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    Media Advisory: 33rd District Legislative Delegation Joined by WA Health Care Authority Official for Facebook Live Community Conversation on the COVID-19 Pandemic

Media Advisory: 33rd District Legislative Delegation Joined by WA Health Care Authority Official for Facebook Live Community Conversation on the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 30th, 2020|

April 30, 2020

WHO: Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), Reps. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) and Mia Gregerson (D-Seatac) of the 33rd Legislative District will be joined by Dr. Charissa Fotinos, deputy chief medical officer for the Washington State Health Care Authority.

WHAT: A Facebook Live Community Conversation.

WHEN: 5-6 p.m. Tuesday, May 5

WHERE: On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1213781995492392/.  You can sign up there ahead of time or simply go to the link when the event starts. Questions can also be submitted ahead of time here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5YSBKM9.

WHY: Your elected officials and a public health official will answer questions on our state’s efforts to contain COVID-19 as well as how we will recover from this unprecedented challenge.

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    New law improves options for people with developmental disabilities

New law improves options for people with developmental disabilities

April 2nd, 2020|

A new law signed today by Gov. Inslee will create groundbreaking new options for people with developmental disabilities, including community care close to home, nursing home care, and state centers of excellence.

“This is a major turning point in the long debate about our state’s RHCs, rehabilitation centers for people with developmental disabilities,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), the sponsor of Senate Bill 6419. “For the first time in 40 years, these vital services will be dramatically more appropriate and comprehensive.”

The new law directs the state Developmental Disability Administration to implement recommendations of the William D. Ruckelshaus stakeholder report for transitions for residential habilitation center clients and establishes a joint executive-legislative task force to oversee implementation of the recommendations.

“This is a result of 18 months of meetings with stakeholders to resolve three decades of conflict,” Keiser said. “This preserves vital federal funding that was in jeopardy and improves services for everyone with developmental disabilities in communities across our state.”

Keiser said the process was bipartisan with both Rep. June Robinson (D-Everett) and Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) as key players in negotiations that led to a historic level of consensus between diverse interests and advocates.

The joint legislative and executive task force must meet with and provide updates to the stakeholders, including the Developmental Disabilities Council, the Arc of Washington, Disability Rights Washington, family members or guardians of current residential habilitation center residents, individuals with developmental disabilities, developmental disability self-advocacy organizations, the Washington Federation of State Employees, and Service Employees International Union 1199.

“People with development disabilities and their families deserve not just services but a choice,” Keiser said. “We will be transitioning services from large centralized institutions to communities these folks can call home.”

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    WA Legislators request federal disaster unemployment assistance for independent contractors

WA Legislators request federal disaster unemployment assistance for independent contractors

March 23rd, 2020|

The Senate and House Democratic caucuses have requested that the federal government unlock disaster unemployment assistance for thousands of independent contractors in Washington who are losing work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), who authored the letter, said: “The American workplace has changed and thousands of workers who are independent contractors—from hairdressers to high tech coders—do not qualify for unemployment benefits. During this public health crisis that is a hardship they should not be forced to endure.”

The full text of the letter is here:

Dear Members of the Washington State Congressional Delegation:

In these uncertain times, we need to act to protect all workers, especially those who don’t have access to unemployment insurance assistance. These workers include those considered by employers to be independent contractors in the gig economy and those who are self-employed. We are hearing from these workers about the economic difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This threatens their livelihoods and the strength of the broader economy.

Therefore, on behalf of the Senate and House Democratic Caucuses, we ask the Congressional Delegation to work with the Administration to ensure that Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) can be applied to pandemics in the same manner as to natural disasters when a federal emergency is declared. This will enable more Americans to have access to Unemployment Insurance (UI) without some of the standard eligibility requirements.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance would provide financial assistance to individuals whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of a major disaster and who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits.

When a major disaster has been declared by the President, DUA is generally available to any unemployed worker or self-employed individual who lived, worked, or was scheduled to work in the disaster area at the time of the disaster; and who, due to the disaster:

  • no longer has a job or a place to work; or
  • cannot reach the place of work; or
  • cannot work due to damage to the place of work; or
  • cannot work because of an injury caused by the disaster.

DUA benefits are payable to individuals for up to 26 weeks after the date the disaster was declared by the President.

While the President approved Washington’s request to declare a major disaster in Washington related to COVID-19, the Administration is still considering the request to activate DUA as part of the declaration. We urge the Congressional Delegation to request the Administration unlock these vital benefits for our workers and businesses.

We understand the tremendous challenges you face in responding to the coronavirus crisis. Access to these additional benefits will make sure businesses and workers have a greater ability to get through this challenging situation. Thank you for considering this path to extend a safety net for our constituents who are considered independent contractors and who are self-employed and shore up our country’s economy during this uncertain time.

Sincerely,

Senator Karen Keiser
Chair, Labor & Commerce Committee

Representative Mike Sells
Chair, Labor & Workplace Standards Committee

Senator Andy Billig
Majority Leader, State Senate

Representative Laurie Jinkins
Speaker, State House of Representatives

Full text in pdf form: Request for Disaster Unemployment Assistance

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    Legislature passes Keiser bills to cap insulin costs, curb drug prices

Legislature passes Keiser bills to cap insulin costs, curb drug prices

March 9th, 2020|

With final Senate votes today, two bills sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) to curb sharply rising prescription drug prices have now passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support and will go to the governor for his signature.

