Legislative Update: Addressing opioids, orcas, and affordable housing

Note from Eileen:

Helping loved ones struggling from the opioid epidemic

Reps. Cody and Robinson looking over legislation on the floor

The opioid epidemic is hitting every city, town, and county in Washington. It is a true crisis. In 2017, there were nearly 50,000 opioid related deaths in America. We must take action, which is why I’m proud to be the prime sponsor of HB 1331.

This legislation is a comprehensive approach to fighting the opioid crisis. Some of the provisions of this bill include permitting pharmacists to partially fill certain prescriptions upon patient request, requiring prescribers to discuss the risks of opioids with patients, giving patients the option to refuse an opioid prescription, and allowing hospital emergency departments to dispense opioid overdose reversal medication when a patient is at risk of opioid overdose.

The bill would also empower the Health Care Authority and the Department of Health to partner and work with other state agencies on initiatives that promote a statewide approach in addressing opioid use disorder. Finally, it permits the Secretary of the Department of Health to issue a standing order for opioid reversal medication and require pharmacists to provide written instructions about responding to an opioid overdose when dispensing medication.

Last week, this bill passed out of the Health care & Wellness Committee. I look forward to passing this legislation to save lives and help those in our community who are affected by this crisis.



Protecting Southern Resident Orcas

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Southern Resident orca population was just 74 in November of 2018, representing a 30-year low. One of the many threats to our orca population is Puget Sound vessel traffic. To address that issue, our colleague Rep. Brian Blake introduced HB 1580.

This legislation decreases vessel disturbance to Southern Resident Orcas by permanently increasing the distance vessels must maintain from orcas from 200 yards to 400 yards. It also requires a 7-knot speed limit on any vessel traveling within one-half nautical mile (1013 yards) of a Southern Resident Orca. I’m excited to cosponsor this legislation and hopeful to see it signed by the Governor.







Reaffirming the protections of the Affordable Care Act

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, people have come to expect certain services and protections in their healthcare coverage. For example, insurers are guaranteed to cover essential health benefits like maternity and newborn care, preventive services, and substance use disorder treatment. Furthermore, individuals and families no longer fear being denied coverage for having pre-existing conditions. These are just some of the provisions of the ACA and although Washington state is subject to these protections under federal law, state law alone does not offer the same protections.

On Tuesday, I chaired a committee hearing on HB 1870. This piece of legislation, introduced by my colleague Rep. Lauren Davis, would bring state law in line with the Affordable Care Act. Under this legislation, coverage of essential health benefits, protections for pre-existing conditions, and other ACA provisions would be codified into state law providing health care security to our community.

Washingtonians depend on these important protections and this bill would ensure that they are upheld in our state regardless of any federal action. Joe and I are proud to cosponsor this legislation and we are hopeful to get it passed this session.

Note from Joe:

Affordable Homes and Stable Communities for All

Washington state is facing an affordable housing and homelessness crisis—every district, including ours, is experiencing this crisis. Despite efforts and resources to date, we simply do not have adequate housing options across income levels and across specialized needs in order to keep Washingtonians housed.

This crisis is also not impacting people equally, as renters and people of color are more likely to be overburdened by housing costs, and at greater risk for displacement.  Increasing affordable housing stock and mitigating the factors that lead to homelessness are top priorities for House Democrats in the 2019 session.

We are supporting a suite of measures to improve housing affordability, which including increasing funding for affordable housing, expanding tenant protections, reducing duplication in the permitting process, and increasing the housing supply in areas where transit and other infrastructure exists to support it.


Simple Majority for School Bonds

If we had won our elections with 59% of the vote, that would be considered a landslide victory. Yet if a school bond vote receives similar support, it’s considered a failure. That’s because Washington state has an archaic and undemocratic law that requires local school bond votes to receive 60% or more in order to pass. This is a Great Depression era policy that has left too many students struggling to learn in unsafe, overcrowded, deteriorating classrooms and in dilapidated portables that are covering green spaces on school campuses all across our state. The threshold for school bonds should be set at a simple majority. This change is essential to ensure all kids have the chance to learn in safe, comfortable classrooms. This change is long overdue and I am proud to support HB 1184 and HJR 4203, which would lower the school bond threshold to a simple majority. Many thanks to the Seattle Times editorial board for voicing their support for simple majority school bonds.

Serve on a board or commission

Washington state has over 230 boards and commissions where community members like you can be appointed and provide input. Participation on a board or commission means that you have the opportunity to use your unique experience and knowledge to shape policies that the governor and legislators are considering.

Currently, Gov. Inslee is looking for appointments to a variety of these boards and commissions, including:

Click here to find out what other boards and commissions have current vacancies, recommend applicants, or apply yourself!

Thanks for reading!