Dear friends and neighbors,
It’s Week 3 of the 2019 Legislative Session. In this newsletter, I am pleased to tell you about the first vote off the House floor, which will help ensure a safe and respectful workplace for all in the legislature. I also want to share information about one of my bills this year, which I was moved to sponsor by one mother’s heartbreaking story about her son. I hope you’ll take the time to watch Rachel Smith’s testimony to the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, linked in the “network adequacy” piece below.
House votes unanimously to “stand with us”
A week ago, on January 24th, the Washington House of Representatives took its first vote of the year – one that I was extremely proud to cast. The vote was to establish a Code of Conduct aimed at protecting the legislative community from sexual harassment and bullying. For too long, harassment has been an under-reported issue in the Legislature, with victims reluctant or even fearful of coming forward and feeling intimidated by the power dynamics. This culture too often enabled perpetrators to get away with behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated in any workplace.
That’s why last year I helped organize a letter signed by more than 250 women in the legislative community, a letter asking the leadership of the House and Senate to “Stand With Us” and end this culture of harassment. Thanks to this letter and the wider “Me Too” movement, the Legislature began to take significant steps to addressing these long-festering problems, including creating the House Workgroup on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment. The Code of Conduct was a direct result of the Workgroup’s efforts.
From now on, all members of the legislative community — legislators, staff, and people who conduct business with the legislature — are expected to:
- Conduct themselves with self-awareness, self-respect, and professionalism;
- Treat all others with respect, dignity and civility, regardless of status or position;
- Refrain from engaging in hostile, intimidating, offensive, or unlawful activities or behaviors that may amount to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, or bullying.
The vote in favor of the Code of Conduct was unanimous. There is still more to do, but this marks the beginning of a new chapter in the state legislature.
Why “network adequacy” matters for health care consumers
During the 2018 interim (the period between legislative sessions), a school teacher, Rachel Smith, reached out to me with a tragic story about what had happened to her son, Brennen. Brennen was known to many of us in Olympia because he had testified before many of us as a high school student. He had health care coverage, and was trying hard to access treatment for his behavioral health crisis – coverage that was available to him, but not readily accessible. Sadly, he died by suicide before he could get treatment. Rachel’s heartbreaking story is what inspired me to sponsor HB 1099.
This bill is about transparency, and the ability as consumers to make informed choices. When people choose a health insurance plan and they know their family is in need of some type of care – like mental and behavioral health care – they should have as much information available to them as possible about the plan they are selecting so they can make a wise choice. My bill would provide notice about network adequacy to consumers, meaning health carriers would be required to post information on their websites like geographic network maps and estimates of the percentage of time enrollees are able to access covered services within time limits set by the state Insurance Commissioner. HB 1099 was heard last week in the Health Care and Wellness Committee. Here’s a link to Rachel’s moving testimony before the committee.
This is an issue I care deeply about, and I hope this bill will be moved out of committee and to a vote on the House floor.
Stay informed and involved in your democracy
Here’s a quick guide on staying engaged with me and with what’s happening in your state legislature:
- Call or email me
- Read the How a Bill Becomes a Law
- Learn how to read a bill
- Research issues important to you and understand the whole issue
- Testify at a committee public hearing (view calendar here)
- Tune into broadcasts of hearing and floor action online on TVW
As a constituent, your views and interests, combined with your participation, are crucial to decision-making here in Olympia. Our democracy is strongest when everyone has the ability to learn about the issues and share their comments, questions and ideas. I hope to hear from you soon!