Dear friends and neighbors,
Hard to believe we’re almost half-way through this 60-day session! Never a dull moment in virtual Olympia, so there’s always something to share with you on the work we are doing.
The big news last week was that Governor Inslee signed the two measures to make reforms to the WA Cares Fund. House Bill 1732 delays the start of the program by 18 months and House Bill 1733 allows military spouses and disabled veterans to exempt themselves from the program. We made these changes because we listened to your concerns and because they were necessary; this delay will give us time to improve the program.
Another piece of good news is that the Department of Health just re-launched a website where Washington residents can order free, rapid COVID-19 tests delivered to their homes.
While the ordering website is currently only available in English and Spanish, additional languages are in development. Right now, people with limited English or internet access can get language assistance by dialing 1-800-525-0127 and pressing #.
Each household can only place one order per residential address and each order comes with up to five rapid tests. DOH has limited supply as demand for testing nationwide has surged in the past few weeks, but they will replenish as supply into the state increases.
Video Update & Town Hall TONIGHT
In this video update you’ll hear about three of my bills that have made it out of committee, as well as information on our Virtual Town Hall meeting tonight at 6 pm.
Workplace safety is plain old common sense
Musculoskeletal disorders, sometimes called ergonomic injuries, occur when the body uses muscles, tendons, and ligaments to perform tasks, often in awkward positions or in frequent, repetitive activities that can create pain and injury over time.
These injuries are not rare; in fact, about 40 percent of worker’s comp claims eligible for payment in our state are for a repetitive motion injury/work-related musculoskeletal disorder. And the thing is, many of these injuries can and should be prevented. Unfortunately, under current law, workers in Washington do not have protections related to repetitive motion injuries.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Last week, the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee passed House Bill 1837, which would empower the Department of Labor and Industries to adopt and amend rules to protect workers on the job and establish a baseline of safety across the board.
I am one of the sponsors of this legislation because safety should be common sense and Washington workers deserve a safe workplace free of preventable injury.
Bills Supporting Students
We know it is extremely important to support each and every student across our state, especially as the pandemic continues to take a toll on young people. So here are some of the bills we are working on to do just that:
- HB 1905: Helps ensure young people aren’t released into homelessness from foster care, juvenile rehabilitation, or in-patient behavioral health treatment. You can hear more about this legislation on Capitol Ideas, the state House Democratic Caucus’ podcast. Tune in here!
- HB 1890: Creates the framework for building a statewide plan to provide behavioral health services when and where children, youth and families need them.
- HB 1834: Allows students to take excused absences from school to take care of their mental health in the same way they would for their physical health.
- HB 1723: Too many kids are struggling to access their online classes. The Digital Equity Act helps close the digital divide by boosting access to the internet for students and others.
- HB 1659: Creates $1,000 grants for low-income students and increases the funding most students would get from the Washington College Grant, our state’s largest financial aid program.
- HB 1835: Makes it easier for students to fill out the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and the WAFSA, Washington Application for State Financial Aid.
Go deeper: For more on the variety of approaches we’re taking to address youth mental health (and the mental health system more broadly), check out this Seattle Times article.
Working Families and Small Businesses get a Sales Tax Holiday
The pandemic has put enormous financial strain on so many families. Hard-working Washingtonians and small businesses need our help right now. This is one tangible thing we can do to give people a break and strengthen our local communities.
Whether your kids need back-to-school clothes, or you need a new dishwasher, a proposed law would exempt such purchases from sales taxes for three days in September. House Bill 2018 is about helping our friends, neighbors, and small businesses on Main Street.
Under the legislation, there would be no sales tax this year on September 3, 4 and 5 for certain items priced $1,000 or less, including clothing, school supplies, computers, durable medical goods, and energy efficient appliances.
The bill does not include tobacco or marijuana products, alcoholic beverages, utilities, travel, meals, motor vehicles, boats, services, or construction goods.
Experience the state of Washington
In 2018, the legislature passed SB 5251 to allow for a public-private partnership to re-start a statewide tourism marketing program, seven years after our tourism office closed due to a lack of funding. This year, we received an update on the hard work they’ve been doing to promote our state in the nation and world.
Their new campaign will attract tourists from out of state and encourage in-state travel to spur the economy. Check out this video (click on the image below), the first in a series they are working on to highlight different regions of our great state.
It’s no secret that tourism was one of the hardest hit sectors in the pandemic and is one of the slowest to recover. Tourism can provide a jumpstart to local economies, particularly in rural areas. It can mean business for the small-town bakeries and gifts shops, and jobs for tour guides and musicians.
If you’re planning a trip in Washington state or urging some family members to get out to the Pacific Northwest, check out the state of Washington’s website.
Keep in Touch
Thank you for reading my newsletter and for your interest in state government. If you need more information on any of the issues discussed here, or on any other legislative matter, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.
For our friends and neighbors who celebrate the Lunar New Year: Happy Year of the Tiger! This new beginning is a time to reflect on the year past, make room for joy, and honor cultural unity. I wish you and your family happiness, good health, and prosperity.