2023 Legislative Updates

News Updated Jan. 28, 2023 by Sandra Distelhorst — Public Policy Director — publicpolicy@aauw-wa.org
We will be spotlighting 5+ areas of legislation on Lobby Day Jan. 30 [click here…] and have a list of other “vetted” bills that address gender equity that you can follow. Also see that there is a list of talking points as you contact your government during the legislative season…

CLICK FOR LIVE LEGISLATIVE TRACKING 2023 –>

Below are updates and bill tracking of AAUW’s legislative priorities grouped as:

======== Jan. 27, 2023 Report from AAUW WA Lobbyist Nancy Sapiro =======

Week three was a busy one!

  • Tuesday was “Reproductive Freedom” day here in Olympia, as legislators considered a package of reproductive health bills all designed to protect access to reproductive health. Five Senate bills and three House bills had public hearings on Tuesday including SJR 8202, SB 5242, SB 5241, SB 5489, SB 5260, HB 1340, HB 1155, and HB 1469! On the same day, reproductive health supporters from Pro-Choice WA, ACLU, Cedar River Clinics, and Planned Parenthood, gathered on the Capitol steps to show their support for abortion access.
  • If Tuesday was all about reproductive rights, then Thursday was all about taxes, as the WA State Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the capital gains tax case. In 2021, the legislature enacted a capital gains tax; the tax was then challenged by opponents on the basis that it violates the state constitution’s uniformity provision. A decision from the Supreme Court is anticipated in the next several months. In the event that the capital gains tax is found to be unconstitutional, legislative budget writers will have to look elsewhere in the state coffers to fund their education and childcare priorities.

===Apprenticeship Bills=== HB 1013 and HB 1525

State-Sponsored Apprenticeship Program – HB 1013 – Sponsors: Rep Maycumber and Rep Santos

HB 1013 would establish regional apprenticeship programs for Washington state students. These programs would allow students to participate in a state-run apprenticeship program in high school that would offer students experience in different fields that may not require a college education. Apprenticeship programs allow for important graduation pathways and future career opportunities to students. Furthermore, these programs benefit employers by providing them with an opportunity to train students for jobs in these industries that are beneficial and important to local communities. If passed, one of the first pilot program sites would be in a district with a high percent of small, rural school districts. This bill was introduced last session but never made it out of committee. This year, HB 1013 has more than 50 bipartisan co-sponsors.

Update: This bill was heard in the House Committee on Education on January 16. Executive action was taken on HB 1013 on January 26.

Working Connection Child Care – HB 1525 – Sponsor: Rep Fosse

Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) helps eligible families pay for childcare. When a family qualifies for childcare subsidy benefits and chooses an eligible provider, the state pays a portion of the cost of childcare. This bill would provide qualifying applicants and consumers of state registered apprenticeship programs eligibility for the Working Connections Child Care subsidy.

Update: CALL TO ACTION – HB 1525 will be heard in the House Committee on Human Services on January 31. Register your support by clicking here…

===Economic Security=== HB 1106 and HB 1075/SB 5249

Unemployment insurance qualification – HB 1106 – Sponsors: Rep Fosse and Rep Reeves

HB 1106 relates to the qualifications for unemployment insurance when an individual voluntarily leaves work. Unemployment insurance benefits are a critical safety net for families in-between jobs. Despite this, Washington’s unemployment laws aren’t written to protect family caregiving. Currently, if a worker is forced to quit their job due to inability or inaccessibility to childcare, the employee is ineligible for unemployment insurance. This bill will allow for a change to the definition of a “good cause quit” to include quits as a result of inaccessibility to childcare. This allows for workers to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits while searching for new jobs.

Update: This bill had a public hearing in the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards on January 10. CLICK HERE to view the public hearing. HB 1106 moved out of committee on January 20 and is now in Rules. 

