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    New law improves options for people with developmental disabilities

New law improves options for people with developmental disabilities

April 2nd, 2020|

A new law signed today by Gov. Inslee will create groundbreaking new options for people with developmental disabilities, including community care close to home, nursing home care, and state centers of excellence.

“This is a major turning point in the long debate about our state’s RHCs, rehabilitation centers for people with developmental disabilities,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), the sponsor of Senate Bill 6419. “For the first time in 40 years, these vital services will be dramatically more appropriate and comprehensive.”

The new law directs the state Developmental Disability Administration to implement recommendations of the William D. Ruckelshaus stakeholder report for transitions for residential habilitation center clients and establishes a joint executive-legislative task force to oversee implementation of the recommendations.

“This is a result of 18 months of meetings with stakeholders to resolve three decades of conflict,” Keiser said. “This preserves vital federal funding that was in jeopardy and improves services for everyone with developmental disabilities in communities across our state.”

Keiser said the process was bipartisan with both Rep. June Robinson (D-Everett) and Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) as key players in negotiations that led to a historic level of consensus between diverse interests and advocates.

The joint legislative and executive task force must meet with and provide updates to the stakeholders, including the Developmental Disabilities Council, the Arc of Washington, Disability Rights Washington, family members or guardians of current residential habilitation center residents, individuals with developmental disabilities, developmental disability self-advocacy organizations, the Washington Federation of State Employees, and Service Employees International Union 1199.

“People with development disabilities and their families deserve not just services but a choice,” Keiser said. “We will be transitioning services from large centralized institutions to communities these folks can call home.”

Keiser bills take on high prescription drug prices

December 26th, 2019|

OLYMPIA — Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) has filed a suite of bills to rein in sharply rising prescription drug prices.

“This is a crisis,” said Keiser. “My colleagues and I hear every day from constituents who can’t afford their medication anymore, people who have to choose between prescriptions and rent.

“We have a responsibility to curb excessive costs of critical prescription drugs that are vital for people’s health. I’m working together with stakeholders to take several steps to make crucial, life-sustaining medications more affordable.”

Keiser has pre-filed five bills to tackle the problem from multiple angles. The bills will be considered during the 2020 session, which begins on Jan. 13.

  • SB 6087 would cap the out-of-pocket cost to patients for insulin at $100 per month.
  • SB 6088 would establish a prescription drug affordability board that would review prices to see if maximum price caps are needed.
  • SB 6110 would provide a mechanism for the state to import prescription drugs from Canada under a federal waiver.
  • SB 6111 would allow the state to contract with Canadian pharmacies that state employees could use for their needed high-cost medications.
  • SB 6113 would create a centralized purchasing process for insulin, based on the approached used by the state to purchase childhood vaccines.

Keiser is also continuing work to update a bill passed last year, HB 1224, that was supposed to provide drug price transparency, but has yet to be fully implemented.

“I expect lots of pushback from lobbyists and the companies that are profiting from high prescription drug prices,” said Keiser. “But this is too important to wait.”

Keiser applauds expanded overtime protections

December 11th, 2019|

OLYMPIA — Upon the announcement by the state Department of Labor & Industries of a new rule expanding overtime protections for salaried workers in Washington state, Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee, released the following statement:

“Why have wages remained flat ever since the Great Recession? Here’s one reason: Millions of salaried workers have gone unpaid for the overtime they have worked.

“Despite federal inaction, Washington state is taking the lead. I strongly support the Department of Labor & Industries’ new rule expanding overtime protections to cover a quarter million more Washingtonians.

“This rule is the result of extensive data collection and public feedback. L&I has clear statutory authority for this rulemaking, and their process has been thorough and transparent.

“In response to feedback from the business community, the new rule provides a lengthy seven-year, phase-in period for all businesses and allows small businesses to start the phase-in at a lower threshold.

“Time is precious. Recognizing the value of workers’ time is good for them and their families. It’s also good for employers and our communities.

“We are all better off when businesses have lower turnover and workers have more money to spend close to home.”

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    L&I announces: Workers’ comp insurance prices dropping in Washington for the third year in a row

L&I announces: Workers’ comp insurance prices dropping in Washington for the third year in a row

November 26th, 2019|

Upon the announcement that the price of workers’s compensation insurance had dropped for the third year in a row, Sen. Keiser released the following statement: “This good news is another reminder that our state’s industrial insurance is a model of how to run an effective public program. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries​ is maintaining its long-time track record of operating at a very high level of efficiency and taking well-founded actions in the interests of working Washington.”

More information from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries:

Workers’ comp insurance prices dropping in Washington for the third year in a row

Nov. 25, 2019

TUMWATER — For the third year in a row, the price of workers’ compensation insurance is dropping in Washington.

Today, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced a 0.8% decrease in the average amount employers will pay for the coverage in 2020. L&I cut rates by 5% in 2019 and 2.5% in 2018.