“Prescription drug costs are out of control,” said Keiser. “Our constituents can’t wait. The taxpayers can’t wait. This is a major step forward to cut the prices that patients have to pay.

“We have a responsibility to keep vital prescriptions affordable. I’ve been working for months with a broad range of stakeholders on this legislation, and I’m pleased that it has attracted bipartisan support.”

The bills that the Senate passed today take on insulin costs as well as costs for the most expensive prescriptions and those that are increasing in price the fastest.

SB 6087 will cap out-of-pocket cost to patients for insulin at $100 per month. It passed unanimously on a vote of 48-0.

SB 6088 will establish a prescription drug affordability board that would review prices and price increases to shine a spotlight on areas where pharmaceutical companies are putting profits ahead of people’s health. It passed on a vote of 31-17.

The Prescription Drug Affordability Board will determine whether the costs of a high-priced drug significantly exceed the value it provides to patients. If the board determines that the cost is not excessive, then it will simply recommend ways to make the drug more accessible to patients. If the board determines that the cost is excessive, it will ask the drug manufacturer to reduce the cost of the drug. If the manufacturer refuses, the board will post online the value that it calculates the drug actually has.

In addition, the bill requires the board to provide the newly created Health Care Cost Transparency Board (HB 2457) with tools to establish cost growth benchmarks for prescription drugs.

A third Keiser proposal, SB 6113, would have created a centralized purchasing process for insulin based on the approach used by the state to purchase childhood vaccines.  It did not pass, but the policy was incorporated in amended form into HB 2662. That bill creates the Total Cost of Insulin Work Group, which will examine various strategies to bring down the cost of insulin long-term, including the possibility of creating a central purchasing plan.

Keiser releases statement on sports betting bill

February 24th, 2020|

After the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee today heard and passed HB 2638, which would legalize and regulate some sports betting in tribal facilities, committee chair Karen Keiser released the following statement:

“I myself am not a great fan of either sports or betting. Gambling brings with it the threat of addiction and corruption. That’s why it’s wise for our state to take a very small first step and to work with our trusted partners who have shown their ability to contain the problem of addiction and thwart the threat of corruption.

“This limited first step toward allowing sports betting in Washington will begin to combat the illegal betting that is already going on. Just as with cannabis in 2012, we are taking a careful step to bring sports betting aboveboard, where it can be tightly regulated to reduce harm.”

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    Strong showing for labor bills in first half of legislative session

Strong showing for labor bills in first half of legislative session

February 20th, 2020|

Halfway through the legislative session, the state Senate has passed a wide array of legislation to help working families by raising workplace standards and expanding collective bargaining rights.

“The bills we have passed will go a long way toward making Washington a better place to work,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), the chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee. “We’ve taken on gender bias, restrictions on bargaining, and worker safety. And we’re not done yet.”

Of the 50 bills that moved out of the Labor & Commerce Committee, the Senate has passed 27, many with significant bipartisan support. A few highlights include:

  • SB 6034 would extend the statute of limitations for filing a pregnancy discrimination complaint from six months to one year.
  • SB 5473 would study exceptions to current unemployment insurance law to allow workers who become unemployed due to family caregiving responsibilities to collect benefits. The benefits might also be allowed for workers whose job duties increase substantially, or whose working conditions change significantly, with no increase in pay.
  • SB 6096 would require the state to consider the potential for labor law violations when contracting with social service providers to ensure state contractors adhere to fair workplace standards.
  • SB 6122 would extend workplace safety protections to temporary workers in construction, manufacturing and industrial engineering, who face a high risk of injury and death.
  • SB 6440 would reduce the burden placed upon injured workers subjected to independent medical examinations in workers compensation cases. It would require the exams to occur in a location convenient to the injured worker, eliminate no-show fees if a worker gives at least five days’ notice, and establish a work group to improve the exam process.
  • SB 6473 would restrict the use of asbestos in construction, improve labeling requirements, and require safer management of known installations of asbestos.
  • SB 6170 would modernize the plumbing code for the first time in 45 years, make apprenticeships more accessible, and protect consumers by making certification more transparent.
  • SB 5236 would increase apprenticeship programs in public education and in the health care industry.
  • SB 6217 would give SeaTac port commissioners the authority to close a loophole exploited by business to pay workers less than the local minimum wage.
  • SB 6261 would strengthen our agricultural sector by holding farm labor contractors accountable for their recruiting practices.
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    Senate passes three Keiser bills to curb prescription drug prices

Senate passes three Keiser bills to curb prescription drug prices

February 18th, 2020|

The Senate has passed three bills sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) that would rein in sharply rising prescription drug prices.

“Prescription drug costs are out of control,” said Keiser. “Our constituents can’t wait. The taxpayers can’t wait. We have to do something about this increase in costs.”

The three bills that the Senate passed take on insulin costs as well as costs for the most expensive prescriptions and those that are increasing in price the fastest.

  • SB 6087 would cap out-of-pocket cost to patients for insulin at $100 per month. It passed on a vote of 34-14.
  • SB 6113 would create a centralized purchasing process for insulin based on the approach used by the state to purchase childhood vaccines. It passed on a vote of 28-20.
  • SB 6088 would establish a prescription drug affordability board that would review prices and price increases to determine whether maximum price caps are needed. It passed on a vote of 28-20.

“We have a responsibility to keep prescriptions that are vital for people’s health affordable,” Keiser said. “I’ve been working for months with a broad range of stakeholders to put together legislation that will tackle this problem from multiple angles.”

All three bills now go to the House for consideration.