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Legislative Week In Review

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Saturday, Feb. 12th

The House of Representatives held a debate on House Bill 1684, concerning the fluoridation of drinking water.

  • The bill would require unfluoridated drinking water systems, serving a population of 5,000 or more, to undertake a cost and implementation analysis for fluoridation.
  • It would also require the Board of Health to facilitate the implementation of water fluoridation, and require that the Office of Drinking Water create a program using engineering analysis to implement or upgrade fluoridation in water systems.
  • Democratic Representative Gerry Pollet said the bill provides tools to understand the benefits of fluoridation, including cost and dental benefits.
  • For certain water systems that are poised to discontinue fluoridation, the bill requires that they pass certain requirements to do so.
  • Should the bill be enacted, the Department of Health will be required to conduct an oral health equity assessment.
  • Republican Representative Paul Harris, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill does not require anyone to have fluoride in their water, but sets the plans and protocol for systems who choose to put fluoride in their water—which will ultimately come down to individual community votes.
  • Republican Representative Cyndy Jacobsen, opposed the bill, saying the government should not be involved in fluoridation decisions, and should leave it up to local entities to decide..
  • Republican Representative Vicki Kraft also expressed opposition to the bill, with concerns over claims that say fluoride is a neurotoxin that could cause health hazards
  • The bill passed with 69 votes in support, and 29 votes in opposition; and will be passed on to the Senate for further action.

The House of Representatives also held a debate on House Bill 1770, which aims to modify the minimum State Energy Code required for new buildings. 

  • The State Energy Cody lies under the State Building Code, which sets the minimum construction requirements for buildings. This sets the required energy efficiency spectrum for residential buildings, and the minimum level of energy efficiency for non-residential buildings.
  • The bill is part of a goal to make new buildings net-zero ready, and for the Washington State Building Code Council to adopt a code that would have new buildings move towards a 70% reduction of energy use by 2031. This would affect buildings constructed in the past 9 years, and those to be built in the next 9 years, in order to meet a certain level of energy efficiency, while also promoting the incremental construction of energy-efficient structures. 
  • The bill aims to meet the broader goal of reducing the number of greenhouse gas emitting homes by 2031.
  • In her testimony, prime sponsor Democratic Representative Davina Duerr said the bill aims to make buildings ready for solar power by 2035.
  • Republican Representative Jacquelin Maycumber opposed the bill, saying it will drive housing costs up.
  • Democratic Representative Alex Ramel testified to support the bill, saying it is an important climate policy and will have other benefits in the long run that are worth the cost.
  • Republican Representative Joel McEntire questioned the feasibility of the bill, and says the under this bill, the state would be unable to maintain low building costs in order to make necessary affordable housing.
  • The bill passed with 51 supporting votes, and 47 opposing votes, and is headed to the Senate for deliberation.

The House of Representatives went on to discuss House Bill 1571, nicknamed the “Bring Them Home” Act, which aims to provide protections and services concerning indigenous persons who may have been missing, murdered, or are victims of human trafficking.

  • The bill aims to ensure that tribal or family members of a deceased indigenous person are given the opportunity to receive the person’s remains and conduct spiritual ceremonies or practices.
  • The bill creates two grant programs under the Department of Commerce that would help indigenous survivors of human trafficking.
  • Republican Representative Gina Mosbrucker sponsored the bill, saying it would give tribes the ability to pray over bodies once the investigation is done. She also added that the grants will support survivors of human trafficking who might need wraparound services to be able to heal.
  • Democratic Representative Roger Goodman also spoke in support of House Bill 1571, saying it is another step forward to honor the families and the spiritual needs of victims.
  • The bill passed unanimously, and is up for Senate consideration.

Tuesday, Feb. 15th

The House of Representatives held a floor debate on House Bill 1837, concerning workers’ protections on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from injuries sustained in the workplace.

  • The bill aims to restore the state’s ability to address work-related MSDs by repealing the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) current restrictions on these injuries.
  • MSD’s affect muscles, nerves, joints, spinal discs, etc., and can be caused by heavy lifting, repetitive motion, or slips, trips, and falls.
  • According to the CDC, MSDs come at a high cost to employers, and can cause an increase in healthcare, disability, and workers’ compensation.
  • Democratic Representative Dan Bronoske says workers need more protection, and that MSDs are largely caused by repetitive motion in carrying out tasks. He cited statistics that span a decade showing an approximate $400 million annual payout from employers to address workers’ MSD-related injuries.
  • Republican Larry Hoff opposed the bill, saying it repeals Initiative 841—which was previously voted on by the people in 2003—and that L&I already does a sufficient job in addressing workers’ compensation.
  • Democratic Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self disagreed with this statement, saying protection for some does not equate to equal protection for all, and that there is a lack that isn’t filled by the current L&I requirements to address workplace MSD injuries.
  • Republican Representative Jacquelin Maycumber spoke in opposition, saying it will be costly for small businesses, especially those recovering from the economic impact of COVID, and that they will not be able afford the high costs the bill might cause them.
  • Democratic Representative Mike Sells argued that it will save businesses money in the long-term.
  • The bill passed on a party-line vote and was referred to the Senate Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs Committee for deliberation.

The Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee held a public hearing on House Bill 1074, which aims to help address overdose and suicide fatalities.

