Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We've recently spent long hours on the House floor voting on bills in the run-up to house of origin cutoff, which was at 5 p.m. last night. All bills that did not pass out of the chamber in which they were introduced are now considered “dead” for the year. Bills can still be deemed necessary to implement/pass the budget (NTIB or NTPB) at any time, but the vast majority of “dead” bills will remain that way until next session.
Three of my bills were unanimously approved by House this session.
House Bill 1314 would address one of the problems we have in our Medicaid system by requiring the Health Care Authority to establish fair and predictable auditing practices. Over the past few years, aggressive auditing practices have caused many Medicaid providers to discontinue accepting Medicaid patients. House Bill 1314 would provide for a fair and predictable process for providers who are being audited, thereby protecting the audit process, individual providers, public dollars and the network of dentists in Washington state. To watch my floor speech on House Bill 1314, click here. The bill is now in the Senate Health Care Committee awaiting a public hearing.
House Bill 1316 would establish an appeal process for dental claims, and prohibit dental insurance companies from placing a dentist on focused review if they filed an appeal. In addition, it would require a study by the Washington Insurance Commissioner's office to look at the best way to create transparency in patients' explanation of benefits. This bill is also in the Senate Health Care Committee.
House Bill 1444 would require school districts to facilitate on-time grade-level progression and graduation for homeless children, at-risk youth and children in need of services. Under the bill, local graduation requirements would be waived and a diploma would be issued for high school students who had enrolled in three or more districts throughout the year and met state graduation requirements. Current state law provides similar waivers for children in military families.
I truly believe we have a responsibility to provide every student in Washington state with the opportunity to succeed, and this bill helps us to do that. We cannot allow our at-risk and homeless students to fall behind their peers and slip through the cracks. I look forward to continuing to advocate for this bill as it moves through the legislative process. It's scheduled to receive a public hearing in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee on Monday, March 13.
My other education bills
In addition to House Bill 1444, I introduced two other education bills this session.
House Bill 1664 would have waived the requirement that certain pre-service teacher candidates successfully pass the edTPA assessment before serving in school districts with teacher shortages. It was wrapped into an omnibus bill, House Bill 1827, which did not come to the floor for a vote.
House Bill 2110 would have reduced health care premiums for the dependents of teachers in order to make it less expensive for teachers to add them to their health care plan. The bill died in the House Education Committee, but I will keep working on it during interim.
An update on the other bills I introduced this session
House Bill 1315, a.k.a. the “Runaway Ray” bill, would have provided an opportunity for families to purchase stray livestock instead of requiring them to be auctioned off (background article here). Unfortunately, the bill did not come to the floor for a vote.
House Bill 1443 would require the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to convert at least two of the toll booths on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to unstaffed toll booths, saving $1.10 per transaction. I continue to have conversations with the chair of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Judy Clibborn, in hopes of creating a proviso in the transportation budget that allows for a cost study to address WSDOT's concerns with the bill.
House Bill 1448 would have required employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for pregnancy-related or childbirth-related health conditions. Rep. Jessyn Farrell introduced a similar bill, House Bill 1796, which made it to the floor and was approved 98-0. I worked with Rep. Farrell to make changes to her bill that added significant provisions to address specific concerns, making it palatable enough to receive unanimous support from both sides of the aisle in the House.
House Bill 1883 would have prohibited the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) from using hotel rooms or department offices to house foster children. The bill died in the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee, but I will continue to talk with officials from DSHS and urge them to enact this policy without me needing to reintroduce the bill next year.
The future of health care in Kitsap County
Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, and I recently published an op-ed in the Kitsap Sun in which we expressed our concerns about the future of health care in Kitsap County. Between rising medical costs, as well as skyrocketing insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, consumer frustration has been growing. We have also seen changes take place in the health care industry that have resulted in fewer choices and less timely access for consumers. In the op-ed, we point out how all of these problems have been exacerbated by CHI Franciscan Health's mergers with Harrison Medical Center and The Doctors Clinic. I encourage you to read the op-ed and contact me if you have personal experiences with these changes occurring in our district.
Please continue contacting me with your thoughts and questions about the 2017 legislative session. I also encourage you to contact my legislative assistant, Tori Benson, to set up a time to meet with me. I have an open-door policy and will absolutely make time to meet with you if you schedule an appointment and come down to Olympia. Even if you don't have time to schedule a meeting and still want to chat with me, Tori will be able to pull me out of committee or off the floor.
It is an honor to serve you in the state House.