Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This year's session is going by fast! Tuesday, Feb. 11 is Day 30 — the halfway point of the 60-day legislative session, which is scheduled to end March 12. We are also approaching some major deadlines. Today, Feb. 7 is house-of-origin policy committee cutoff. Bills that have not passed from their respective policy committees in the chamber where they were introduced by that date are likely dead for the session. Bills necessary to implement the budget are exempt from all cutoff dates. You can view the legislative deadlines and session calendar here.
My bill status at cutoff
I am working collaboratively with both my Republican and Democratic colleagues to keep my bills moving forward. I have five bills that have passed their respective House committees and are now in the Rules Committee waiting to be pulled to the House floor for a vote. They include:
- House Bill 1229 – Concerning photographs, microphotographs and electronic images from traffic safety cameras and toll systems. If a child was abducted and taken across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, under current law, even though the toll cameras may have captured the image of the license plate, law enforcement is not allowed to access that information in their investigation. This bill would change the law to allow police, through the proper use of a warrant, to access those images so that people's lives could be saved and the suspect could be brought to justice.
- House Bill 2531 – Protecting patients from certain unsafe dental practices. Dentists tell me there has been an influx of patients they are seeing who need corrective care after using online “telemedicine” orthodontic services in which they receive aligners, but never see a dentist or orthodontist to determine a correct fit or other underlying problems. Many of these services are out of state, so there is no adequate recourse if complications arise. This bill would increase accountability to online orthodontia companies. It would also prohibit these providers from requiring patients to sign an agreement that limits the ability to file a complaint.
- House Bill 2580 – Reporting on independent living services. The state provided $248,797 to an independent living contractor in Kitsap County to help foster youth, yet there are no reports, documentation or proof that actual services were provided. This measure would increase accountability of services provided to ensure they are actually delivered to foster youth.
- House Bill 2583 – Ensuring student transportation for students in out-of-home placements. Foster youth have lower graduation rates than homeless youth, in part due to schools not providing transportation as required by federal and state guidelines. In 2018, I passed House Bill 2684 requiring school districts to provide transportation to out-of-district foster kids instead of automatically enrolling them into a new school. Unfortunately, many school districts do not comply with federal and state laws. This bill would increase accountability and report data to the Legislature.
I have three bills still alive in the House Appropriations Committee anticipated to be passed out:
- House Bill 1018 – Concerning fair dental insurance practices. This measure would extend Washington's health insurance “Patient Bill of Rights” to dental insurance coverage. The bill of rights establishes fair health insurance practices by requiring insurers to have a utilization review program, prohibiting denial of coverage for care that was previously authorized, providing a grievance process, and requiring independent review for resolving disputes.
- House Bill 2584 – Establishing rates for behavioral health services. We gave funding in the budget to increase provider rates so that Medicaid patients could access behavioral health services. Unfortunately, the Managed Care Organizations kept the additional funds and did not pass that on to providers. This measure would provide yearly reviews to ensure Medicaid patients get the services they need. I serve on the Children's Mental Health Workgroup and this legislation was one of its priorities.
- House Bill 2809 – Regarding essential needs and housing support eligibility. This bill will improve access for struggling pregnant women to receive services.
You can see all of the bills I have introduced here.
Common sense legislation to reduce homelessness
Homelessness is a major problem across our state, even in rural areas. There is no single cause that has brought us to this point. However, one of the major problems is that our housing supply has not kept up with demands. In fact, a recent report revealed our state should have built 225,600 more homes over the past 15 years. This has also been a discussion in the WorkFirst Poverty Reduction Oversight Task Force, of which I am a member.
While there are many ideas being discussed about how to alleviate homelessness in our state, I am focused on what I believe would be an innovative and effective way to address the supply problem — shared housing.
During a public hearing last week in the House Housing, Community Development and Veterans Committee, I spoke about the benefits of home sharing, in which people open their homes to screened applicants who rent a bedroom and share the home for a reduced price or in exchange for helping the homeowner with chores and other assistance.
This has been a successful program in Pierce County, as reported by The News Tribune. There are two similar programs in Kitsap County and one in Thurston County. Home sharing is a common sense approach to reducing homelessness, which can also be a benefit to seniors and individuals with disabilities. You can view my testimony here.
A public hearing was also held last week in the House Appropriations Committee on House Bill 2809, a measure I introduced that would provide housing assistance to pregnant women who find themselves homeless. Under this measure, individuals eligible for the state's Pregnant Women Assistance Program could also qualify for eligibility under the state's Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) Program. HEN may provide rental assistance, as well as personal hygiene and household supplies, bus passes and laundry tokens. You can watch the public hearing here.
Bad bills in the Legislature
In my email update last week, I mentioned several bad bills, including one that would reduce the work week to 32 hours (really bad for those who are on an hourly wage) and a push to allow local governments to impose an income tax.
Here are more bad bills/proposals to add to that list:
- Fuel standard – House Bill 1110: Would impose a low-carbon fuel standard program in Washington despite the fact voters overwhelmingly rejected a 2018 initiative to charge a fee on carbon emissions from fossil fuels. A low-carbon fuel standard program would hurt families across the state, especially those in rural areas, and could eventually raise gas prices by as much 57 cents a gallon. It would also negatively impact businesses and increase the costs of products, hurting our economy while simultaneously doing almost nothing for the environment. Unfortunately, the measure passed the House last week, 52-44. It is now under consideration in the Senate.
- Road usage charge – The Washington State Transportation Commission is recommending a per-mile road usage charge be implemented in Washington state. I oppose this plan and invite you to read my comments in an opinion-editorial I submitted to the Key Peninsula News.
Join me for one of my town hall meetings Saturday, Feb. 22
Please mark your calendar and join me at town hall meetings, Saturday, Feb. 22, in Vaughn, Gig Harbor and Port Orchard. This is an opportunity for me to hear from you as I'm voting on bills in the last weeks of the 2020 session. I will also provide an update and answer questions.
Here are times and locations:
- 10 a.m. – Key Peninsula Civic Center – 17010 S. Vaughn Rd., N.W., Vaughn
- 1 p.m. – Gig Harbor City Hall – 3510 Grandview St., Gig Harbor
- 4 p.m. – Kitsap County Commissioner's Office, 619 Division St., Port Orchard
Your input is important to me
Your input helps me to be most effective at representing the 26th Legislative District. I invite you to call, write or email me. I read all of the emails I receive from constituents. Plus, I maintain an open-door policy. So if you come to Olympia, be sure to drop by so we can visit. You'll find my contact information below. It is an honor to serve and represent you!