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    Equal pay legislation becomes law, adds penalties for discrimination

Equal pay legislation becomes law, adds penalties for discrimination

March 21st, 2018|

Employees who are paid differently, based on gender, from workplace counterparts who do the same work with the same experience now have better protection under state law.

House Bill 1506, signed into law today by Gov. Inslee, modifies the Equal Pay Act to provide a range of remedies, from damages and civil penalties assessed by the state Department of Labor & Industries to civil action brought by an employee. The law also adds protections for employees who are offered unequal workplace opportunities based on gender and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their wages or benefits with other employees.

“Women today earn an average of 79 cents on the dollar compared to men with the same experience doing the same work,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, the sponsor of companion legislation in the Senate. After her bill passed the Senate and HB 1506 passed the House, lawmakers agreed to go with the House bill. Cleveland has promoted equal pay legislation since 2013.

“When I first began fighting for pay equality, people asked me, ‘Is this still a problem?’” Cleveland said. “What they didn’t realize is that while the Equal Pay Act of 1943 called for equal pay between men and women for comparable work, the reality is that society has not caught up.”

Twenty-three other states already offer protections for employees who are paid less on the basis of gender. This bill would make Washington the second state in the nation, after Maryland, to provide protections for employees who are offered lesser opportunities in a workplace based on gender.

“Many women, including and especially women of color, earn even less than the 79-cent average for women overall,” Cleveland said. “It’s time to make pay equity a reality so that our children and grandchildren don’t have to fight these same battles.”

“When people doing the same work are compensated unequally, it’s not just the employee who is short-changed; it’s everyone in that employee’s household,” Cleveland said. “And this discrepancy reverberates throughout the larger community, as smaller paychecks lead to a smaller tax base and less economic vitality.”

The legislation includes administrative remedies to help small business owners resolve complaints without being tied up in court. It is a key component of Senate Democrats’ “Putting People First” agenda of passing family-friendly legislation that had been blocked by Senate Republicans for several years.

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    Senate passes bill advancing effort to achieve equal pay for equal work for all genders

Senate passes bill advancing effort to achieve equal pay for equal work for all genders

March 1st, 2018|

The state Senate took aim at the generations-old practice of pay discrimination by passing legislation today on behalf of employees who are paid differently, based on gender, from workplace counterparts who do the same work with the same experience.

“When I first began fighting for pay equality in 2013, people asked me, ‘Is this still a problem?’ ” said Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver. “What they didn’t realize is that while the Equal Pay Act of 1943 called for equal pay between men and women for comparable work, the reality is that society has not caught up. Today women earn an average of 76 cents on the dollar compared to men with the same experience doing the same work.”

House Bill 1506, companion legislation to Cleveland’s Senate Bill 5140, modifies the Equal Pay Act to prohibit discrimination in compensation and provides remedies, including damages and civil penalties assessed by the state Department of Labor & Industries, and civil action brought by an employee. The bill would also provide protections for employees who are offered unequal workplace opportunities based on gender and prohibits employers from requiring employees not to discuss their wages with each other.

In 2017, Cleveland inserted a proviso into the state’s operating budget to extend protections to employees who work for vendors that contract with six Washington state agencies; this legislation extends those protections to employees of all businesses that operate in Washington state.

Cleveland pointed out that many women, including and especially women of color, earn even less than the 76-cent average for women overall, necessitating stronger enforcement at the state level. She further noted that the legislation is supported by a majority of citizens across Washington state.

“Reality has lagged behind the equal pay law for the better part of a century,” Cleveland said. “It’s time to make pay equity a reality so that our children and grandchildren don’t have to fight these same battles.”

Twenty-three other states already offer protections for employees who are paid less on the basis of gender. This bill would make Washington the second state in the nation, after Maryland, to provide protections for employees who are offered lesser opportunities in a workplace based on gender.

“When people doing the same work are compensated unequally, it’s not just the employee who is short-changed; it’s everyone in that employee’s household,” Cleveland said. “And this discrepancy reverberates throughout the larger community, as smaller paychecks lead to a smaller tax base and less economic vitality.”

The legislation includes administrative remedies to help small business owners resolve complaints without being tied up in court. It is a key component of Senate Democrats’ “Putting People First” agenda of passing family-friendly legislation that has been blocked by Senate Republicans in recent years.

Since the bill passed the House but was amended in the Senate, the differences in the two versions must be reconciled before it can be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

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    House passes Cleveland bill to maintain nation’s best home health care

House passes Cleveland bill to maintain nation’s best home health care

March 1st, 2018|

Legislation passed today by the House will preserve the state’s ability to provide a nationally recognized level of in-home health care at a lower cost than in 37 other states.

Having already passed out of the Senate, Senate Bill 6199 now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

“We have the best in-home care delivery system in the nation because we provide long-term care for seniors in their homes,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver and the bill’s sponsor. “But as we have grown as a state, the administrative support for our best-in-the-nation system has not kept up with that growth.”

