Legislative Newsletter: Protecting net neutrality in Washington and other news from Olympia
February 13, 2018 | By Rep. Ruth Kagi
The next step in a solution to the opioid epidemic
Washington is in the midst of an opioid crisis. Friends and neighbors across the state are falling victim, and overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the most common cause of accidental deaths. This epidemic is a public health crisis, and solving it will require efforts across many fronts. This session, Democrats proposed House Bill 2489 to address many aspects of the fighting this epidemic. This bill combines the work of several legislators, along with the governor’s requested legislation, to provide training, tools, and resources for physicians and pharmacists to help educate patients.
- Authorizes pharmacists to partially fill prescriptions, instead of providing the full amount, at the patient or prescriber’s request;
- Requires health care practitioners to discuss the risks of opioids and pain management alternatives when prescribing an opioid to a patient for the first time;
- Requires health care practitioners to take a Continuing Education course on best practices for opioid prescribing and to register for the Prescription Monitoring Program; and,
- Connects certified peer counselors with individuals who have had a non-fatal overdose;
In addition, emergency departments will directly distribute opioid overdose reversal medication, such as Naloxone, to a patient at risk of opioid overdose. Additional requirements for warning statements on the risks of opioids and safe disposal methods are also mandated. The Secretary of Health will be assigned the responsibility of coordinating the statewide response to the opioid epidemic.
The bill passed the House on Friday with a unanimous vote and heads to the Senate. We also passed HB 1047 establishing the first statewide drug take-back program in the nation.
This week I was excited to vote on a bill to protect net neutrality and ensure that Washingtonians continue to have access to a free and open in internet. House Bill 2282, which I co-sponsored, passed out of the House with broad bipartisan support on a 93-5 vote. The bill will ensure that under the state’s consumer protection authority, Washington will continue to safeguard net neutrality for consumers despite the Federal Communications Commission’s rollback of these protections last month. Specifically, the bill protects consumers from:
- Blocking of lawful content by internet service providers;
- “Throttling,” or slowing down, of lawful content by internet service providers; and
- Favoring of certain content over others by internet service providers due to special deals (“paid prioritization”)
The measure now heads to the Senate.
Making childcare more affordable
As many new parents can tell you, finding high-quality available and affordable childcare can be quite a challenge. One of the things I have heard from people all over Washington is that there is a lack of childcare providers. Long waiting lists and in some places a complete lack of childcare options are clear signs that we need to increase the number of childcare providers.
It’s not just parents who are feeling the impacts – employers have a hard time recruiting and retaining people with young families when there isn’t enough childcare.
Even if parents are able to find available childcare, the cost is a significant financial burden on working families. Data from Child Care Aware shows that in 2016, the statewide median cost of care for a toddler was $884 per month, or 18 percent of median income.
When I worked to pass the Early Start Act in 2015, the focus was increasing the quality of early learning. The improvements are great for children; unfortunately, not all families can enroll their children in a high quality program. We also need to work on increasing the number of childcare providers and ensuring that having a child attend a great program doesn’t keep families from being able to make ends meet.
This week, on the House floor we passed two bills to engage employers in addressing the child care challenge – House Bill 2367 establishing a task force to look at childcare affordability and accessibility; and House Bill 2396, the CARE Act, which would create incentives for businesses to help shoulder the cost of their employees child care.