Session Update: Coronavirus response, Census, and Town Hall

Passing Senate Bills the last week of the legislative session

We are in the final weeks of the 2020 legislative session! Right now, my House colleagues and I are working on bills that impact the budget and Senate bills.

In the last few days, we have passed a few bills that I know matter greatly to constituents that have come and visited my office. These bills include:

Senate Bill 5149: Last fall, we experienced a tragedy in our community. Tiffany Hill, a mother and community advocate, left us far too soon. Senate Bill 5149, the Tiffany Hill Act, expands the Sentencing Reform Act definition of “electronic monitoring” to include victim notification technology that is capable of notifying a victim when the monitored individual is in a restricted area or close to them. This bill could have helped saved Tiffany’s life and this tool will save lives in the future. Tiffany’s loved ones have been in Olympia often this session to share Tiffany’s story and educate us to why this bill is so important.

Senate Bill 6561: Students from Washington State University-Vancouver visited my office just a few weeks ago to let me know how much this bill that creates the undocumented student support loan program means to them and their classmates. This bill has broad bi-partisan support and I thank the students for their advocacy!

Senate Bill 6205: It was an honor to work with Senator Cleveland on a bill that was brought to us by in-home care providers who want to feel safe in their workplace. The bill that is passing through the legislative process, looks much different than the bill we started with before session. Good policy comes when stakeholders come together to find a policy that works for everyone.

Washington Census Bill of Rights 

On February 12, we passed House Bill 2527, to create the Washington Census Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, aimed at ensuring every Washingtonian has access to accurate census information so we can all get counted freely.

The bill affirms Washingtonians’ rights to:

  • Participate in the Census free of threat or intimidation
  • Confidentiality of information provided in the Census form
  • Respond to the Census by phone, mail, or online
  • Request language assistance
  • Verify the identity of a Census worker

In addition to upholding these rights, the bill makes it a gross misdemeanor to impersonate a Census taker with the intent of interfering with the operation of the Census, obtaining information, or getting consent to enter a person’s home.

The bill also requires the Census Bill of Rights and Responsibilities be translated into several languages and be made available on Census websites.

Census results determine how many seats in Congress each state gets, so if we want fair representation at the federal level, we need to make sure our count is accurate.

Census results also help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states for multiple projects. From highway planning and construction, to support for schools, as well as programs to prevent child abuse, restore wildlife, prepare for wildfires, and provide housing assistance for older adults, among many others.

We want to make sure every Washingtonian is counted. If that’s the case, we are more likely to have the resources we need for schools, roads, and our communities. Make sure you are counted.

Serve on a state board or commission

We want to encourage you to consider serving on a state board or commission of interest to you. Recently, one of our own community leaders, Diana Avalos Leos was appointed to Health Benefit Exchange by Governor Inslee. Diana will be taking her leadership and expertise to serve the entire state and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

In Washington, we have over 230 boards and commissions where members of the community can be directly involved in shaping policies and decisions that the governor and the legislature are working on. Just last year, a brand new LGBTQ Commission was started to help advise the state of Washington on LGBTQ issues statewide.

Right now, Governor Inslee is seeking applicants for appointments to a variety of boards and commissions, including:

Click here to find out what other boards and commissions have current vacancies, recommend applicants, or apply yourself.

$100 Million for coronavirus response

Over the weekend, Governor Inslee signed an emergency proclamation directing state agencies to use state resources to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 outbreak and to utilize the National and State Guards as necessary.

On Tuesday afternoon, the House of Representatives quickly and unanimously approved the appropriation of $100 million to get state agencies, local governments and federally recognized tribes the necessary funding to assist with the coronavirus response. The bill also gives the Department of Social and Health Services funding to increase nursing staff to help address this growing need.

At a Legislative briefing earlier this week, Washington Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman reported that DOH is spending $60,000 per day responding to the outbreak, and total spending has surpassed $3.5 million since the beginning of the year.

As this situation continues to rapidly unfold, please protect yourself and your family by following these DOH recommendations:

  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue and discard it immediately.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Stay home when you’re sick.
  • If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider before you go to a clinic or emergency room.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
  • Do not attend large gatherings (sporting events, conferences, community events) if you are sick, don’t feel well, or someone in your home is sick.
  • Show compassion and support for individuals and communities most closely impacted.

You can also check out and share this DOH fact sheet, which is available in eleven languages.

Workers’ Comp now includes quarantined health workers and first responders

Labor & Industries (L&I) is immediately changing its policy around workers’ compensation coverage for health care workers and first responders quarantined by a physician or public health officer after being exposed to COVID-19 on the job.

That’s what Governor Inslee and Joel Sacks, L&I director, announced on Thursday morning.

L&I is also encouraging employers to continue to pay workers who are quarantined after being exposed. Time loss is partial payment and does not replace a worker’s entire income. Quarantined workers who continue to be paid by their employer may not need to file a workers’ compensation claim.

Read the full announcement here.