Legislative Update: Two Weeks to Go and Lots to Report!

Dear friends and neighbors,

In my last newsletter, I mentioned that I was honored to be a part of the House Democrats budget team that unveiled the “Resilient Washington” 2023-2025 operating budget (also in Spanish). The $69.5 billion biennial budget maintains critical investments made over the last few years and increases support for K-12 and special education, workforce development and poverty reduction.

Between now and sine die on April 23, the House and Senate will be sorting out some of the details on the state’s main operating budget, particularly where special education funding is concerned, but I’ll be sure to give you a full update once this year’s Legislative Session comes to an end.

A week ago, the operating budget was heard and passed off the House floor. I offered up remarks during final passage. Click here or on the image below to watch it and learn more.

Una Celebración de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez

Mis colegas, la Representante Lilian Ortiz-Self y la Senadora Rebecca Saldaña, junto con la Comisión de Asuntos Hispanos de Washington y la Red de Liderazgo Latino del Estado de Washington, organizarán un evento virtual a las 12 del mediodía del lunes 10 de abril. Regístrense por anticipación yendo a este enlace para recibir el enlace de Zoom para el evento.

Además, ¿sabían que el Caucus Demócrata Latino en la Cámara de Representantes de Washington se creó apenas este año? Haga clic aquí para leer más.

Protecting and Preserving Reproductive Health Care

Washington state residents have a right to reproductive and gender-affirming care. Even though we have protected that right here, other states are trying to punish anyone who pursues or provides support for an abortion, including those who reside in our state.

In the past six years, more than 40 bills have been introduced here in the Washington State Legislature seeking to overturn the right to abortion, although none of those measures have been enacted into law. By contrast, we are now standing strong to keep reproductive care available, accessible, and affordable for everybody in Washington, moving a package of bills to maintain your right to choose, including:

  • HB 1155 (My Health, My Data Act) Rep. Vandana Slatter’s bill blocks websites and apps from collecting and sharing health data. It also prohibits the sale of Washingtonian’s health data, the use of “geofences” to send unsolicited messages to persons at health facilities and requires companies that collect personal health data to create, maintain, and publish a privacy policy for consumer health data.
  • HB 1340Rep. Marcus Riccelli’s bill ensures that Washington’s providers cannot be disciplined in our state because they provide reproductive or gender affirming care in accordance with Washington state law, regardless of where their patients reside.
  • HB 1469 (Shield Law): Rep. Drew Hansen’s bill protects patients and providers of reproductive and gender-affirming care in Washington from retribution by other states.

I encourage you to click on the links above to see their most up-to-date status on where they are at in the legislative process.

ESD to Waive UI Overpayment Debt for Some

The state unemployment insurance (UI program) is an important program to help people who have been laid off. During the pandemic, there were many challenges that workers faced regarding the UI program. We heard from you about the frustrations you faced with the Employment Security Department (ESD) and in the past have taken steps to improve the agency, including passing legislation to help bolster the ESD’s workforce.

The most recent frustration occurred when certain benefit recipients were told they would need to pay back money that the ESD overpaid. At times, these debts totaled tens of thousands of dollars. This threatened the financial security of working families throughout Washington and was one more headache that came after a series of frustrations.

The good news is that relief is coming for those struggling with debt due to the overpayment of UI benefits received during the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly 21,000 UI recipients from this time will have their overpayments automatically waived. If you are one of them, the Employment Security Department will inform you via letter in the next couple of weeks.

If you are one of the other 115,000 dealing with overpayments, you will need to apply for a waiver starting April 7. You can apply at https://esd.wa.gov/overpayments. Any questions you may have can be answered online at https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/alerts/pandemic-era-overpayment-waiver-update or by calling toll-free at 800-318-6022. ESD asks for your patience as they will be dealing with a high volume of calls and online requests.

Best wishes,