely be “dead” and will not move forward this legislative session. On February 11th, there is a similar deadline for fiscal committees, including Transportation, Appropriations, Capital Budget and Finance.
Cut-off is a bittersweet time for all legislators in Olympia, as well as for the citizens who come here to advocate for their priorities. On the one hand, it’s the first major hurdle a bill must overcome to become law, so it’s a chance to celebrate our hard work. On the other hand
, there are many worthwhile bills that don’t make it out of committee by cut-off. Sometimes it’s because a bill doesn’t have enough votes; other times it’s just because the committee runs out of time.
We thought this would be a great time to let you know about some of the things we’ve been working on this session. Here is an update on the bills we’ve been working hard to pass.
As chair of the Health Care and Wellness Committee, Eileen focuses on legislation that expands Washingtonians’ access to quality, affordable healthcare. Some of these bills include:
HB 2321 – Creating mid-level dental providers
Currently, Washington’s dental care system is insufficient to guarantee that everyone has access to a dentist. HB 2321 would increase access to dental care by creating a mid-level dental provider who can perform a limited number of services for patients—things like teeth cleaning, disease prevention counseling, and basic tooth extractions.
These providers will increase access to vital services for children, parents and the elderly who cannot afford the exorbitant costs of dental care out-of-pocket. Eileen has been working to get this bill passed for over ten years now, and each year support grows and we get a little bit closer to moving the bill out of committee.
HB 2572 – Transparency of healthcare costs
When we go to a hospital for care, our first thought is rarely about the bills that will come in the mail later; we’re there because we need to be there, sometimes right away and at any cost. This is one of the reasons healthcare costs have skyrocketed over the past several decades. HB 2572 will improve the transparency of healthcare costs so that our healthcare system will prioritize the needs of patients over the interests of hospitals and insurance companies. The bill passed out of the Health Care and Wellness Committee on Wednesday, just in time for cut-off, and hopefully will make it to the House floor for a vote soon.
HB 2646 – Long-Term Care Workers
This bill provides a certification exemption for long-term care (LTC) workers who work part time and provide respite services only—things like bathing, meal preparation, and household chores. This will enable those individuals, who are often friends of the family, to be paid for the personal care services they provide without having to complete an expensive 75-hour basic training program and 12 hours of continuing education training every year. This bill was heard in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services this morning.
In his new role as Chair of the Environment Committee, Joe has been working hard to keep our environmental protections in place so our state continues to be a healthy, beautiful place to live. Some of these bills include:
HB 2414 – Efficiency of Toilets and Other Fixtures
There are a lot of jokes that can be made about a toilet efficiency bill, but water shortages, even in Western Washington, are no joke. Water is a limited resource, one that we cannot live without. We need to conserve and manage our water supply sustainably.
HB 2414 will require that toilets, faucets and other plumbing fixtures sold in Washington State are high-efficiency. Saving water in the home improves water quality by removing less from rivers, lakes, and aquifers. With an overflow of support for this bill, we plunged ahead by passing this bill out of the Environment Committee.
HB 2347 – Oil Transport
Recent train derailments in Canada and the US have highlighted the risky business of moving oil. Washington has historically had a great track record of safety, due to strong regulations and responsible shipping companies, but the potential devastation of oil spills is too great to rely on our past record. In 2013 alone, more oil was spilled from trains than in the last 40 years combined. The increasing amounts of crude oil being shipped through Washington via pipelines and railway shipments require updating our outdated laws.
HB 2347 will improve the safety of oil transportation by updating the requirements that oil tankers be escorted by tugs and require that transporters create spill prevention plans. The bill will also require a study of the state’s preparedness and capacity to respond to oil train accidents, including identifying the communities at greatest risk of an oil train accident.
HB 2312 – Environmental Justice
Environmental justice is the concept that inequality in our communities is not limited to income or education, but extends to air and water quality as well as other environmental impacts. HB 2312 will mandate that the Department of Ecology create a list of highly impacted communities, such as communities with high unemployment or greater than average public health challenges.
Additionally, under HB 2312, instead of paying a monetary penalty for violations of air, water, and hazardous waste regulations, violators could choose to undertake a project that would have a positive environmental impact on one of the highly-impacted communities.
A clean and healthy environment requires that we take steps to reduce our ecological footprint with things like high-efficiency toilets. All of our small actions do add up but in the meantime, we continue to create waste and pollutants. It is important that we are dealing with the risks and impacts in a thorough and just manner. The bills passed out of the Environment committee reflect our commitment to the quality of life for all of Washington, now and into the future.
Thank you for taking the time to read this legislative update. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Eileen and Joe