Save the Date: District Town Hall on March 23
I hope you can join Sen. Marko Liias, Rep. Strom Peterson and me at our district town hall on March 23.
We want to give you an update on legislation moving through the chambers, take your questions and listen to your ideas, concerns and feedback.
What’s happening now in Olympia?
Over the past couple of weeks we had two deadlines, one for policy committees and one for fiscal committees. It was very hectic around here, especially for those of us in budget committees, as we worked late nights to hear and vote on as many bills as we could, but many pieces of legislation did not make it to the next step. This means those bills are likely dead for this session. With one exception: bills considered necessary to implement budgets remain alive and can be voted on up until the very last day of session.
Now that the cutoff deadlines are behind us, we’re spending most of this week on the House Floor debating and voting on bills. Senators are going through the same process with their bills.
Legislation passing off the House Floor goes to the Senate for their consideration, just as Senate bills are crossing the rotunda for consideration by House committees.
For the status of any bill, please visit http://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo
Bill Status Update
As of this evening, five of my bills have passed the House and made their way to the Senate and two are in the Rules Committee where they will hopefully be selected to be brought to the Floor for a vote:
HB 1264: Secondary traumatic stress in public school staff (Passed House 96-0)
HB 1355: Counselors ratios in community and technical colleges (Passed House 72-24)
HB 1644: Youth Development Workgroup (Passed House 90-7)
HB 1906: Dolores Huerta Day (Passed House 62-34)
HB 1952: Building Communities Fund Program (Passed House 86-11)
HB 1815: Keep Washington Working Act (Rules Committee)
HB 2068: Discounted toll rates study (Rules Committee)
I remain committed to working on all the issues I put forth at the start of session, for instance, I am working with my Senate counterparts to continue to move these companion versions of my bills:
SB 5023: Ethnic Studies (Passed Senate 43-5)
SB 5800: Homeless College Students (Passed Senate 30-18)
SB 5533: Certificates of Parental Improvement (Senate Rules Committee)
And for other bills, such as Dual Language and School Counselors, I am fighting to include funding for them in the state budget.
If you did not get a chance to participate in the 21st Legislative District telephone town hall held on February 28, click on the image to go to our Vekeo site where you can listen to the entire event.
What is health network adequacy, and why does it matter?
When we choose a health insurance plan, we look at what benefits the plan covers and the network of providers available. We assume that the services will be available when we need them. However, what if the plan is supposed to cover something like behavioral health care, but accessing the network to get that care is hit or miss? The results can be tragic, as was the case when Rachel Smith’s son, Brennen, was having a behavioral health crisis. He died by suicide before he was able to get the care supposedly available to him through his health plan.
A bill currently before the House, HB 1099, would require health plans to provide notice about network adequacy to consumers. This would include estimates of the percentage of time enrollees are able to access covered services within time limits set by the state Insurance Commissioner. With this information, consumers could make more informed decisions when selecting a health plan.
Helping families in need
For families living paycheck to paycheck, the reality of needing financial assistance is just one big expense or illness away. When families are truly in need, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program provides a lifeline. But people are struggling with the onerous and outdated requirements of the program. In a recent Seattle Times op-ed, Representative Tana Senn and Senator Joe Nguyen tell the story of how the requirements are harming families that are trying desperately to play by the rules.
I am supporting House Bill 1603 to make changes to TANF requirements – like providing more flexibility for people who are homeless or allowing an online orientation, instead of an in person one. I support helping families when they need it the most, not creating more barriers during a trying time in their lives.
Measures that speak to Washington’s diversity
To celebrate or commemorate an individual, an organization or an event, the Legislature can pass bills or resolutions that are entered into the legislative record.
We have one of the most diverse cohorts of elected officials in state history and we’re bringing forward bills and resolutions that reflect the diverse fabric of our state.
The first-ever Lunar New Year resolution was adopted by the House last month, celebrating a holiday of great importance to many Asian communities. In February we also adopted a resolution commemorating Black History Month.
Every session, the House adopts a resolution commemorating a dark time in our history – the internment of Japanese Americans on American soil during World War II. The Day of Remembrance reminds us that our government failed to uphold the constitutional rights of all Americans, and that we must never let it happen again.
Last year we passed a bill recognizing March 31 as César Chávez Day. César Chávez and Dolores Huerta dedicated their lives to organizing and fighting for safe work places, fair pay, and good working conditions for farmworkers, so I felt it was the right course of action to follow up with a bill recognizing April 10 as Dolores Huerta Day. My legislation was approved by the House on Monday and is now in the Senate. Click here to read the press release and watch the Floor debate.
Be sure to contact my office if you need more information, or just to give me your feedback.