Monthly Archives: September 2019

2019 Session Review: For the people, by the people

September 19th, 2019|

Often the best ideas for new laws originate with friends and neighbors who are willing to tell their stories and put in hours of work to develop and advance legislation. One example close to my heart this week is the story of Ann Donovan, a Capitol Hill neighbor and mom. Already battling cancer, Ann met with me starting in 2015 and encouraged me to introduce the Right-to-Try bill, giving terminally ill patients the right to try medical products that have been through preliminary safety testing but have not been finally approved by the FDA. After a couple of years of work, we passed SB 5035 in the 2017 session. As a result, patients in Washington have better access to investigational medical products. Ann lost her battle with cancer on August 26, but her activism has produced a lasting legacy for our entire community.

In honor of Ann, I’d like to use my final e-newsletter in this series on the 2019 session to highlight three 43rd District constituents who alerted me to problems with Washington law last year and then helped me to get those problems fixed by passing bills in the 2019 session.

Katrina Spade (Capitol Hill)

SB 5001 will make Washington the first place in the world that allows natural organic reduction (accelerated, controlled composting) of human remains. It is safe to say that the bill would not have become law this year without the unwavering dedication of Katrina Spade. For more than a decade, Katrina has focused her energy on environmentally-sustainable alternatives to traditional end-of-life practices. She introduced me to her “Urban Death Project” in 2017 and then met me again in the spring of 2018 to ask if I could help remove the legal prohibition on natural organic reduction in our state. Katrina’s ability to build a coalition of support around a very emotional topic was crucial to passing this new law, which will go into effect in May 2020.

Ethan Bergerson (Wallingford)

Laws governing how to divide parenting time after a couple dissolves their relationship are complex and confusing and provoke emotional responses. Families across our state are better off today thanks to Ethan Bergerson, a constituent who shared his story of unintended consequences of the Child Relocation Act which specifies how judges should determine what is in the best interest of the child when one of their parents needs to move or change school districts. Recent court decisions had ruled that language in the statute referring to the parent “with whom the child resides a majority of the time” meant that parents who shared residential time equally could never be allowed to relocate (affecting about a quarter of the divorced parents in this state). In Ethan’s case, both parents had agreed that they wanted to be able to relocate but the court ruled that parents who shared time equally were not allowed to make this kind of agreement and that judges do not need to consider the child’s best interests in these cases. Ethan came to Olympia to testify in the Senate Law & Justice Committee and the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee. By sharing his story, he helped to pass SB 5399, which is already helping families around the state facing similar circumstances escape from legal limbo.

Greg Moga (Madison Park)

In 2011, Washington state pioneered the idea that children born through assisted reproductive technology should, once they become adults, have access to information about their genetic parents. This is similar to the rights we give adopted children to information about their birth parents. That innovation has since become a part of the Uniform Parentage Act, which is being considered and adopted by states across the country following Washington’s lead in 2018. Greg Moga and his team at Seattle Sperm Bank helped identify a problem with how the new Parentage Act dealt with the transmission of genetic information between clinics. Working together, we developed a solution – adopted in SB 5333 – that will protect the rights of children while ensuring the privacy of donor information.

Working with constituents to solve complex challenges remains among the most rewarding parts of serving you in the legislature. I reflect frequently on how fortunate I am to live in and represent such an engaged community. Please continue to reach out to me with ideas or issues: it’s how our state government works best.

2019 Session Review: Building a stronger community

September 9th, 2019|

Last week I had the opportunity to celebrate the re-opening of the recently renovated Lincoln High School (the first new comprehensive high school in our city in nearly 60 years) and attend the re-opening of Town Hall Seattle after two years of major renovations. These projects were made possible thanks in part to our state’s capital construction budget, which puts people to work building public schools, colleges, state parks, community gathering places, and essential infrastructure such as rural broadband.