The state depends on case managers at state-contracted Area Agencies on Aging to authorize care and check on clients in their homes to ensure they are safe and receive the services they need. Over the years, the administrative demands have grown to the point that case managers have had to take on an ever-increasing administrative load of paperwork for individual home care providers. As a result, medical social workers now handle payroll administration and verify continuing education compliance, Cleveland said.

“When the state took on this approach more than a decade ago, there were less than 2,000 individual providers, with no benefits or pay scales,” said Cleveland, the chair of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee. “Today there are more than 35,000 providers trying to cope with a multiplying array of administrative requirements. This will let them focus on keeping our seniors health and safe in their homes.”

The bipartisan legislation will allow the Department of Social and Health Services to contract these growing administrative tasks to a private-sector vendor with the expertise to handle such work. Nineteen other states including Arizona, California and Nevada have already successfully adopted this approach of privatizing this administrative function.

“I was pleased to bring this bill forward at the request of the Area Agencies on Aging and DSHS to addresses a longstanding and increasing need,” Cleveland said. “When case managers are forced to juggle multiple responsibilities every day, every administrative task takes away from their ability to focus on their clients’ well-being.”

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    Cleveland: Transportation budget sends clear message on I-5 bridge

Cleveland: Transportation budget sends clear message on I-5 bridge

February 23rd, 2018|

A proviso in the supplemental transportation budget passed today by the Senate signals to Oregon officials that Washington is committed to working together on a new I-5 bridge, Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said today.

“The proviso makes it clear that as follow-up to the inventory of past bridge work, WSDOT is to support the work of our Legislative Action Committee this year,” Cleveland said. “In addition, our state has taken the same step as Oregon did recently by adding the new I-5 replacement bridge to a project list. I believe these additional actions will be viewed positively by our Oregon partners and positively by our community.”

Cleveland has been working for more than two years with a bipartisan, seven-member coalition of Southwest Washington lawmakers to build consensus and move forward on a new I-5 bridge project. The other lawmakers in the coalition are Sens. Ann Rivers and Lynda Wilson, and Reps. Sharon Wylie, Monica Stonier, Paul Harris and Brandon Vick.

The specific language in the bill directs WSDOT to “support the planning and work of the Joint Oregon-Washington Legislative Action Committee, and engage key agency stakeholders to develop a scope, a schedule and a budget that will reinvigorate the bi-state effort for a future replacement bridge on Interstate 5 across the Columbia River.”

This work is in preparation for the 2019 legislative budget cycle. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the budget Friday.

“This is another in a series of careful, concrete steps to continue moving forward on a new bridge,” Cleveland said. “I wish we could have a new bridge even sooner, as I am sure everyone does, but only by taking the time to build consensus and demonstrate serious commitment will we be able to successfully work with our partners in Oregon to finally replace the antiquated I-5 bridge.”

On a separate front, the transportation budget also would provide $500,000 for a Columbia River Renaissance Trail Connection as part of the Port of Vancouver USA’s new waterfront park.

“This new path would connect the City of Vancouver’s park to the west with the existing Renaissance Trail to the east,” Cleveland said. “The seven-mile-long path will support both bicycling and pedestrian access along the scenic Columbia River.”

Cleveland measure to help curb homelessness passes Senate

February 12th, 2018|

Tenants would gain an extra 10 days’ notice if a landlord terminates a residential rental agreement under bipartisan legislation passed late today by the Senate.

Senate 5408, sponsored by Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, would increase the length of notice of termination from 20 days to 30 days. The change also enables landlords to begin efforts to find a new tenant if a renter gives notice.

“This change will bring some relief to renters in today’s incredibly difficult housing market,” Cleveland said. “With housing as scarce as it’s become, the extra 10 days could mean the difference between facing homelessness and finding suitable housing.”

Cleveland, who sought to pass similar legislation in the 2017 legislative session, originally sought 60 days’ notice as has been adopted by the City of Vancouver for tenants who have rented a property for two years or longer. SB 5408 allows renters who are members of the military to give less than 30 days’ notice if they receive reassignment or deployment orders that do not allow for 30 days’ notice.

“Vancouver’s rental costs have risen faster than any other community in the nation in the past few years,” Cleveland said. “In tough times like these, it’s vital that we put people first and do all we can to ease the prospect of homelessness.”

SB 5408 passed on a 29-18 vote and now goes to the House for consideration there.

Cleveland stands up for unions, calls out critics

February 12th, 2018|

On Saturday, in response to comments demonizing unions, Sen. Annette Cleveland took to the Senate floor to ram home the value of unions and their members, and to call for lawmakers across the aisle to speak more respectfully of hard-working Washingtonians in communities across the state. You can hear her comments by clicking on the icon below:

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    Senate passes Cleveland bill to accelerate I-5 bridge approval process

Senate passes Cleveland bill to accelerate I-5 bridge approval process

February 10th, 2018|

The Senate passed bipartisan legislation today to simplify and speed up the process of approving a plan for a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River once consensus can be reached on the parameters of such a bridge.

Senate Bill 6195, sponsored by Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, would establish a formal process of coordination to expedite the completion of transportation projects of statewide significance. They require the state Department of Transportation to develop a formal application for the designation of such projects and also the criteria they must meet.

