E-News

State government responds to the pandemic

March 27th, 2020|

The last few weeks have been difficult and emotional for people here in Seattle and across the world. Our response to COVID-19 has required us all to alter our lives drastically for a common goal: to reduce the rate of new infections and save lives.

We all feel deep gratitude toward our health care professionals on the front lines of the pandemic. Many other essential workers – from grocery clerks and bus drivers to garbage collectors and plumbers – also continue to do their jobs so that we can weather this crisis.

The 2020 legislative session was unlike any in our state’s history. We started the session with many important priorities to address, including homelessness and housing affordability, preserving our historic gains in access to higher education, responding to the passage of I-976 and the resulting loss of transportation funding, reducing carbon pollution and protecting the environment, and reducing gun violence. My newsletters over the next few months will review the accomplishments of this historic session.

Gov. Inslee is asking everyone to stay home as much as possible to reduce the spread of infection. 

But our conversations in the Legislature quickly shifted in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Before we adjourned for the year on March 12, the Legislature unanimously passed HB 2965 to dedicate $200 million from our state’s “rainy day fund” as a down payment on the many unexpected costs our people and our state and local governments face as a result of the pandemic.

The Legislature and the Governor have also taken action to:

  • Expand unemployment insurance for people who cannot work as a result of the pandemic and waived the one-week waiting period to receive approval.
  • Increase access to health care coverage by opening state Health Exchange enrollment for anyone currently without health insurance.
  • Boost Medicaid primary care rates, support rural health clinics, and increase funding for foundational public health.
  • Support businesses that rehire employees who became unemployed because of the coronavirus emergency.
  • Reimburse nursing homes that aid in the coronavirus response.
  • Allow school employees to maintain health insurance eligibility for the rest of the school year even if they come up short of required work hours due to this emergency.
  • Adopt a 30-day statewide moratorium on evictions.
  • Encourage utilities to suspend shut-offs and waive late fees for out-of-work customers.
  • Expand investments in affordable housing and new shelters by $160 million.
  • Authorize flexibility in state tax collections and waive late fees on license renewals.
  • Provide flexibility to allow high school seniors to graduate this year if they were on track for graduation before the emergency declaration.
  • Add $153 million to increase access to childcare, strengthen the foster care system, and expand early learning programs so that kids will have support when this crisis is over.

Governor Inslee also accelerated the effective date of last year’s Senate Bill 5641, a measure I sponsored to enable Washington residents to permit remote notarization of documents such as wills and powers of attorney. That means that the notary does not have to be physically present in the room to verify the signature. With many seniors now isolated in nursing homes and other facilities, this change will allow folks to complete estate planning and other documents without endangering their health or safety.

Gov. Inslee shared this chart Thursday showing a glimmer of hope that social distancing may be making a difference already. 

The state has set up a central website with multilingual information related to COVID-19 and I encourage you to sign up for email updates from the Department of Health here.

Stay safe and healthy, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

Jamie

Senator Jamie Pedersen
43rd Legislative District
Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov
(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,
Jamie

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

Sen. Pedersen’s legislative update: 2019 session begins

January 22nd, 2019|

The 2019 legislative session began on January 14. This will be a “long” regular session, because we will pass two-year operating, capital, and transportation budgets for the state before our scheduled adjournment on Sunday, April 28.

After the 2019 election, Democrats hold larger majorities in the Senate (28-21) and House (57-41). Our team of Senate Democrats is strong, diverse, and determined to create smart policy and make targeted investments that will improve life for people in our communities.

Committees

I will continue to chair the Senate Law & Justice Committee, which has jurisdiction over civil and criminal law issues such as gun regulations, family law, the death penalty, and police use of deadly force. I will continue to serve on the Senate Ways & Means Committee, which writes the state’s operating and capital budgets and reviews every bill with a fiscal impact. I will also sit on the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee and on the Senate Rules Committee, which decides which bills the full Senate will consider.

My bills

Senators have introduced more than 400 bills so far this year. I am the prime sponsor of seven of those bills. Here are two highlights:

Condo liability

The lack of affordable housing is one of the great challenges that our region faces. Experts tell us that an inadequate supply of condominiums has exacerbated this problem. Condos provide a critical rung on the housing ladder, both allowing people to purchase a first home and start building equity and also allowing empty-nesters an opportunity to leave a single-family home without going directly to assisted living.

Unfortunately, developers have built very few new condominiums in the Puget Sound region in the last 10 years. Part of the reason is the common perception that Washington law imposes substantial liability on developers and contractors for claimed construction defects. Over the summer and fall, I brought stakeholders together to negotiate a compromise to help revitalize this market. SB 5334 is the result of those negotiations. I am hopeful that its carefully crafted language will strike a better balance between protecting consumers who purchase defective homes and protecting developers and contractors from unfounded claims.

The bill will have its first public hearing next Monday, Jan. 28 in the Senate Law & Justice Committee.

Recomposition

It’s not often that a bill introduced in the Washington State Legislature makes news in New York and London, but SB 5001 has sparked interest from national and international media outlets in the past few weeks. The legislation would expand options in our state for disposing of human remains. It would allow both alkaline hydrolysis (reducing remains in a bath of water and a strong base) and recomposition (placing bodies in a vessel with organic material such as wood chips, accelerating the natural transition to nutrient-dense soil). Researchers from Washington State University have found the process to be safe and less expensive and better for the environment than burial or cremation.

Thinking about death and the disposition of our bodies is not pleasant, but every one of us will face this issue. Technology has transformed most aspects of our lives, but state law leaves us with the only two options – burial and cremation – people have used for thousands of years. It is time that Washington residents have other, better options.

Stay in touch

Thank you for taking the time to read this update. I feel honored to begin my 13th year serving you in Olympia and welcome your comments and questions about issues before the legislature.

Best wishes,
Jamie

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