Monthly Archives: March 2019

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    Van De Wege’s wildfire prevention bill awaits action in House

Van De Wege’s wildfire prevention bill awaits action in House

March 22nd, 2019|

A task force would be created to identify and recommend better methods for preventing wildfires in the vicinity of electric utilities, under legislation that passed the Senate and awaits action in the House Committee on Rural Development.

Senate Bill 5305, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), directs the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to create such a committee to improve communications protocols, management of trees and other vegetation around utilities, and wildfire investigations.

“Climate change and development in remote areas have increased the risk of wildfires around electric utilities,” Van De Wege said. “By developing and adopting best practices now, we could avoid the kinds of fires in California last year that cost dozens of lives, destroyed thousands of homes, and threaten the stability of investor-owned utilities and power rates.”

The worst of those fires, the Camp Fire in the community of Paradise, killed at least 86 people. Utility-linked fires are responsible for approximately $30 billion in damages over the past two years in California. Utilities have been criticized for failing to trim trees along power lines and take other actions to reduce the potential for wildfires.

“This threat isn’t unique to California,” Van De Wege said. “We’re seeing the same evidence of climate change here in Washington in the form of wildfires that are more severe and more frequent. Just this week, DNR has responded to 50 wildfires, all but one in western Washington. The action we take now could save untold lives, property and money in the years to come.”

DNR would be required to submit a preliminary report to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2019, and a final report by Dec. 1, 2020.

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    Van De Wege supports legislation to address long-term care crisis

Van De Wege supports legislation to address long-term care crisis

March 1st, 2019|

The Legislature is expected to create an insurance program this year to help Washington households deal with the ballooning costs of long-term care, Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) said today.

“The vast majority of people over 65 will need long-term care at some point but have no savings to pay for it,” Van De Wege said. “The need for this insurance is acute and growing, making it all the more urgent the Legislature address this need post haste.”

Senate Bill 5331 and companion legislation in the House would establish The Long Term Care Trust Act — a long-term care insurance program for Washington workers funded by a mere 58-cent premium on every $100 in wages. Though it remains to be determined which bill will be the vehicle for ultimate passage, Van De Wege said strong support in the Legislature makes it all but certain the legislation will pass during this session.

Van De Wege noted that he has supported efforts to improve long-term care options since his first year in the Legislature in 2007, when he voted for legislation that would have established a form of long-term care assistance that fell short of passage.

“If we’d done this in 2007, everyone who would have paid into that program would be vested by now and could be receiving benefits today,” he said. “The action we take this session will create that opportunity for people from this year forward.”

The bills currently before the Legislature would:

  • Establish a program of long-term services and supports for up to $36,500 in lifetime benefits that workers could apply to the cost of long-term care;
  • Assess a 58-cent premium on every $100 an employee earns, to fund the program; and
  • Require that the Health Care Authority, Department of Social and Health Services, Employment Security Department, and a newly established long-term-care commission jointly administer the program.

The Long-Term Care Trust Act has bipartisan support from family caregivers, aging and disability advocates, small business owners, long-term care providers, labor unions, and consumer rights organizations.

 “No one should have to spend their way down into poverty in order to be eligible for long-term care, which is the terrible reality facing many households today,” Van De Wege said. “This program can help households and also protect against the threat of the coming ‘silver tsunami’ to our communities and state resources.”