The legislation provides an important tool to expedite infrastructure projects while signaling the state’s continued strong commitment in Southwest Washington to work together with Oregon officials to address the transportation challenges.

“While we continue to promote the development of a bridge plan, we are also taking pains to make the process move more quickly once that plan is finalized,” Cleveland said. “This legislation has the support of the full seven-member coalition of Southwest Washington legislators who have been working together to move our state forward on this essential project.”

The other legislators in the coalition are Sens. Ann Rivers and Lynda Wilson, and Reps. Sharon Wylie, Monica Stonier, Paul Harris and Brandon Vick.

“A bridge can be viewed simply as a means of moving vehicles across water, but this project means so much more than that; it’s a bridge to our future economic development and prosperity,” Cleveland said. “Just as the existing bridges were the keys to our past economic growth, a new bridge is a key to future growth. If we want healthy communities, we need meaningful jobs that pay a family wage and businesses to be able to efficiently move freight and goods. For that, we need adequate infrastructure that can support the businesses that provide good jobs.”

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    Senate passes Cleveland bill to maintain stability of health insurance

Senate passes Cleveland bill to maintain stability of health insurance

February 7th, 2018|

Legislation passed today by the Senate will enable the state to explore ways to protect Washingtonians from reductions in minimum essential health care standards by the Trump administration.

Senate Bill 6084, sponsored by Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, directs the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to convene a task force to explore mechanisms for enforcing an individual mandate at the state level. The Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate requirement is being effectively eliminated at the federal level, a move expected to destabilize health insurance markets in states across the country.

“We can’t stand by and let the current administration in the other Washington roll back the gains we’ve made here in our state in expanding health care coverage,” Cleveland said. “The elimination of the individual mandate poses the single biggest threat to the stability of our health insurance market.”

Since Washington state does not levy an tax income, which is how the federal mandate is enforced, an alternative enforcement mechanism must be found at the state level.

“There is nothing so essential in life as good health, and nothing so fragile these days as people’s access to essential health care,” Cleveland said. “We must not allow people outside our state to push our health care standards backwards. By taking this action now, we can make sure our health insurance market remains stable despite the loss of the federal individual mandate and, more importantly, ensure that we put people and their health first.”

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    Bill would allow low-cost veterinary services for low-income pet owners

Bill would allow low-cost veterinary services for low-income pet owners

February 1st, 2018|

Animal shelters would be able to provide a wider range of low-cost services to pet owners on limited incomes, under legislation heard today by the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee.

Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver said the idea for Senate Bill 6196 came from her district and has been championed by Stacey Graham, president of the Humane Society for Southwest Washington in Vancouver.

“Our purpose in life is to match animals and people, and we want them to stay together,” Graham said. “With this bill, we will be able to let more low-income families keep their animals and their animals will be healthier.”

Current law limits the low-cost services provided by veterinarians in shelters to inserting microchips, spaying or neutering, and administering vaccines. Fewer than 10 other states in the country have similar limits. Cleveland’s bill would expand the range of services shelters can perform, limiting them to clients who meet specific income criteria, and enable the center to pursue fundraising for an endowment to open a three-day a week clinic with sliding fees for low-income people.

“We surveyed about a thousand low-income people who came to shelters around the state and what we found was that 60 percent didn’t regularly see a vet and 46 percent would need to borrow money to pay for treatment,” Graham said. “And 65 percent would leave their pets untreated because they couldn’t afford treatment.”

In addition, nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said they surrendered animals to be euthanized because they couldn’t afford veterinary care for aging, sick animals.

“Affordable care can help families better care for their beloved pets, it relieves pain and suffering for animals, and it prevents economic euthanasia, which is when people bring animals in to be euthanized because they cannot afford them,” Cleveland said. “This would not increase competition between veterinary clinics, it would simply provide services to people who cannot afford them and otherwise would go without.”

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    Senate passes Cleveland bill to increase worker safety on public roads

Senate passes Cleveland bill to increase worker safety on public roads

January 24th, 2018|

Traffic laws and offenses governing motorists in the vicinity of emergency vehicles would be extended to apply to adjacent lanes 200 feet before and after work vehicles that display flashing lights, under legislation that passed the Senate unanimously today.

Senate Bill 5841, sponsored by Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, expands the area in which motorists must move into the next lane to accommodate stationary or slow-moving highway construction vehicles; highway maintenance vehicles; solid waste vehicles, and utility service vehicles. It also applies to highway construction and maintenance areas where flaggers and other workers are present.

“Highway maintenance workers, flaggers and others work under conditions that place them at the mercy of passing motorists,” Cleveland said. “The risk to their safety has become even greater in this digital age, as more and more people are texting and engaging in other forms of distracted driving.”

Monetary penalties in Washington state are double for drivers who speed in road construction zones. Total penalties and fines range from $153 to $788 depending on how much the motorist exceeds the speed limit. In addition, a motorist whose driving endangers or is likely to endanger roadway workers is guilty of reckless endangerment, a gross misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or a jail sentence of up to 364 days and a mandatory, 60-day drivers’ license suspension.

SB 5841 extends those penalties by 200 feet before and after road work zones, vehicles, flaggers, and other workers.