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  • Permalink Gallery

    #MeToo comes to Olympia as Senate hears sexual harassment bills

#MeToo comes to Olympia as Senate hears sexual harassment bills

January 21st, 2018|

The Senate Labor & Commerce Committee will hear three pieces of legislation sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.

When: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Senate Hearing Room 4.

Where you can watch it live: /www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2018011337

Brief Summary:
·  Senate Bill 5996 prohibits an employer from requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevents the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault.
· Senate Bill 6313 addresses mandatory employment contracts and agreements that limit an employee’s right to file a complaint or cause of action for sexual harassment or sexual assault.
· Senate Bill 6471 relates to developing model policies to create workplaces that are safe from sexual harassment.

Quote:
· Sen. Karen Keiser:
· “For a long time, women felt sexual harassment was something we had to deal with just to have careers. I want to make clear that sexual harassment will no longer be accepted, time is up, and we must make a change.

“There’s a burden of humiliation and fear of reprisal that intimidates victims from coming forward. These bills will provide a path forward for victims to report without fear of losing their jobs or suffering other forms of retaliation. We must no longer limit the economic and career potential of half of our population. We must demand that our workplace culture shifts to reflect our values of fairness and respect.” 

Foreign journalists see Legislature firsthand

November 8th, 2013|

On Thursday, I had the uncommon privilege of hosting a visit from 19 journalists from countries in Africa and the Middle East who spent the bulk of the day learning about our state government and Legislature.

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The journalists, participating in an Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists hosted locally by the World Affairs Council in Seattle, began the day with a tour of TVW. The visit then segued to the John A. Cherberg Building, where they participated in a lively Q&A session I hosted with members of our own Capitol Press Corps, then to the Capitol Dome Deli where Sen. Karen Fraser joined me for 90 more minutes of Q&A with the journalists over lunch. From there, the group enjoyed a tour of our Capitol building and then met with the governor’s communications staff.

I was particularly struck by the insights revealed by the journalists’ various questions. They not only showed a keen interest in the details of how our public process works — from the Legislature to the initiative process — but demonstrated an impressive knowledge of national issues that have impacted our state and even key legislation at the state level such as marriage equality and legalization of marijuana. They were keenly up on local current events, including our sudden call to a special legislative session and the Boeing proposals that surround it. I was left with the impression they could have fill in for our savvy Washington Press Corps and barely miss a beat.

Keiser

  • Permalink Gallery

    Sen. Keiser: ‘Move beyond score settling and pass immigration reform’

Sen. Keiser: ‘Move beyond score settling and pass immigration reform’

October 24th, 2013|

OLYMPIA – Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, today joined with President Obama to call for Congressional action on immigration reform. Keiser was among the longtime reform supporters invited to the White House by the president to urge Congress to pass bipartisan reforms to the United States immigration system:

“Today I was proud to stand with President Obama and join in his call for a fix to our broken immigration system. The time to act is now. Persistence, activism and passion have brought us to the brink of passing reforms that will help our economy and benefit millions of people. It is time to take the next step, move past partisan barriers and pass an immigration reform bill.

“The President described immigration reform as more than just an idea whose time had come, but an idea whose time had been around for years and an idea that both Democrats and Republicans support. I could not agree more. At a time when partisan bickering has shutdown our government and threatened our economy with the first government default in 200 years, immigration reform is something that both parties can come together on.

“Both parties agree that fixing immigration will benefit our country and our state. It is good for security, the economy and the people of the United States. In inviting the brightest minds in the world to study in the United States and to open businesses here, we grow our economy and ensure that the United States continues to be a home for innovation and a place where ideas become successful realities. In passing legislation to eliminate the shadow economy, we seek competitive wages and benefits for workers, to grow our middle class and make the American Dream a reality for millions.

“There will always be political disagreements, but to put up a roadblock on issues we do agree on is irresponsible and it is not what we were elected to do. Our citizens elected us to lead, not to ignore common sense reforms in the hope of scoring political points. In passing immigration reform, we have the opportunity to send a message to the people of the United States that we are capable of moving past political score settling and supporting reforms that have overwhelming public support.

“The President was right to describe supporters of these reforms as not easily deterred and unwilling to give up. We have come too far and are too close to success to stop now. Now is the time to act and I join the call to members of Congress to come together and pass a bill that moves immigration reform beyond an idea whose time has come and instead write a law whose benefits are clear.”

