BILLS TO WATCH: Prolonging the cycle of debt

  • February 4th, 2014

WHAT: Senate Bill 6491

SPONSORED BY: Sens. Tom, Sheldon, Bailey, Braun, Ericksen, Honeyford, Parlette, Benton, Roach

WHERE IT’S AT: Scheduled for a hearing in Human Services and Corrections (2/4/14, 10 a.m. SHR 1)

WHAT IT DOES: Requires EBT cardholders to purchase new cards that include photo identification.


  • A similar program was proposed in 2012 but went nowhere in part because of a first-year price tag of more than $17 million with subsequent costs of $5 million per year after that.
  • Senate Bill 6491 gets around the costly start-up and administrative expense by shifting the cost onto the more than 670,000 EBT cardholders by requiring them to pay for this new expense.
  • The vast majority of WA EBT cardholders receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Under federal SNAP laws, caregivers must be allowed to purchase groceries on the behalf of immobile seniors and the disabled in their care.
  • This bill puts grocers in the position of either violating federal law by denying purchases completed by caregivers OR simply allowing anyone to use the card, thereby defeating the purpose of the bill.
  • Under the bill, seniors will have to travel to a state licensing center to get their photos taken for the card. If they cannot manage to do so, even if they are immobile or severely disabled, they will lose all benefits.


  • New York recently abandoned its photo ID program for cash assistance, citing high administrative costs and a lack of effectiveness at deterring fraud.


“We must be sure that state programs are run efficiently, but this is not the answer.  This idea, forcing recipients to buy additional photo identification, adds a financial burden to all participants, and, for the immobile and disabled, it is a logistical nightmare.

“This went nowhere in New York, and should go nowhere here.  These programs exist as a way for people to climb out of debt and into the middle class. Extra financial burdens only prolong that process.”

BILLS TO WATCH: Safe oil transportation is key to safe communities

  • February 3rd, 2014

WHAT: Senate Bill 6524

SPONSORED BY: Senators Ericksen, Sheldon, Benton, Baumgartner, Holmquist Newbry, Braun, Parlette, Dammeier


  • Doesn’t include the provision that would give basic information, such as quantity and type of oil, being moved through impacted communities.
  • Removes provision for marine spill prevention and replaces them with a study.


  • Takes funding from other environmental projects and appropriates it to first responders in impacted communities.
  • The Bakken crude oil being transported through Washington is much more dangerous and combustible than the oils being transported when many of our state’s safety laws were written in the 1970s.
  • Knowing the types of oil being transported through their communities allows first responders to prepare for a disaster, if and when it occurs.
  • More oil was spilled from trains in North America in 2013 than the previous 37 years combined.


“The public has the right to know what the rail and oil industry isn’t telling us. No amount of money can replace good information, and first responders need to be able to plan for emergencies based on information, not best guesses.

“Both parties in the state Legislature are working on this public safety issue, and of course we have different approaches. But the recent, dramatic increase in oil transportation is a serious and imminent concern for communities all over Washington, and it is vital that the Legislature work together, have the best interests of those communities in mind, and get this right.”

BILLS TO WATCH: Eliminating the Office of the Insurance Commissioner

  • January 29th, 2014

WHAT: Senate Bill 6458

SPONSORED BY: Senators Becker, Angel, Dammeier, Brown, Tom, Schoesler, Bailey, Braun, Hill, Baumgartner, Litzow, Parlette, and Honeyford


  • Eliminate the state’s elected insurance commissioner and replace that official with a board of appointees, two from each of the four legislative caucuses plus two non-voting gubernatorial appointees.


  • Washington has had an elected insurance commissioner since 1907. Commissioner Mike Kreidler was re-elected to his fourth term in office in 2012 with 58.3% of the vote.
  • The commissioner oversees Washington’s entire insurance industry (home, auto, health, life, disability, title, annuities, business, credit, crop, warranties & service contracts, unusual risk situations, pets, travel, boat/marine, and Medicare) and advocates for consumers, directly helping more than 100,000 consumers each year.
  • The commissioner regulates insurance plans sold in Washington state and approves plans for sale on the Health Benefit Exchange.
  • According to the Association of Insurance Commissioners, every state has an individual responsible for insurance regulation – 11 states have elected commissioners and 39 have a single gubernatorial appointee.