“Our workers’ compensation system is in good shape. Every year we help tens of thousands of people recover from on-the-job injuries and go back to work,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “Our programs to help injured workers are making a real difference, and workplace injury rates in Washington are declining. That’s great for workers and their families and is helping us keep costs down.”

Under the lower 2020 rate, employers will pay an average of about $15 less per employee for a year of workers’ compensation coverage. As a result of the reduction, as a group, employers will pay $21 million less in premiums next year.

Workers will see a very small increase in what they pay for workers’ comp insurance because the average wage for workers in Washington has gone up. The new rates take effect the first of the year.

L&I made the final decision on rates after taking public input, including hosting three public hearings around the state.

Improving workers’ comp and helping workers heal and return to work

L&I workers’ compensation insurance covers about 3 million workers and nearly 180,000 employers in Washington. The department accepts more than 95,000 injured worker claims each year.

In the past six years, the projected long-term costs for the workers’ compensation system have fallen more than $2.9 billion thanks to a variety of department efforts. L&I programs to help injured workers heal and return to work, educate employers on how to keep their rates low, and provide vocational support earlier in injury claims are all helping workers while reducing costs.

Determining workers’ compensation premium rates

L&I determines the proposed rate for the following year by looking closely at expected workers’ compensation payouts, the size of the contingency reserve, wage inflation and other financial indicators.

Rate decreases in the last two years, along with some small increases in premiums since 2014, have kept rates steady and predictable, making it easier for employers to budget for workers’ compensation costs while keeping the system healthy and stable.

The 0.8% rate decrease is an average. An individual employer’s actual rate change may be more or less depending on that employer’s industry and claims history.

More information about 2020 workers’ compensation rates is available at www.Lni.wa.gov/rates.

33rd LD Delegation to host Nov. 12 coffee hour

November 12th, 2019|

Who: Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines), and Rep. Mia Gregerson (D-SeaTac)

What: Coffee hour in the 33rd Legislative District

When: Tuesday, November 12, 5:00-6:30 pm

Where: Boulevard Park Library in Burien, 12015 Roseberg Ave S, Seattle, WA 98168

For more information: See Facebook or call Sen. Keiser’s office at (360) 786-7664, Rep. Orwall’s office at 253-395-0869, or Rep. Gregerson’s office at (253) 395-0865.

Join Sen. Karen Keiser, Rep. Tina Orwall, and Rep. Mia Gregerson for a coffee hour in Burien on Tuesday, November 12. They will discuss 2019 accomplishments, 2020 legislative session priorities, and questions from constituents.

33rd LD Delegation to host coffee hours

August 20th, 2019|

Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines), and Rep. Mia Gregerson (D-SeaTac), will host coffee hours around the 33rd Legislative District. The coffee hours will be held at:

“The meetings are a chance for neighbors to come to us with questions, concerns, or ideas for improving our communities,” Keiser said.

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    Nation’s strongest paid family and medical leave program in place on time

Nation’s strongest paid family and medical leave program in place on time

August 1st, 2019|

Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) released the following statement as Washington state readies to fully implement paid family and medical leave:

“This coming January, Washington state will begin paying benefits through the strongest paid family and medical leave program in the country.

“The program offers 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave per year. That means new mothers and fathers will now be able to stay with their infants in those first precious days. It means grandparents will be able to lean on their adult children in times of sickness. It strengthens families and makes our communities more resilient.

“When the Legislature approved the groundbreaking program in 2017, we incurred a responsibility to see it implemented without hitch, on time, and on budget.

“Two years later, that implementation has been a rousing success.

“When the bill was passed, the Legislature lent the Employment Security Department $82 million to set up the program before premiums could cover its operating costs. That loan was repaid in full, with interest, on June 28—three days ahead of schedule.

“ESD exceeded all expectations for a program implementation of this size. Their team built an agile technology system, worked with their advisory committee to develop implementation rules, and coordinated outreach and education to more than 240,000 employers across the state.

“They have done a terrific job. We can now rest assured that benefits will be available on schedule this January. For those who have friends thinking of having children, you can tell them with confidence — it’s ok to get pregnant now.”

If salaried employees work overtime, compensate them fairly

June 10th, 2019|

By Karen Keiser and Mike Sells

Special to The Times

Questions about why wages remained flat during the 10-year economic recovery since the Great Recession have been asked over and over without clear answers. Well, here’s one reason: Millions of salaried workers are not getting overtime pay.

One of the greatest victories of the labor movement was the right to a 40-hour workweek, enshrined in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. That right recognizes that all workers need time for rest and recovery — but, if they’re going to be required to work overtime, they should be fairly compensated.

Today, it’s too easy to make employees exempt from overtime wages simply by calling them “managers” and paying them a few dollars more than the federal overtime threshold of $23,660 a year to comply with current law. That threshold was set in 2004 and hasn’t been raised since.

