Monthly Archives: January 2016

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    Ranker bill would extend epi-pen use to camps, other remote areas

Ranker bill would extend epi-pen use to camps, other remote areas

January 29th, 2016|

People at camps and other remote areas could gain access to epi-pens, under legislation heard this week by the Senate Health Care Committee.
Epi-pens, or epinephrine autoinjectors, deliver a single dose of epinephrine or adrenalin to treat allergic reactions to prevent anaphylactic shock.
“A few years ago we passed legislation to make sure epi-pens are available in our public schools, but we missed other areas where they’re just as needed,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island. “If you’re out on a trail in the middle of a remote area, it can be critical that you are able to access an epi-pen.”
Ranker’s Senate Bill 6421 would allow the use of epi-pens at camps, parks, athletic fields and similar areas, provided staff complete training approved by the state Department of Health and the organization has a collaborative agreement with an emergency health care provider.
“In a remote location, this is a drug that can save lives if administered immediately,” said Paul Sheridan, the executive director of the Four Winds Westward Ho camp on Orcas Island. “Having it on our property increases safety for kids without introducing any substantial risks, and that’s why we contacted Sen. Ranker and asked his help.”

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    Bill would protect land and water from oil spills while protecting Washington jobs

Bill would protect land and water from oil spills while protecting Washington jobs

January 26th, 2016|

A major oil protection bill introduced today by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, would establish economic safeguards and significantly strengthen protections for the public and the environment from oil spills while protecting refinery jobs.

“The evolving nature of oil products moving through and out of our state raises critical questions about the safety of our communities and waters as well as the jobs at our oil refineries,” Ranker said. “There’s increased incentive for companies to export crude rather than refine it, and that’s a very real threat to family wage jobs in Washington state.”

To address that concern, Ranker’s Senate Bill 6418 would create a new Oil Refinery Worker Assistance Account to help workers who are displaced if refineries shift to crude oil exports and reduce their refining operations.

“If workers lose their jobs, this can provide the retraining, educational opportunities or financial aid they need to make a successful transition,” Ranker said. “And the time to prepare for this is now, before any workers lose their jobs and have nothing to fall back on.”

Ranker’s bill would also hold companies more accountable for the damages caused by oil spills, including economic losses to businesses, communities and households.

“With greater quantities of oil, and more volatile oil being moved across our waters and lands, it’s critical that we update our laws to safeguard our communities, economy and our environment,” he said. “We’re looking at a very different oil industry in the coming months and years, with more volatile products and a far greater quantity of product, both of which translate into increased risk.”

Ranker’s bill would impose a $1 tax on each barrel of crude oil exported as crude from a refinery in Washington, as opposed to products refined into petroleum products at the refinery. Half the revenue generated by the tax would go into the state’s existing Oil Spill Account for spill prevention and response, and the other half would go into the new worker assistance account.

The legislation would also require refineries and other marine terminals to update their oil spill contingency plans to address new types of crude oil such as the volatile Bakken crude and heavy tar sands oil from Canada. To that end, the bill would require the Washington Pilotage Commission to work with the state Ecology Department (Ecology) to adopt contemporary rules to improve protections for vessels that transport oil.

“Washingtonians want robust industries and they also expect businesses to be accountable for any damage they cause,” Ranker said. “These are fair, common-sense protections that will allow companies in our state to prosper while ensuring that their profits don’t come at the expense of people’s livelihoods and environmental health.”

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    Ranker bill extends protections for firefighters, EMTs, investigators

Ranker bill extends protections for firefighters, EMTs, investigators

January 22nd, 2016|

Firefighters and others exposed to conditions that can lead to occupational disease would gain increased protections under legislation introduced today by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island.

“Firefighters and fire investigators, as well as EMTs and other first responders, constantly place themselves at risk to help others,” Ranker said. “We owe it to them to have their backs when the risks of their work come home to roost in the form of cancers and other occupational illnesses.”

