2019 Legislative Session Wrap Up
Dear friends and neighbors,
For the first time since 2009, the Legislature adjourned with a biennial budget on time. I am very proud of all the work we accomplished.
From creating the nation’s strongest clean energy policy to clearing the rape kit backlog to establishing the first public health care option, Washington is leading the nation.
Strongest clean energy policy in the nation, saving orcas
The 2019 legislative session was the most productive in decades for clean air, clean water, habitat. We are addressing current and future impacts of climate change.
Washington is enacting the strongest 100 percent clean energy policy in the nation. We are committed to moving to clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources, including wind, solar and hydro power. We are electrifying our transportation infrastructure, creating incentives to build brand new, energy efficient buildings, banning products containing super-pollutants that cause more harm than carbon dioxide, and preventing oil spills from further endangering the remaining 75 Southern Resident orcas.
Nation’s first public health care option, long-term care trust
Families in Washington deserve health care they can afford and can count on. This session, Washington became the first state to establish a public health care option, Cascade Care. This plan is more understandable, usable and affordable than ever. It is available to any Washingtonian who is not covered by an employer sponsored health plan. Those who are covered by an employer’s health plan, Medicare or Apple Care will not be affected.
Washington is the first state to tackle our impending long-term care crisis with the Long-Term Care Trust Act. The legislation sets up an insurance benefit to help cover the costs of vital health care services, and with more people than ever moving into the 65+ age bracket, we are getting ahead today by planning for tomorrow.
Standing with survivors of sexual violence, ending the backlog
After nearly half a decade, we secured necessary funding to clear the backlog of over 10,000 untested rape kits in police evidence.
I am pleased to report that the kits – each which represents a survivor’s voice that was not heard – will be tested within two years.
Moving forward, all newly submitted kits will be tested within 45 days. Law enforcement will be trained in trauma-informed approaches to better work with survivors as they are notified about their kits, and any further actions for seeking long overdue justice. Additionally, hospitals must notify survivors within two hours of arrival if they do not have a rape kit or provider trained in sexual assault examination.
We removed the statue of limitations on sexual assault crimes against children, so that victims may come forward on their own terms. We changed the definition of the charge of ‘rape in the third degree’ to better respond to trauma by acknowledging ‘freeze’ responses. We removed requirements that survivors must “allege or prove reasonable fear” of future violence from abusers before being granted a petition for a sexual assault protection order, giving more voice to survivors.
Preparing Washington students for Washington jobs
Through the support of business leaders, including Microsoft President Brad Smith, the legislation makes public apprenticeship training and college tuition free for families that make up to $50,000 and allocates over $100 million into career connection services in high-demand sectors, like nursing, engineering and technology. The Act renames the State Need Grant as the Washington College Grant.
Healing our bodies, minds and communities
Much work was done this session to address behavioral health and substance use disorder. The biggest push has been integrating behavioral health and physical health into the same system, because treating the mind should not be any different from treating the body when it comes to how to access care. We are establishing a behavioral health innovation and integration campus with the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. This is key to tackling this growing crisis and developing the next generation of behavioral health professionals.
The new two-year budget includes $154 million to fund state behavioral health facilities, $120 million for Community Mental Health Capacity grants and $35 million for Permanent Supportive Housing.
With suicide rates steadily increasing, it’s clear we need to do more to address this silent, but growing crisis. I advocated for suicide prevention funding, which includes suicide prevention training for workplaces that employ veterans and free counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
We are establishing “Regional School Safety Centers” to improve safety in schools statewide. Under recommendations by the Children’s Mental Health Work Group, we are are funding the Partnership Access Line to help kids at the first sign of a behavioral health crisis. This is a great step in the right direction.
Rep. Tina Orwall