2019 Session Recap Series: Issue 2

June 28th, 2019|

Issue 2: Prioritizing Community Health and Wellness

Olympia, June 28, 2019

Dear Neighbors,

Welcome to Issue 2 of my summer e-newsletter series, which gives an overview of some key policies we worked to pass into law this year. This issue will focus on legislation that will promote health and wellness in our communities.

Remember, you can also find information about successful bills I sponsored this year in my April 19th Update from Olympia. All of the bills discussed there passed and will become law.

Health Care Equity

This year, the Legislature continued to demonstrate Washington’s commitment to protect and expand access to quality, affordable health care.

HB 1870 protects the gains we’ve made in access to healthcare coverage in recent years thanks to the Affordable Care Act, such as prohibiting pre-existing condition exemptions and the lifetime benefits caps. At the same time, we’re expanding options for healthcare coverage for those who are struggling in our current system.

SB 5526 creates Cascade Care, the first public healthcare option in the country, which will decrease the cost of premiums, copays, and other out-of-pocket expenses for those who purchase coverage on the individual health insurance market. This will be available to all Washingtonians who are not covered through an employer, regardless of income.

The budget we passed this year even includes funding for a Pathway to Universal Coverage, which will join stakeholder groups to prepare a plan for implementing a universal healthcare system in Washington.

HB 1087 establishes the first long term care benefit in the nation. This will help families mitigate the high costs of the care our aging community members need.

SB 5602 removes barriers to reproductive health care on the basis of gender identity and expands access for our trans neighbors. The operating budget takes that one step further by funding a program to provide access to reproductive health care for immigrants, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.

We also took steps to reverse health disparities and expand access to health care for Native Americans (SB 5415), Pacific Islanders (SB 5274), immigrant communities (SB 5846) and underrepresented communities at risk of maternal mortality (SB 5425).

Advancing Public Health in Community & Workplace

Nurse Rest Breaks

After many years of trying, this year we finally passed HB 1155, adding new requirements for uninterrupted rest periods for nurses and techs, and closing the loophole that employers previously used to get around the ban on mandatory overtime by regularly relying on prescheduled on-call shifts. Frontline workers doing patient care deserve regular and consistent breaks. This is essential to patient safety, and it’s a matter of respect for a workforce that has historically been and continues to be predominantly women. I’m proud that this year we worked with both healthcare workers and their employers to develop a policy that will ensure protections for patients and workers in a manner that is feasible for employers, too.

Vaccines

The recent measles outbreak in our state caused a lot of concern, and we heard from constituents about the risks posed by the growing number of unvaccinated children attending our schools. Children too young to be vaccinated and individuals with compromised immune systems will be better protected from serious preventable diseases thanks to HB 1638, which removes the personal belief exemption from the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination requirements. The measure still allows for medical and religious exemptions to the MMR requirement.

Environmental Justice

My HEAL Act bill (SB 5489) did not become law, but with a bi-partisan effort led by women of color in the House and Senate, we obtained a budget proviso that funds an environmental justice task force, which will be co-chaired by environmental justice community leadership. The purpose will be to identify health disparities from environmental impacts and determine how state agencies can incorporate environmental justice principles into their work.

Worker Health and Safety

HB 1817 ensures the workforce in our high hazard facilities is skilled and properly trained.

HB 1756 adds heightened protections for the safety and security of adult entertainers and requires that workers receive worker rights and safety training.

SB 5550 will establish a Pesticide Application Safety Committee to help us use new technology and farming methods to promote best practices and training to achieve as close to zero pesticide drift as possible, protecting workers and surrounding communities from exposure.

SB 5258 requires employers of certain isolated workers, such as janitors, housekeepers, and security guards, to provide extra protection to prevent sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace.

SB 5035 provides workers on public works contracts protections against violations of prevailing wage laws and wage theft.

HB 1568 expands opportunities for port district worker development and occupational programs.

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