  • Permalink Gallery

    AUDIO: Keiser discusses the healthcare exchange on KIRO Radio

AUDIO: Keiser discusses the healthcare exchange on KIRO Radio

October 1st, 2013|

Sen. Karen Keiser joined Dave Ross and Linda Thomas on KIRO Radio to discuss the opening of the new healthcare exchange.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

Health coverage for $100 or less coming soon to Washington

September 18th, 2013|

Fifty-six percent of Washingtonians currently without health insurance may be able to arrange coverage through wahealthplanfinder for less than $100 a month, Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said today.

Keiser cited a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the options available to Washingtonians as of Oct. 1, when individual and families may begin shopping for coverage through the new health insurance marketplace accessible here in Washington at www.wahealthplanfinder.org. The coverage would begin in January, giving those without coverage three months to decide which plan fits their needs best.

“Thanks to Obamacare and the changes we’re implementing in our state, more affordable health care is only a few months away,” Keiser said following a conference call with President Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Quality, affordable coverage is about to become a reality for hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians.”

Those currently without coverage will be able to compare their options using side-by-side information about price, quality and benefits, Keiser said, and find out if they qualify for premium tax credits or Medicaid that lower the costs of coverage immediately.

Of the 41.3 million individuals across the country who are uninsured and eligible for coverage, 23.2 million (56 percent) may qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or tax credits to purchase coverage for $100 or less per month.  The amount an individual will save on premiums depends on their family income and size.  The HHS report uses data about family income and size from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to estimate the number of uninsured individuals who will qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums.

The report also shows that if all 50 states took advantage of new options to expand Medicaid coverage, nearly 8 out of every 10 people (78 percent) who currently do not have insurance could be paying less than $100 a month for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, known more informally as Obamacare.  While some states are expanding their Medicaid programs in 2014, other states are not doing so.  Under the health care law, states can receive 100 percent federal funding in 2014 to expand their Medicaid programs to cover people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.  That’s about $15,800 a year for an individual, or about $32,500 for a family of four.

The full report is available at http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2013/Uninsured/ib_uninsured.pdf. To find out more about who qualifies for lower costs on monthly healthy insurance premiums, go to https://www.healthcare.gov/will-i-qualify-to-save-on-monthly-premiums/. To compare plans available here in Washington, go to http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org/.

Use ‘healthplanfinder’ for affordable health care

August 22nd, 2013|

Dear Neighbors,

In the coming days, you’ll start to hear a lot about the new state “health care exchange” that will enable Washingtonians without health care insurance to purchase affordable plans. Here in Washington, the exchange is called “healthplanfinder” and you can find it at www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

The healthplanfinder will make it easy for any Washington citizen who needs health insurance, and is not covered by an employer’s health plan or other insurance, to shop for affordable coverage. Employees who currently pay for expensive health plans through their employers may also use the healthplanfinder to find a more affordable plan. All plans available through the healthplanfinder have been approved by the state insurance commissioner to ensure that they provide high quality and good value and meet all legal requirements. In addition, many people will qualify for subsidies to help offset the cost.

Enrollment through the healthplanfinder opens on Oct. 1, but you don’t have to wait until then to learn more about your options. You can sign up for alerts and updates at www.wahealthplanfinder.org and I will issue regular updates through my Twitter account, @KarenKeiser1, and through the Senate Democratic Caucus’ Twitter account, @WASenDemocrats, which you can sign up for by clicking the Twitter button on my homepage.

In the meantime, here are some answers to commonly asked questions.

Q: Who can purchase health care through the healthplanfinder?

A: Citizens and immigrants legally present in Washington who need health insurance, and are not covered by an employer’s health plan or other health insurance, can shop for affordable health coverage through the healthplanfinder. The healthplanfinder enables people to shop for health coverage and costs in an apples-to-apples comparison. Most folks will likely qualify for premium tax credits to help pay for the insurance premiums.

Q: When can you enroll in plans under Washington’s healthplanfinder?

A: Open enrollment for plans will begin on Oct. 1 of this year. You can visit the website now to start planning your costs. Go to www.wahealthplanfinder.org for a start.

