Monthly Archives: June 2019

2019 Session Review: Advancing civil rights

June 24th, 2019|

Washington state has been fortunate for many years to have courageous champions in the state Legislature who stand up for historically-marginalized communities. Their work on behalf of communities of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community helped our state advance civil rights protections long before other states or the federal government. Here are highlights of the progress we made in 2019.

LGBTQ rights

Members of the Washington State Legislature’s LGBTQ Caucus include, from left, Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle), Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Olympia), Rep. Nicole Macri (D-Seattle), Sen. Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood), Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), Rep. Christine Kilduff (D-University Place).

The nine LGBTQ members in the House and Senate work closely together to address inequities affecting the LGBTQ community. This year we celebrated the passage of several important bills:

  • SB 5332 modernizes the state’s 1950s-era vital records statutes, which govern birth, death, and marriage records. The revised statute will conform to our updated Uniform Parentage Act, recognizing that families come in many configurations. It also confirms in statute the right to have a non-binary gender marker on records.
  • HB 1732 replaces the term “malicious harassment” with the better understood “hate crime” and increases the punitive damages that a victim may seek.
  • SB 5602, the Reproductive Health Access for All Act, guarantees access to reproductive health services regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression for all plans regulated by the state. 
  • SB 5356 creates a Washington State LGBT Commission and designates June of each year as LGBTQ month.
  • SB 5689 requires the state school directors association and the state superintendent of education to develop and update a model transgender student policy to eliminate discrimination based on gender expression in public schools.
  • SB 5027 adds a prior conviction for a hate crime to the list of factors a court must consider in determining whether to issue an extreme risk protection order.

Equality and opportunity

In 1998, voters approved I-200 to ban the use of affirmative action in public education, employment and education. After 20 years of experience with the consequences, nearly 400,000 people signed Initiative 1000 and sent it to the Legislature. In the final hours of the 2019 session, the Legislature passed I-1000 into law, which will:

  • Define “affirmative action” to mean a permissible policy in which the use of race, gender or similar characteristics “are factors considered in the selection (of individuals) for public education, employment and contracting.”
  • Define “preferential treatment” to mean an impermissible policy in which race, gender or similar characteristics are the sole qualifying factor to select a less-qualified candidate.
  • Expand the list of characteristics to include (in addition to sex and race): age, sexual orientation, disability, and military/veteran status.
  • Create a Governor’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, responsible for ensuring compliance with the measure.

Protecting our immigrant neighbors

Our state’s booming economy relies on a talented workforce. That includes thousands of immigrants who call Washington home. In recent years, federal law enforcement authorities have sought to make state and local law enforcement collect and report immigration status information that is unrelated to the commission of a crime. SB 5497 prohibits local authorities from asking about people’s immigration status and directs the state to develop model policies limiting immigration enforcement in public schools, public health facilities, courthouses and shelters.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll continue to share updates on issues the Legislature addressed this year. If you missed my previous updates on our efforts to reduce gun violence or improve health care, you can read those here.

2019 Session Review: Improving public health

June 17th, 2019|

When Senate Democrats met late last year to prepare for the 2019 legislative session, we agreed that access to quality health care should be one of our top priorities. Washington state has dramatically improved access to health care over the last decade. The passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, along with bipartisan legislation at the state level to expand Medicaid in 2013, helped our state achieve a record-low uninsured rate. This session, we built on that strong base.

Protecting the public from communicable diseases

Recent measles outbreaks around the state provide a stark reminder of why widespread immunization is crucial to our collective health and safety. In recent years, some parents have been swayed by online campaigns to sow doubt as to the safety of vaccinations and have declined to vaccinate their children. This year’s passage of HB 1638 eliminates the personal belief exemption from vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). Absent a medical or religious exemption, all students attending public or private schools will be required to be vaccinated for MMR.

Protecting consumers from surprise billing

For years, medical providers and insurance companies have argued about who should pay, and how much, when a patient receives emergency services from a hospital or doctor who is not under contract with the patient’s insurance company. Consumers have been caught in the middle, left with surprise medical bills that are sometimes in the thousands of dollars. HB 1065 will protect consumers by creating mechanisms for the providers and insurers to work these issues out.

Landmark insurance program for workers’ long-term care

Most people will need long-term care at some point. Many will see their life savings and property consumed to pay the costs of nursing homes or other care. No one should have to spend their way into poverty to be eligible for long-term care through Medicaid, which is the grim reality facing too many households today. HB 1087 establishes the Long Term Care Trust Act, a public long-term care program funded by a monthly payroll fee of just over one half of 1 percent – or 58 cents for every hundred dollars in income. Once the program is up and running, eligible recipients will receive up to $100 a day for 365 days to help meet the cost of long-term care. It’s a modest first step that will help millions of Washingtonians prepare for the future.