Expanding the Working Family Tax Credit – HB 1075/SB 5249 – Sponsors: Rep Thai and Sen Shewmake

In 2021 the legislature passed and funded the Working Families Tax Credit, a first-of-its-kind policy for the state to put millions of dollars back into the pockets of families. Eligible households can receive up to $1,200 per year starting February 2023. This bill would expand the WFTC to all low-income, working seniors and young adults.

Update: CALL TO ACTION – The Senate bill was heard on Jan.19 and HB 1075 will be heard on January 31 in House Finance. CLICK HERE to register your support for the bill.

===Healthcare and Reproductive Rights=== SB 5241/HB 1263 and HB 1155/SB 5351

Keep Our Care Act – SB 5241/HB 1263 – Sponsors: Senator Randall and Rep Simmons

SB 5241 would ensure that health entity mergers and acquisitions improve, rather than harm, access to affordable quality care. It would give the AG’s office the tools it needs to ensure that future health system mergers and other transactions improve access to care. Specifically, the bill would prohibit a health entity consolidation that diminishes access to affordable quality care and would ensure AG oversight of all mergers. It also would allow for community input through public notification of proposed consolidations and the opportunity for public input and comment. The bill was introduced last session but did not advance after being heard in Senate Health. Linked here is an article listing a bit more information about SB 5241.

Update: SB 5241 was heard in the Senate Committee on Law & Justice on January 24 and had an additional public hearing on January 26. No further action has been taken since January 26.

My Health My Data – HB 1155/SB 5351 – Sponsor: Slatter/Dhingra, at request of Attorney General

This legislation would block websites and apps from collecting and sharing health data. This is of concern for people who use search engines or health tracking apps. It would also prohibit the sale of health data, the use of geofences (location-based software that identifies when a person is in a certain area) to send unsolicited messages to persons at health facilities and would require companies that collect personal data to create, maintain and publish a privacy policy for consumer health data.

Update: A public hearing was held on January 24, along with other reproductive health care bills, in the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee. The bill is now scheduled to move out of committee on February 1.

===Sexual Assault, Gender-Related Violence, Harassment and Discrimination=== HB 1028 and HB 1207

Supporting Crime Victims – HB 1028Sponsors: Rep Orwall

HB 1028 has several important provisions that support crime victims by promoting a victim-centered, trauma informed response by the legal system. Some of these provisions include: requiring law enforcement agencies to investigate a reported sexual assault within 90 days, when the testing of a sexual assault kit (SAK) results in a hit in the Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS); requiring law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys to provide case updates to the AG’s office for any case with a SAK that generates a CODIS hit regardless of when the SAK was collected; and specifying that hospitals and emergency medical facilities located in WA cannot charge for the examination of a victim of sexual assault.

Update: A public hearing was held on the bill on January 11 and the bill moved out of its policy committee on January 19.  The bill was referred to Appropriations but no hearing date is yet scheduled.

Preventing and Responding to Harassment – HB 1207 – Sponsors: Rep Senn

Under HB 1207, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) must develop model student handbook language that includes information about policies and complaint procedures related to discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying. School districts and charter schools would also be required to designate one person in the school district as the primary contact regarding compliance with state laws prohibiting discrimination in public schools.

Update: HB 1207 was heard in the House Committee on Education on January 19 and executive action was taken on January 26. No further action has been taken since. CLICK HERE to view the hearing from January 19. 


PREVIOUS WEEKS


======== Jan. 20, 2023 Report from AAUW WA Lobbyist Nancy Sapiro =======

It’s been a busy second week of session here in Olympia, as we are finally back in person for this 105-day legislative session. Legislators, staff and lobbyists are finally finding their “sea legs” after being away from the Capitol campus for two years. The week started off with celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the House and Senate floors and the remainder of the week was filled with committee hearings on important policy issues. Since the first day of session, over 900 bills have been introduced and the scramble is on to get a hearing scheduled before the cut-off on February 17.