Celebrating the recently renovated Lincoln High School with the community last week. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Public Schools)

Key community investments

The 2019-21 capital budget includes investments that will help our whole community continue to thrive.  I was proud to work with the other members of the Seattle delegation to secure funding for projects such as:

  • $21 million for Seattle Public Schools (SPS) to meet urgent capacity and safety upgrade needs at Leschi Elementary School, Madison Middle School, and North Beach Elementary School.
  • $6 million to help fund a 75-unit housing project at Broadway & Pine, developed by Capitol Hill Housing as a complement to the new YouthCare Opportunity Center
  • $6 million to help fund an innovative high-rise housing project at Madison & Boylston on First Hill, developed by Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group as a joint venture to provide 115 permanent supportive apartments for formerly homeless seniors and 253 apartments for low-income families
  • $200,000 to support the FareStart program, which provides job training for people experiencing homelessness, poverty and hunger.
  • $271,000 for the University Heights Center for the Community, which is a crucial gathering place that promotes life-long learning, creativity, culture, community activism in Seattle.
  • $600,000 to help build the AIDS Memorial Pathway at the Capitol Hill light rail station and Cal Anderson Park.
  • $1.5 million to support early learning through the construction of Roosevelt Childcare Center.
  • $986,000 to support the design and construction Northwest Native Canoe Center at Lake Union Park.
  • $451,000 to replace the main Green Lake dock with a larger dock with two floats, renovate two restrooms and add two restrooms with showers.
  • $500,000 to replace the Volunteer Park Amphitheater with a modern and accessible structure.

Statewide highlights:

  • $1.1 billion to build public schools, including $43 million for rural and distressed schools. 
  • $973 million for projects at public colleges and universities, with $408 million for community and technical colleges and $34 million for a new behavioral health teaching hospital at the University of Washington. 
  • $154 million for projects at state mental health facilities, including the design of a new forensic hospital and the design and construction of new 16-bed and 48-bed behavioral health facilities. 
  • $585 million for orca, salmon recovery, and water quality projects 
  • $175 million for affordable housing development statewide.

If you missed my previous updates on health care, gun safety, civil rights, climate change, orca recovery, behavioral health, housing or education, you can read those here.

2019 Session Review: Reforming outdated laws

September 2nd, 2019|

Controversial bills grab most of the headlines. But every year, the Legislature passes – usually with overwhelming bipartisan support – dozens of bills to modernize and improve state law in a wide range of areas.

Since 2010, I have served as one of our state’s commissioners on the national Uniform Law Commission (ULC). For more than a century, the ULC has provided states with nonpartisan, carefully-drafted legislation that brings clarity, stability, and uniformity to critical areas of state law. This year, several ULC proposals were approved by the Legislature and signed into law.  

Faithless electors

electors
Secretary of State Kim Wyman addresses the Washington Electoral College before members cast the state’s votes for president on Dec. 19, 2016. (Photo courtesy of the Spokesman Review)

In 2016, four Washington electors violated state law by casting their votes in the Electoral College for candidates other than the state’s popular vote winner – Hillary Clinton. The fine imposed on these “faithless electors” proved to be an insufficient incentive for them to follow the law.

SB 5074, the “Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act”, establishes a process by which electors who attempt to vote for a candidate other than the top vote getter in the November presidential election would be disqualified as electors and replaced with alternates. Washington joins Montana, Nevada, Minnesota, Indiana, and Nebraska in having enacted this law.  

Last week, a federal appeals court struck down a Colorado law and upheld the right of “faithless electors” to vote with their conscience. As a result, the issue may reach the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months. I will keep you posted on the end result.

Guardianship 

SB 5604, the “Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Arrangements Act”, modernizes the laws concerning court-appointed guardians of minors and adults who cannot manage their own affairs in our state. Because guardians are given control over decisions ranging from where the person subject to guardianship can live or travel and how he or she can spend money, regulating guardians carefully is critical to protecting the safety and constitutional rights of persons subject to guardianship. Substantial changes include:

  • Eliminating terminology such as “incapacitated person” or “ward” and replacing it with modern, respectful language;
  • Adding to the statute a strong policy direction for courts to choose the least restrictive alternatives consistent with protecting the person subject to guardianship; and
  • Making it easier for parents to regain custody of their children once they have completed prison sentences or drug treatment programs.

The changes will take effect January 1, 2021. In the meantime, the Senate Law & Justice Committee has held a work session and is drafting legislation for the 2020 session to improve the legislation and fill in any gaps we failed to identify last session.

Other issues

The Legislature also passed bills requested by the Washington Uniform Law Commission concerning domestic violence (HB 1517, which included the Uniform Recognition and Enforcement of Canadian Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act); consumer cooperatives (SB 5002, the Uniform Limited Cooperative Associations Act); legal declarations (SB 5017, the Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act); and electronic notarization (SB 5641, the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts).

If you missed my previous updates on health care, gun safety, civil rights, consumer debt protection, climate change, orca recovery, behavioral health, housing, or education, you can find those on my website.

Best wishes,
Jamie

Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District
Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7628