The measure works two ways: It adds to the number of cancers considered occupational diseases, and it extends the protections enjoyed by firefighters to EMTs and public employee fire investigators.

“Scientific studies show that firefighters are at greater risk or are more likely to die from these cancers,” Ranker said. “As more incidents of cancers accumulate, the list of cancers grows.”

Legislation in 1987 originally covered firefighters for heart problems and lung conditions. Additional legislation in 2002 and 2007 added numerous cancers to the list. Ranker’s bill adds still more cancers as well as breast cancer and MRSA infections.

“Every firefighter can tell you that either they have been personally affected by cancer or know another firefighter who has been affected by cancer, attributed to our profession,” said Kelly Fox, president of the Washington State Council of Firefighters. “It’s not something we like to think about but it’s a concern none of us can ignore.”

The key benefit of the list of diseases is that it places the burden of proof on an employer to prove that the disease is not duty related, instead of on the employee to prove it is duty related.

“Firefighters and other responders and investigators regularly work in high-stress, high-risk conditions,” Ranker said. “We need them focused on their work, not on having to document the nature and history of their illnesses.”

Ranker pushes for transparency on prescription drug costs

January 21st, 2016|

Consumers could know the actual costs it takes to produce the prescription medicines they need, under legislation introduced today by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island.

“People who rely on prescription drugs for their health are finding them increasingly expensive to purchase, even with a copay,” Ranker said. “Consumers should have the confidence that the manufacturer is charging a fair price and not an inflated price.”

Ranker’s Senate Bill 6471 would require pharmaceutical companies to make their pricing as transparent as the pricing in other sectors of the health care industry by reporting a breakdown of those costs to the state Health Care Authority.

The breakdown would include the separate costs to both the manufacturer and any predecessor or any related entity for production; R&D; clinical trial or other regulatory costs; materials manufacturing and administration; acquisition; patents; and marketing and advertising. The breakdown would also include the annual history of average wholesale price and acquisition cost increases; the total profit attributable to the drug; and the total financial assistance in dollars and as a percentage of company profits.

This information would be audited by a fully independent, third-party auditor prior to filing and must be filed annually.

“At the end of the day, there’s not much that’s more important than a person’s health, and the cost of prescription drugs can push a household to the brink in some cases,” Ranker said. “No one should have to choose between getting the medication they need and making risky choices like rationing their meds or going into debt to afford their medication.”

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    Ranker presses for automatic voter registration for eligible voters

Ranker presses for automatic voter registration for eligible voters

January 18th, 2016|

Many Washingtonians would be automatically registered to vote, under legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island.
“No one would be registered who doesn’t want to be registered, but registration will become much easier for those who wish to be,” Ranker said. “Voting is one of the most fundamental rights of all Americans. It should be a given, not an obstacle course.”
Under Senate Bill 6379, eligible voters who have enhanced driver’s licenses or commercial driver’s licenses, or who are covered through the state Health Benefits Exchange or other relevant state entities, will be automatically registered since their citizenship has already been verified by the state. Those with regular driver’s licenses will not be registered automatically because the state Department of Licensing does not require proof of citizenship or legal presence. The bill also provides an opt-out opportunity for those who decline to be registered.
“While our state is a leader in so many things, we are struggling to get Washingtonians to cast ballots and have their voices heard,” said Sen. Pramila Jayapal, a Seattle Democrat who is the bill’s prime sponsor. “We have worked very hard over the past several months to develop a bipartisan piece of legislation that fits Washington’s particular needs.”
Ranker noted that 2015 saw one of the lowest election turnouts in state history, as fewer than 40 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. But studies indicate that automatic voter registration can boost the number of registered voters and voter participation.
“This bill will also reduce paperwork and streamlines the registration process, enabling agencies to integrate voter registration services into existing forms and online prompts,” Ranker said, adding that voters’ addresses would not be subject to public disclosure in accordance with existing law.