Sunday marks what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade and in recognition of this important date Democrats in the Legislature are proposing a panoply of bills to strengthen our state protections for reproductive freedom. Nine bills will be heard on Tuesday, January 24 across three Senate and three house committees. Whew!

The bills being heard include:

  • SB 5242 which seeks to ease the burden of out of pocket costs by eliminating cost sharing for patients seeking abortion care
  • SJR 8202 which would amend the WA state Constitution to protect reproductive freedom; the Keep Our Care Act, (one of AAUW’s priorities described below) which impacts hospital mergers and affiliations
  • SB 5489 which would shield patients and providers of reproductive and gender affirming care in WA from retribution from other states.
  • Labor committees will be hearing 5260/1286 which would give WA employers that provide reproductive care benefits tools for redress against retaliation by states with anti-abortion laws.
  • And, at the same time, the House will be hearing HB 1155, a data privacy bill which would strengthen protections for the privacy of health data
  • And HB 1340 which would ensure that health care providers cannot be disciplined in our state for providing lawful reproductive or gender affirming care regardless of where the patient resides.

The Public Policy team may decide to move some of these bills up to the priority list during session and ask you to take action. But for now, Tuesday promises to be a busy day and you can watch all the action on TV WASHINGTON – tvw.org.

Below are updates and bill tracking of AAUW’s legislative priorities:

State-Sponsored Apprenticeship Program – HB 1013 – Sponsors: Rep Maycumber and Rep Santos

HB 1013 would establish regional apprenticeship programs for Washington state students. These programs would allow students to participate in a state-run apprenticeship program in high school that would offer students experience in different fields that may not require a college education. Apprenticeship programs allow for important graduation pathways and future career opportunities to students. Furthermore, these programs benefit employers by providing them with an opportunity to train students for jobs in these industries that are beneficial and important to local communities. If passed, one of the first pilot program sites would be in a district with a high percent of small, rural school districts. This bill was introduced last session but never made it out of committee. This year, HB 1013 has more than 50 bipartisan co-sponsors.

Update: This bill was heard in the House Committee on Education on January 16. Click here to view the public hearing. HB 1013 is now scheduled for executive session on January 26. Linked here is an article outlining more about HB 1013.

Unemployment insurance qualification – HB 1106 – Sponsors: Rep Fosse and Rep Reeves

HB 1106 relates to the qualifications for unemployment insurance when an individual voluntarily leaves work. Unemployment insurance benefits are a critical safety net for families in-between jobs. Despite this, Washington’s unemployment laws aren’t written to protect family caregiving. Currently, if a worker is forced to quit their job due to inability or inaccessibility to childcare, the employee is ineligible for unemployment insurance. This bill will allow for a change to the definition of a “good cause quit” to include quits as a result of inaccessibility to childcare. This allows for workers to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits while searching for new jobs.

Update: This bill had a public hearing in the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards on January 10. Click here to view the public hearing. HB 1106 moved out of committee on January 20.

Keep Our Care Act – SB 5241/HB 1263 – Sponsors: Senator Randall and Rep Simmons

CALL TO ACTION! SB 5241 would ensure that health entity mergers and acquisitions improve, rather than harm, access to affordable quality care. It would give the AG’s office the tools it needs to ensure that future health system mergers and other transactions improve access to care. Specifically, the bill would prohibit a health entity consolidation that diminishes access to affordable quality care and would ensure AG oversight of all mergers. It also would allow for community input through public notification of proposed consolidations and the opportunity for public input and comment. The bill was introduced last session but did not advance after being heard in Senate Health. here A LINK to an article listing a bit more information about SB 5241.

Update: SB 5241 is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Law & Justice on January 24th. We encourage you to register your support for this bill. CLICK HERE to show your support for the Keep Our Care Act!

