Hello friends and neighbors!
This year’s Legislative session is off to a fast start. We just wrapped up our second week and have already heard and voted on some great policies that will make a real difference in the lives of Washingtonians.
One of the things we focus on in a short session is making adjustments to laws we passed the previous year. Technical fixes are common, especially when we are the first in the nation to start a program, which is the case with Washington CARES. We are also committed to clarifying language and additional work to perfect last year’s police accountability legislation.
Thank you for your support and patience on such important issues. Like so many of you, I’m experiencing first-hand what it’s like to care for our loved ones without any extra resources. I’m caring for my uncle in my spare time this session. We’ve talked about how thankful he is for the Washington CARES Act because everyone should be able to live with dignity and have the resources to take care of necessary expenses without bankrupting the rest of the family.
Please take care, and Happy Lunar New Year
The legislature is working virtually again this session. That means it’s easier than ever to make yourself heard. All our committee hearings will be run remotely, meaning you can participate in the process without having to travel to Olympia. If you’ve got questions about how to get involved this session you can check out an infographic here. You can also:
There are also translation services available upon request, including ASL services, live captioning services, and spoken language interpretation. More information on how to access those services is available here.
In addition to the Biden Administration’s efforts to distribute at-home COVID-19 tests delivered through USPS, the Washington State Department of Health has opened up a portal to request free, at-home COVID-19 tests. More information is available here.
Washington CARES: A safety net for long-term care that will be there when you need it.
Did you know that most people have no plan for how they can age in place in their own homes or handle basic long term care needs? In fact, most families don’t have any sort of insurance to protect them. That leads to people spending down their savings to qualify for Medicaid, which is paid for by the state through your tax dollars. Some people rely on unpaid family members for basic needs, or just go without care at all. We cannot accept this broken system that bankrupts people and leaves seniors and individuals with disabilities without care they need.
The solution is WA Cares, the next step for a true social safety net that protects working families like yours.
So many families do not have a plan to ensure they can age in place, in their own homes, and with the appropriate level of care or necessary home upgrades. That’s exactly what WA Cares helps provide, and why it’s so important we make sure it is successful and accessible for as many people as possible. And that’s why I’m supporting two new bills to make WA Cares better.
Those bills, HB 1732 and HB 1733, offer reform that gives near-retirees a chance to qualify for the fund—something that was missing when this program first launched—and will offer exemptions to our military spouses, disabled veterans, and border-state workers. I also support budget plans to determine how to make the WA Cares fund portable for individuals who move out of state after they vest into the program. We are also pursuing an option to allow people who regretted opting-out a chance to reenter this important program. I will not support any other legislation that weakens or removes this crucial benefit that our senior population needs.
Corporate insurance has failed to provide for the long-term care needs of Washington families and is far more expensive and far too unreliable for most Washington families. Corporate insurance is allowed to deny you coverage for pre-existing conditions, cancel coverage for no reason, and increase premiums, keeping long-term care out of the reach of families like yours.
WA Cares won’t deny or cancel your coverage and is cost-effective for working families. We can’t let this vital benefit be stripped down or taken away from the people who need it.
No matter how old you are today, someday you will probably need some long-term care or changes to your home to age in place. I’m supporting reforms to WA Cares that ensure a robust and accessible solution for families looking to pay for long-term care needs.
Police Accountability Implementation and Clarification
Last year the Legislature passed a package of bills designed to improve trust between law enforcement and the community and to uphold the policing profession. These laws work together to establish clear expectations for the behavior of police officers: to define what is acceptable use of force; what tactics and equipment are permitted; and to make sure that misconduct is held accountable.
Since this legislation went into effect a few months ago, we have heard concerns and confusion from police, from mental health professionals and from the public that these new laws might be restricting what police can do, especially in trying to help people suffering from mental health crisis.
Members from the House Public Safety Committee have spent the last few months meeting with law enforcement leaders, rank and file officers, designated crisis responders, mental and behavioral health professionals, firefighters, EMTs, cities, and counties to gather feedback and ensure that our officers have the clarity necessary to do their jobs. As a result of these discussions, House Democrats have introduced two bills to clarify portions of the new laws.
HB 1735 clarifies that officers can use force, subject to the newly established reasonable care standard, in behavioral health circumstances, for involuntary treatment commitments, in instances of child welfare, and other related circumstances. While the new use of force standard never made any changes to these statutes, some law enforcement agencies contend that it prevents them from assisting designated crisis responders and mental and behavioral health specialists with involuntary treatments and other community caretaking functions. Regrettably, this has caused some law enforcement agencies to stop responding to community caretaking calls altogether. HB 1735 ensures that officers have the certainty they need to respond to community caretaking calls.
The second bill, HB 1719, amends the ban on .50 caliber firearms to only apply to .50 caliber rifles and not less lethal ammunition that may be greater than .50 caliber or the devices that fire them. Some law enforcement agencies had discontinued use of these devices because they feared they might violate the ban on .50 caliber firearms. However, the new standard of reasonable care explicitly calls for using less-lethal devices before employing deadly force if at all possible. With these tweaks to the law, I am confident that our dedicated law enforcement professionals will be able to prioritize de-escalation and less lethal alternatives to deadly force while providing everyone in our community with the public safety they expect and deserve.