“Washington has been a national leader in implementing the Affordable Care Act, in no small part due to the terrific work of Commissioner Kreidler. He has made sure that insurance plans protect consumers and that people get the coverage they pay for. His work with the Legislature has expanded health insurance to hundreds of thousands of previously uninsured Washingtonians, keeping people healthier and protecting them from medical bankruptcy.

“Commissioner Kreidler’s efforts to boost outreach and ensure transparency throughout the process for delivery health care have consistently safeguarded the health care needs of residents across our state. It makes no sense to politicize a public office that is serving the needs of Washingtonians so effectively.”

BILLS TO WATCH: Applying criminal penalties for job seekers

  • January 24th, 2014

WHAT: Senate Bill 6392

SPONSORED BY: Sen. Michael Baumgartner


  • Requires adults ages 18-65 who receive unemployment benefits to perform at least eight hours of community service for every four weeks of benefits they receive.


  • In order to receive benefits, the 101,261 Washingtonians who received benefits as of Nov. 2013 must already make contact with at least three potential employers per week.
  • According to the state’s Employment Security Department, 5-6,000 job seekers per month receive a Job Search Review to ensure they are actively looking for work.
  • If it is shown job seekers are not meeting their job search requirements during a review, they could lose benefits.
  • There will be substantial administrative costs associated with the development of this new program.


“Our friends and neighbors seeking jobs are already struggling to pay the bills and feed their kids in addition to looking for work. Community service is an honorable pursuit, but forcing someone into it simply to maintain their family’s lifeline is downright cold.

“This also suggests that our friends and neighbors seeking work aren’t already working in their communities. That is an absolutely offensive notion.”

BILLS TO WATCH: Changing the face of the public’s election watch dog

  • January 21st, 2014

WHAT: Senate Bill 6323

SPONSORED BY: Sens. Sharon Brown, Bruce Dammeier, Jim Honeyford, John Braun, Rodney Tom, Mike Padden, Jan Angel, Barbara Bailey, Randi Becker, Andy Hill and Pam Roach.


  • Eliminates the terms of all current members of the Public Disclosure Commission.
  • Turns control of the PDC over to one appointee from each of the four legislative caucuses.
  • The four appointed members would then be asked to vote – by an affirmative vote of no less than three – for a fifth member who would serve as chair.


  • It’s a nonpartisan organization which oversees our state’s election laws.
  • PDC members are currently appointed by the Governor and confirmed with a vote in the Senate.
  • A vote of the people created the PDC in 1972 through Initiative 276 which passed with 72 percent.


“I worry that if this bill were to become law, an absolutely integral partner in our system of checks and balances would fall victim to political gridlock. The PDC was established as a watchdog for voters and our political system in general. At a time when money is flowing into political campaigns at a rate greater than we’ve ever seen, we need the PDC more than ever.”

Even without a shutdown, state parks already feeling the pain

  • June 21st, 2013

Sen. Nick Harper

If the Griswolds knew Walley World was going to be closed when they arrived, they never would have left Chicago.

That’s the reality facing Washington’s 117 state-run parks which along with 34 other state agenciesare facing a potential shutdown if an operating budget isn’t agreed upon by July 1.

The difference with parks, however, is that even if a state shutdown is averted, the damage is already being done.

If no budget deal is reached, State Parks officials plan to send out more than 6,800 emails next week , informing reservation camping customers of the possibility that parks will not be open for business when they arrive.

And that number is just for the first week of July. A closure would represent the potential for $1.7 million in lost revenue. That doesn’t include the impact to local businesses that depend on people visiting parks to frequent their establishments, especially this time of year.

Our parks generate 50 percent of their revenue for the entire year during the months of July and August. In 2011, Minnesota’s parks were shut down and the losses were estimated to cost the state approximately $12 million per week.

If your family was planning to visit the Pacific Northwest and trying to decide which state to stay and spend your money, would you travel to the state that could potentially be closed when you arrive?

Meanwhile, as families throughout Washington brace for the worst, Senate Republicans on Friday spent yet another day doing nothing. On Thursday, rather than tackling the budget or at least passing some of the bills necessary to implement the budget once a deal is in place, Senate Republicans instead passed five policy bills that have absolutely nothing to do with the budget or avoiding a shutdown.

There needs to be a sense of urgency. July 1 is the deadline, but the residual effects are already being felt.

I hope, as does every family in Washington, that we can avoid a shutdown. But even if a shutdown is avoided, the damage is already being done. People must have confidence that if they are going to pack up their family and drive hundreds of miles from home that their destination will be open for business when they arrive.