Legislative Update: Session 2020 Begins, Senate passes plastic bag bag, hearing on healthcare cost transparency

Rep. Fitzgibbon standing with a House Page in front of the Speaker's Podium on the House FloorNow Accepting Page Applications

Every year, students ages 14 to 16 come from all over the state to serve as legislative pages in the House of Representatives for one week. Pages perform a wide variety of responsibilities, from presenting the flags to distributing amendments on the House floor. Pages also receive daily civics instruction, draft their own bills, and participate in mock committee hearings. 

Pages are sponsored by members of the Legislature, usually from the district in which they live. Do you know a student who may be interested in serving as a legislative page? Our offices are now accepting applications and there is a scholarship program to ensure this opportunity is accessible for every student. 

Senate Passes Plastic Bag Ban

In the 2019 session some key environmental policies were passed, but there is still work to be done to reduce emissions, address plastic pollution, implement solid waste policies, and further efforts to protect clean water.  

Senate Bill 5253 helps to address plastic bag pollution by encouraging the use of reusable bags; plastic bags clog up our recycling stream, add to landfill waste, and contribute harmful microplastics to the environment. This bill would also bring the state into alignment, giving retailers and grocers one standard to comply with instead of the current 37-jurisdiction patchwork. 

Last year the House Environment and Energy Committee and the Finance Committee both passed the companion House Bill, HB 1205, but it did not receive a vote on the House floor. The Senate passed SB 5323 last Wednesday, and it has been referred to the House Environment and Energy Committee.

House Hearing on Healthcare Cost Transparency & Accountability

Like the rest of the country, Washington is facing a healthcare affordability crisis. We all hear the horror stories about rising medical expenses and increasing debts, and too many of us are personally facing these issues. This year in Olympia, we are working to expand hospital transparency to better understand and manage system-wide healthcare costs. We have multiple bills to do this. One of them is HB 2036.  

HB 2036 will require nontraditional hospital entities, such as ambulatory surgical centers, to submit financial data to the Department of Health. The bill will also require the collection of additional financial and patient discharge data not currently received. Hospitals will have to publicly release explicit details about required community health activities and disclose their debt collection practices. The House Healthcare and Wellness Committee heard HB 2036 last week and advocates provided compelling testimony about the importance of transparency in our healthcare system.  

We will have more bills about healthcare accountability and cost containment this session, and we are excited to continue sharing updates on these important pieces of legislation. 

Making HistoryRepresentative Laurie Jinkins being sworn in as Speaker

We’re kicking off 2020 with a new face at the House rostrum! State Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) made history last Monday by becoming the first-ever woman and first lesbian Speaker of the House. This is the first time in nearly two decades that a new Speaker has taken the gavel.  

In her first address as Speaker, Jinkins highlighted that while her title may be Speaker, she sees her primary job as listening. She also referenced the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, as it celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Jinkins noted that, for many, there is still work to be done to achieve equity in opportunity. We look forward to working with her this session and beyond.  

Jinkins has served in the legislature since 2011 and was previously the Chair of the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee. The acting Speaker, John Lovick (D-Mill Creek), added that ‘For the first time, a woman will hold the gavel here in the People’s House. History like this isn’t made accidentally. Barriers that have stood for more than a century do not fall on their own. They are taken down, piece by piece, through sweat and sacrifice.’  

Thanks for reading!