Although a few one-time adjustments have been made, the exemption thresholds were not tied to inflation, and protections for salaried workers have eroded over time. In the 1970s, 63 percent of salaried workers were covered by overtime laws. Today, that number is less than 7 percent.

With efforts to make progress stalled at the federal level, Washington state is now taking the lead. A new rule proposed by the state Department of Labor & Industries would increase the salary threshold and expand overtime protections to cover a quarter million more Washingtonians. After another three-month period of feedback, L&I will prepare a final rule.

Washington’s salaried workers urgently need this proposed rule because the status quo is woefully inadequate.

During comment on this rule, Washingtonians came forward with stories of how the lack of overtime protections affects them — stories of workers being required to work 80-90 hours per week during the holiday season without additional pay; of postdoctoral researchers who qualify for low-income housing even while working late nights and weekends in their labs; of construction “managers” working 60 hours a week without overtime pay, while doing tasks previously performed by hourly employees who qualified for overtime.

Our current Washington state rule is even weaker than the federal standard and would only protect workers who earn less than $13,000 per year.

In addition, our state’s job-duty descriptions mean thousands of employees are exempt from overtime protections by being misclassified as management even though they have no actual management authority.

These rules no longer serve the purpose for which they were made. More and more workers are working more and more hours, but not getting paid for it. It’s one of the hidden reasons why wage rates have been so stubbornly low despite our economic recovery.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed extending overtime protections to workers earning up to $47,000 and adjusting for inflation. This would have guaranteed protection to 4.2 million more workers across the country. But President Donald Trump killed that rule. A new federal proposal for a lower threshold of $35,000 has yet to be adopted.

Given the uncertainty and lack of adequate progress at the federal level, it is important we set clear, fair standards for Washingtonians at the state level.

The proposed state rule is the result of extensive data collection and public feedback. The state Department of Labor & Industries has clear statutory authority for this rule-making, and has conducted a thorough and transparent 18-month process.

In response to feedback from the business community, the new rule provides a lengthy seven-year phase-in period for all businesses and allows small businesses to start the phase-in at a lower threshold. Starting next summer, companies with 50 or fewer employees would have to pay an exempt employee at least $35,000 per year. Larger employers would have to pay about $49,000 per year. Those thresholds would increase yearly based on a formula tied to the state’s minimum wage, rising to 2.5 times minimum wage by 2026.

We know businesses are better off when their workers are compensated fairly, which reduces turnover. And local economies are stronger when more money goes into the pockets of workers who will spend it close to home.

Time is precious. Recognizing the value of workers’ time is good for workers and their families. It’s also good for employers and our communities.

Karen Keiser chairs the Washington State Senate Labor & Commerce Committee. A Democrat, she represents the 33rd Legislative District including parts of Burien, Normandy Park, SeaTac, Kent and Des Moines.

Mike Sells chairs the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee. A Democrat, he represents the 38th Legislative District, which includes parts of Everett and Marysville.

VIDEO: Recommendation for major new airport coming by 2022

May 20th, 2019|

From KIRO7:

In Keiser’s district around Sea-Tac, people feel the impact of plane noise and pollution.

“We are really at near capacity at Sea-Tac Airport and it’s the smallest international airport in the country with no room to grow so we have got to figure out some options here,” Keiser said.

The governor will appoint commissioners, who are required to come up with a list of six possible airport locations by Jan. 1, 2021.

It must be narrowed to two options by Sept. 1, 2021, with a single preferred location decided by Jan. 1, 2022.

“We have to do environmental studies, we have to work with our communities, a lot of pieces are in play, but if you don’t make that first determination of potential sites you can’t even get started,” Keiser said.

Watch the video here: https://www.kiro7.com/news/local/recommendation-for-major-new-airport-coming-by-2022/949913410

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    Keiser legislation to protect ‘isolated’ employees from sexual harassment signed into law

Keiser legislation to protect ‘isolated’ employees from sexual harassment signed into law

May 14th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Legislation to better protect employees who work in isolated environments against sexual harassment was signed into law this week.

“I have been working on addressing sexual harassment for quite some time. Protecting low-wage, isolated workers is the next step in achieving a harassment-free workplace for us all,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, sponsor of Senate Bill 5258.

“Housekeepers, janitors, security guards, and other individuals working alone on the night-shift are extremely vulnerable to sexual harassment and exploitation,” Keiser said. “This bill was voted off the floor of the Senate and House in a bipartisan manner. The legislation now makes Washington one of the first states in the nation with expanded protections for isolated employees.”

The final version of SB 5258 will require certain employers that employ isolated workers to adopt a sexual harassment policy, provide mandatory sexual harassment training, provide a list of resources to employees, and provide a panic button to each isolated worker.