Q: When will coverage begin?

A: Coverage will begin on Jan. 1, 2014.

Q: Who will benefit from shopping through the healthplanfinder?

A: The healthplanfinder is designed for people who buy their own insurance or are currently without insurance. This includes people who work part-time and don’t qualify for benefits through their employers, or who don’t have health coverage offered from an employer, those who are self-employed, and those who have retired early and don’t yet qualify for Medicare. Individuals and families will be able to choose and compare a number of comprehensive insurance plans.

Q: I get my health insurance through the military Tricare system. What’s going to change for me because of the healthcare law?

A: Nothing. The healthcare law sets requirements for minimum coverage that satisfy the requirements for having insurance. Existing programs like Tricare, Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits, COBRA benefits or your current employer-provided health plan all satisfy the requirements for coverage.

Q: Who qualifies for help to buy insurance?

A: People with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (a family of four with an income of $94,200, for instance) will qualify for help. The tax credits are based on a sliding scale, so those who make lower incomes receive a higher credit. The credit applies immediately when you purchase insurance – you don’t have to wait until you file your taxes. The credit is designed to make health insurance affordable for most people.

Q: I don’t think I am going to qualify for help with my premium, but I also can’t afford to buy insurance. What penalty will I face if I choose not to buy coverage?

A: The law does not require you to purchase health insurance if the premium would exceed 8 percent of your income. But you should explore your options. As of Jan. 1, 2014, Medicaid coverage will expand to citizens who earn up to about $34,000 for a family of four, or about $15,000 for an individual. It will cover most people earning minimum or near-minimum wages. Medicaid has no premiums or co-payments and provides comprehensive care.

Q: I own a small business, with just a few employees; what will I have to do?

A: Nothing. If you don’t provide health insurance now, and you have fewer than 50 full-time employees, nothing needs to change. But your employees will become eligible to purchase individual health care at the Washington healthplanfinder (www.wahealthplanfinder.org), and they will probably receive premium assistance to help cover the cost of the premium.

Q: My premium right now through my employer is very expensive, and I am hoping that I can find a better deal through the healthplanfinder. Will I be able to purchase coverage through the healthplanfinder?

A: If your current premium costs more than 9.5 percent of your household income, you will be able to purchase insurance at www.wahealthplanfinder.org and you will likely qualify for a premium tax credit. If your employer plan is very skimpy and only pays about 60 percent of the cost, you may also qualify for help through the www.wahealthplanfinder.org. Check it out when enrollment opens this October.

Q: I heard that benefits will be cut for Medicare under ObamaCare; is that true?

A: No, that is false. Unfortunately, some opponents of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called ObamaCare, have gone out of their way to distort the facts and try to frighten people about changes in health care coverage and costs. All indications are that costs will be lower, and benefits will be broader. For example, co-pays for more than 60 preventative screenings, tests and immunizations are eliminated under ObamaCare. All the plans must cover 10 essential benefits, including prescription drug coverage. Most “cut rate” plans have few benefits fully covered. ObamaCare plans are comprehensive, and you choose the premiums and co-pays that fit your budget.

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Keiser stands up for Medicaid expansion

June 28th, 2013|

Sen. Karen Keiser took the Senate floor today to speak against efforts by the Republican majority  to prohibit expansion of Medicaid to 300,000 Washingtonians without health care.

Rhetoric vs. Reality: How Big is the Budget?

June 17th, 2013|

Ever since the revenue shortfalls of the Great Recession began placing increased pressure on our state budgets, arguments have raged over whether the state is spending more or less on public services. Democrats cite year after year of cuts in services, while Republicans point to dollar figures that suggest the state spent more in taxes than in the year before. Who’s right?

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Depending on how you define dollars, both sides are. A recent analysis by the non-profit Economic Opportunity Institute, on whose board I serve, explains how this can be so.

In seven of the past 11 years, the state has spent more money than in the previous year — if you don’t account for inflation. For instance, as you can see in this chart compiled by the institute, the state budget was about $12 billion in 2002 compared to nearly $16 billion this year — an increase on paper of about $4 billion. But a dollar today doesn’t buy what it bought in 2002 any more than a student can attend college today for what it cost 11 years ago.