Supporting Crime Victims – HB 1028 – Sponsors: Rep Orwall

HB 1028 has several important provisions that support crime victims by promoting a victim-centered, trauma informed response by the legal system. Some of these provisions include: requiring law enforcement agencies to investigate a reported sexual assault within 90 days, when the testing of a sexual assault kit (SAK) results in a hit in the Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS); requiring law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys to provide case updates to the AG’s office for any case with a SAK that generates a CODIS hit regardless of when the SAK was collected; and specifying that hospitals and emergency medical facilities located in WA cannot charge for the examination of a victim of sexual assault.

Update: A public hearing was held on the bill on January 11. Click here to hear the public hearing. Executive action was taken on HB 1028 on January 19.

======== Jan. 15, 2023 Report =======

After two years of conducting their work virtually, members of the WA state Legislature, advocates, and staff returned to Olympia, on January 9th to begin the in-person 105-day Legislative session. While in some respects it feels as if we never left, there are significant changes. New this year: masks are encouraged, if not required, in most offices and access to legislative offices is restricted by security. The Legislature has also moved to a hybrid model, meaning that members of the public may continue to testify on bills remotely and hold meetings with their elected officials virtually.

As far as the makeup of the 2023 Legislature, Democrats held onto their majority in both chambers, resulting in a 29D/20R split in the Senate and a 58D/40R split in the House. There are 21 brand new legislators and 9 members who have served previously or are moving from the house to the senate. With all these new members, and the fact that those members who were elected in 2021 have never experienced an in-person session, there is a steep learning curve for many in the Legislature!

As the session began, the Governor and legislative leaders laid out a bold agenda for the 2023 session including:

  • Drug Possession – After the Washington State Supreme Court struck down the state’s felony drug-possession law, lawmakers must now decide if they should decriminalize drug possession, provide treatment for those people with substance abuse issues, or reinstate stiff criminal penalties.
  • Housing and Homelessness – Governor Inslee has proposed the state raise $4 billion to build affordable housing by issuing bonds outside the state’s debt limit, which will require legislative and voter approval. Additionally, there are proposals to allow more units on residential lots, intensify transit-oriented development, eliminate design review boards on residential construction, and cap the amount landlords can raise rent each year.
  • Workforce Issues – Republicans and Democrats agree there is a workforce crisis, given nearly every sector is experiencing staffing shortages due to baby boom retirements and the covid-era resignations.
  • Abortion – The fall of Roe v Wade has had devastating and far-reaching impacts throughout our country. While WA remains a state that protects abortion access, the number of abortion bans in other states continues to grow. In response, Senate and House Democrats are introducing a panoply of bills to ensure and expand access to abortion care, to support providers and patients, and to protect them from the hostile actions of states with abortion bans.

Bills continue to be “dropped” (introduced) daily – and many bills that we are expecting to see in 2023 have yet to be introduced. Below are few of AAUW’s legislative priorities.

Keep Our Care Act – SB 5241/HB 1263
Sponsors: Senator Randall and Rep Simmons

SB 5241 would ensure that health entity mergers and acquisitions improve, rather than harm, access to affordable quality care. It would give the AG’s office the tools it needs to ensure that future health system mergers and other transactions improve access to care. Specifically, the bill would prohibit a health entity consolidation that diminishes access to affordable quality care and would ensure AG oversight of all mergers. It also would allow for community input through public notification of proposed consolidations and the opportunity for public input and comment. The bill was introduced last session but did not advance after being heard in Senate Health.

Supporting Crime Victims – HB 1028
Sponsors: Rep Orwall

HB 1028 has several important provisions that support crime victims by promoting a victim-centered, trauma informed response by the legal system. Some of these provisions include: requiring law enforcement agencies to investigate a reported sexual assault within 90 days, when the testing of a sexual assault kit (SAK) results in a hit in the Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS); requiring law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys to provide case updates to the AG’s office for any case with a SAK that generates a CODIS hit regardless of when the SAK was collected; and specifying that hospitals and emergency medical facilities located in WA cannot charge for the examination of a victim of sexual assault. The bill was heard on the first day of session and is scheduled for executive action on January 19th.

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Questions? publicpolicy@aauw-wa.org