First state to provide a public option

While we’ve significantly lowered the number of Washingtonians without health insurance, many households still struggle to access affordable health insurance. SB 5526, also known as Cascade Care, is designed to lower premiums and deductibles for families and people purchasing insurance on the individual market – households that do not receive health insurance through an employer or qualify for Medicaid. The new law caps total provider and facility reimbursement rates, which will help keep premium and deductible costs down for patients.

Protecting existing benefits

Unfortunately, protections that consumers have come to rely on since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 have been targeted for elimination. This year, we passed HB 1870, which will ensure that health care policies sold in Washington maintain existing patient protections even if those standards are eliminated at the federal level. Among other things, this means you cannot be denied insurance after surviving cancer or other pre-existing conditions; you cannot be forced into bankruptcy because of a lifetime cap on health costs; and you cannot be forced to pay extra for basic and essential health benefits such as contraception and mammograms.

Cracking down on prescription drug price increases

One of the major frustrations in health care today is the confusion over how the prescription drugs we need are priced. Patients frequently struggle to navigate a maze of confusing and convoluted terminology, pricing, paperwork and decisions. Drug prices seem to spike with little warning or justification. HB 1224 adds clarity and control by requiring drug manufacturers, pharmaceutical benefit managers, and others in the supply chain to disclose past and planned changes in prescription drug prices and explain those changes.

We also passed several other key measures related to health care this year:

  • HB 1155 will improve patient care by ensuring nurses receive reliable meal and rest breaks.
  • SB 5380 directs our key health agencies to make opioid concerns a statewide priority and to expand treatment, awareness and prevention.
  • HB 1074 will increase the age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21 starting in 2020. I hope that this change will interrupt the cycle of addiction and improve public health.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll share updates on other issues the Legislature addressed this year. If you missed my update on our efforts to reduce gun violence, you can read that here.

Best wishes,

Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District
(360) 786-7628

2019 Session Review: Reducing gun violence

June 11th, 2019|

The 2019 legislative session wrapped up several weeks ago after a busy and productive 105 days in Olympia. We finished a “long” session on time for the first time in a decade. With Democrats in control of the Legislature for the second year, we made remarkable progress on many fronts, including groundbreaking legislation addressing climate change and the nation’s first public long-term care benefit. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sending newsletters focused on specific issues the legislature addressed this session. This first newsletter will detail the progress we have made together to reduce gun violence in our state.

We’ve made progress on gun safety legislation in recent years thanks to the passion and dedication of advocates across the state who are committed to making our communities safer.

Reducing gun violence in our community is one of my primary objectives as chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee. After decades of inaction, the tide is turning in favor of common-sense gun safety measures. Washington voters are responsible for much of the progress, passing statewide ballot measures to extend background checks to private sales and allowing family members to seek court orders to keep guns away from those who are at risk of hurting themselves or others.

In 2018, the legislature banned bump stocks, added domestic violence harassment to the list of conditions that prevent people from buying a firearm, and adopted a first-in-nation measure enabling people struggling with mental illness to place themselves on a firearms do-not-purchase list. The voters capped 2018 by passing an ambitious ballot measure increasing the purchase age and requiring enhanced background checks for semi-automatic weapons, as well as requiring safe storage of all firearms.

In 2019, the legislature passed ten additional firearms safety bills to save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of people who pose a threat to themselves or others. These included:

  • SB 5181, which prohibits possession of a firearm for six months by someone placed in involuntary treatment for a 72-hour period. That individual may petition the court after six months to regain access to his or her firearms.
  • HB 1225, which facilitates the removal of firearms after reported incidents of domestic violence;
  • SB 5205, which prohibits possession of a firearm by someone found by a court to be incompetent to stand trial and who has a history of violent acts.
  • SB 5027, which improves the state’s extreme risk protection order law, passed by voters in 2016. The bill clarifies the law’s applicability to minors and adds a prior conviction for a hate crime to the list of factors the court must consider when determining whether to issue an extreme risk protection order.
  • HB 1739, which prohibits the manufacture, sale, or possession of undetectable firearms, such as 3D printed firearms. These weapons would not be detected by airport or courthouse screeners and so present a giant public safety risk.

Over 2,000 people signed in to express their views on these measures in the Senate Law & Justice Committee. The passion and dedication of community advocates helped us to pass all of these new laws, which should reduce injuries and deaths of our friends and neighbors.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update. Please reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

Best wishes,

Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District
(360) 786-7628