In real dollars the story is quite different: Factoring in inflation, the same chart shows that this year’s $16 billion budget is more than $2 billion smaller than the cost of government 11 years ago. In other words, in the real world as opposed to the on paper world, state spending has shrunk over the past decade.

Meanwhile the cost of prisons and other essential public safety services have continued to rise, so other state services have been reduced radically to make up the difference. For instance, state funding for the University of Washington has been cut in half since 2008 and funding for state parks has been slashed by more than 80 percent since 2009.

Another overlooked factor is our increase in population. We have more people to serve every year in our public schools, health clinics, colleges and corrections system. Every child who arrives at the school house door creates additional state spending of more than $6,000 a year.

The reduction in public services is compounded by the trends in private sector wages and benefits and other factors. For instance, this chart shows how the number of Washingtonians living in poverty or near poverty has steadily risen over the past four years. And this chart shows how private-sector firms in Washington state have been steadily providing fewer benefits–less health insurance, less paid vacation, less sick leave and less retirement security over the last decade. At the same time, this chart shows how the average cost of tuition and fees at Washington’s public colleges and universities has risen from $2,500 in 1965 to $12,500 today.

So the next time you hear someone debating whether the state spends more or less than it did in past years, there are two possible answers. On paper, it looks like more. But the real-dollar answer is less. That’s why Washingtonians in every community in our state are feeling the pinch.

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State Senator, 33th Legislative District

Keiser’s involuntary commitment bill signed into law

May 21st, 2013|

Information from family and friends soon will be considered when a licensed mental health professional and the court determine whether someone should be involuntarily committed for mental health treatment, thanks to legislation signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

"People who may need to be committed and receive treatment don’t always present symptoms when being examined and assessed; someone might exhibit none of the signs that immediate commitment is warranted,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, the sponsor of Senate Bill 5480. “But friends and family who see that person from day to day often see behavior and telltale signs that won’t show up in a single examination.”

Her legislation accelerates the implementation date from July 2015 to July 2014 for legislation enacted in 2010 (House Bill 3076) to expand the scope of information used by the court when determining if someone meets the criteria for involuntary civil commitment for mental health treatment.

Keiser’s bill also calls for additional local mental health services to reduce the need for hospitalization under the Involuntary Treatment Act. The state operating budget passed earlier this session by the Senate provides $14 million for additional mental health services.

The expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare is a key factor in our state’s ability to fund additional mental health services in this year’s budget, Keiser said. SB 5480 is the 13th bill passed this session that reforms our mental health system and capped a landmark year in this critical human services area, she noted.

“This has been a groundbreaking year for our ability to help those who struggle with mental health issues,” Keiser said. “Today’s bill will make sure those who need mental health treatment will receive care and also protect the public from incidents involving individuals who have not received intensive mental health service.”

Keiser’s unused prescriptions bill signed into law

May 17th, 2013|

Health care professionals and medical facilities will soon be able to donate unused, unopened prescription drugs for distribution to people without health insurance, thanks to legislation signed into law today by Gov. Jay Inslee.

"Every day, we dispose of valuable prescription drugs simply because their recipients have died or no longer need the prescriptions, and meanwhile there are people going without medication simply because they cannot afford it,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, the sponsor of Senate Bill 5148. “This will provide vital drugs for people who cannot afford them, provided the drugs have not been opened and are still sealed and still well within their expiration dates.”

Keiser developed the legislation after learning — while serving on the board of a local nursing home — that current law requires that unused prescription drugs must be discarded.

“Thousands of dollars of perfectly usable unopened drugs are thrown away every month now,” she said. “It is a huge waste of valuable medicines that will save thousands of dollars in prescription drug costs.”

Keiser’s legislation allows health care practitioners, pharmacists, medical facilities, drug manufacturers and drug wholesalers to donate prescription drugs and supplies to pharmacies for redistribution, under strict controls. The drugs or supplies must be inspected before dispensing and determined not to have been unsealed or otherwise adulterated or misbranded. The drugs also must bear expiration dates that are more than six months after the date of donation. The drugs may be issued to individuals who are uninsured and at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

“These drugs can improve quality of health and life for people in communities across our state,” Keiser said. “It’s not too strong to say that, in some cases, the donation of these drugs may extend life and prevent deaths. There’s no telling how many people this can help.”

The new law takes effect July 1, 2014.