Redistricting Process, Improving Healthcare with Lessons from the Pandemic, and Fighting Wildfires

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

For the first time ever, Spokane County will go through a redistricting process at the county level in preparation for a switch to a district-based system for electing our county commissioners. To get a better sense of the redistricting process at the state level, I interviewed April Sims, the House Democrats’ Appointee to the Washington State Redistricting Commission. Watch the video below to learn more.

Monday, Sen. Billig, Rep. Ormsby and I announced our selections to the Spokane County redistricting commission. To ensure people have a more direct voice in their government, which was the goal of moving to five county commissioners, it is critical the districts are drawn in a just and inclusive way. Natasha Hill and Brian McClatchey are highly qualified and committed to a process that will ensure the people of Spokane County get a responsive and representative government, and one that is brought closer to the people. You can read more about their appointments here.

Improving healthcare with lessons learned from the pandemic

Doctor talking on the phone

The pandemic made it clear that urgent changes are needed to the improve the healthcare system. The legislature is considering several bills to make adjustments so it works better for people now and into the future. Last week, the House passed two bills in particular that I would like to highlight.

The first is my bill, HB 1196, which will require health insurance to provide reimbursement for audio-only telehealth. Telehealth is a safe and easy way for people to get medical advice without risking the spread of COVID-19 or traveling. However, those without access to broadband internet or a computer are not able to take advantage of telehealth. Amendments on the floor ensured that doctors’ offices and hospitals do not use this expansion of access to overbill people. They included guaranteeing that hospitals cannot charge facilities fees for appointments and that routine parts of a doctor’s job like calling with test results are not suddenly billed as appointments.

The second is a bill concerning respiratory therapists – practitioners who provide a variety of services related to respiratory care, including ventilator management. HB 1383 codifies the crucial role that respiratory therapists have played in the pandemic and expands respiratory therapy to allow delivery through telemedicine. With COVID-19, the need for qualified practitioners has increased, and Washington state needs to update state laws to match recent guidance and scope of practice in the field.

These are just two bills that show how we are taking lessons learned from the pandemic and turning them into positive changes to the healthcare system to make it work better for the people of our state. Both of these bills passed the House, and now advance to the Senate for further consideration.

Stepping up our fight against wildfires

Malden Post office burning
Photo Credit: Evan Ellis/Pullman Radio

Wildfire Destroys 80% of Town of Malden” . . . “It is Apocalyptic. Fear and Destruction” . . . “Everything Around Me is Gone.” These are real headlines from the waning days of last summer – that hot, dry time of year we’ve sadly come to know as “wildfire season” here in Washington and throughout the western United States. Every year Washington wildfires take out pastureland and prairies, forests, homes, and businesses. They kill people, wild and domestic animals, and entire ecosystems. And over time they cost our economy billions of dollars.

The destructiveness of these annual fires, and the fact that many of them could be minimized or prevented, are behind my support of legislation to improve the way the state thinks about and deals with wildfires. HB 1168, sponsored by Rep. Larry Springer, is a bipartisan plan endorsed by firefighters, business owners, cities and counties, environmentalists, farmers and ranchers, unions, tribes, and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, under whose direction much of the newly prescribed work would take place. HB 1168 was recommended for passage by the House Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee last month, and two weeks ago the House Appropriations Committee concurred. I hope to see it come up for a vote by the full House soon.

It’s an honor to serve our community.

Best Regards,

Representative Marcus Riccelli

3rd Legislative District – Spokane