  • The bill proposes to allow local health departments to form fatality review teams tasked to develop strategies in preventing overdose and suicide deaths.
  • Under the bill, review teams may be able to request data from health care facilities, government agencies, schools, labs, and law enforcement, while maintaining confidentiality.
  • The Washington State Public Health Association testified in favor of the bill, saying it will lift death investigation barriers that make data gathering difficult.
  • Correctional Health Care Consultant Marc Stern shared the current resource crisis public health workers are facing, saying that deceased individuals are forced to be last on a list of priority, due to lack of funding.
  • The Washington State Association of Public Health officials explained why passing the bill is critical, and talked about the difficulty that multiple jurisdictions have faced while having restrictions on privacy that prevent necessary collaboration. 
  • No one testified to oppose the bill.

The Senate Behavioral Health Subcommittee also held a public hearing on House Bill 1761, which allows emergency room (ER) nurses to administer medication that would reverse an opioid overdose.

  • The bill would allow for pre-packaged emergency medications—including opioid overdose reversal such as Narcan, Naloxone, and Evzio—to be distributed to at-risk patients on discharge, when hospital pharmacy services might not be available for certain time frames.
  • Supporters of the bill said it would help those admitted to the ER with symptoms of opioid use, an opioid use disorder, an adverse event caused by opioids, or an opioid overdose.
  • The Washington State Hospital Association supported the bill, saying it makes for a more effective system in allowing nurses to continue their work in discharging patients.
  • The Nursing Commission also testified in favor of the bill, urging the importance of these medications to be able to get into the hands of those who need it.
  • No opposition was heard.

The Washington State Senate held a debate on Senate Bill 5974, which concerns revenue sources for the transportation package, “Move Ahead Washington.”

  • The bill is a 16-year transportation package with a $16.8 billion dollar price tag in investments for statewide transportation projects.
  • Funding priorities include active transportation, (such as bike and pedestrian projects), ferries, transit, culvert removals, and high-speed rail.
  • The package would also support new and existing projects, such as the I-5 Columbia River Bridge Project and the I-405 Corridor construction project.
  • The “historic funding” will also make public transportation free for individuals 18 and under.
  • During final passage, Republican Senator Curtis King criticized the bill as having no Republican input, while Democratic Senator Rebecca Saldaña said the package addresses both Republican and Democratic interests across the state.
  • Republican Senator Simon Sefzik opposed the bill, saying its gas tax implementation violates the U.S. Constitution and will affect consumers negatively.
  • Democratic Senator Emily Randall testified to support the bill, saying it willl “correct historic wrongs.”
  • The bill passed with 29 votes in favor, and 20 opposed, and is headed to the House of Representatives for further action.

Wednesday, Feb. 16th

The Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 1619, concerning the energy-efficiency of appliances.

  • The bill would set energy efficiency standards for air purifiers, commercial ovens, and electric vehicle power supply, while also removing state efficiency standards for uninterruptible power supplies and pool pumps.
  • The bill would modify standards to ensure that commercial hot food holding equipment and residential ventilating fans meet the criteria for the Energy Star program, and subjects portable electric spas to testing and other specific regulations.
  • The Department of Commerce spoke in support of the bill, saying it promotes clean energy, protects consumers and businesses, and will help low-income families save money. 
  • The Appliance Standards Awareness Project also spoke in favor of the bill, saying it will save costs.
  • The Washington Food Industry Association opposed the bill, saying it would make the supply chain delay worse, and with bans in local areas on natural gas linkage, this will limit the number of products available to be used.
  • The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers also testified in opposition, saying the standards in the bill are too strict.

The Senate Housing and Local Government Committee convened for a public hearing on House Bill 1117, concerning salmon recovery.

  • The bill aims to promote Salmon Recovery by adding it to the goals of the Growth Management Act (GMA).
  • Under the bill, the GMA must support salmon and steelhead populations by achieving a ‘net ecological gain’. This is to meet the state’s treaty obligations, support commercial and recreational fisheries, and recover endangered salmon and steelhead runs under the Federal Endangered Species Act.
  • The bill would also require the GMA to include a schedule for eliminating culverts.
  • Democratic Representative Debra Lekanoff sponsored the bill, saying that salmon habitat is declining, and increasing habitat, which she said the bill aims to achieve, is key to successful salmon recovery.
  • The bill received support from Puget Sound Partnership, who is invested in the next decade of cities’ development to include consideration for our salmon population.
  • The Washington State Dairy Federation opposed the bill, saying it is too broad and that it would threaten conservation programs.
  • The Building Industry Association of Washington also opposed the bill, saying it’s ‘net ecological gain’ requirement will drive up the cost of private housing.
  • In a counterargument, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife said that under the bill, “net ecological gain” only applies to public lands, and the collective cost to save salmon population will be worth it.

The House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 5078, which aims to ban the making, sale, and distribution of high-capacity magazines that can hold ten rounds of ammunition or more. The bill does not ban the possession of these weapons.

  • The bill comes to the House after passing on a party line vote in the Senate last week.
  • Sponsored by Senator Marko Liias, and at the request of the Attorney General Bob Ferguson, the bill follows data claiming that states with high-capacity magazine restrictions tend to have lower gun violence rates.
  • Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold said the bill will help prevent school shootings, and will save lives during mass casualty shootings.
  • The National Rifle Association argued that the bill is unconstitutional, and claimed that there is no conclusive evidence to prove that high-capacity magazines are related to mass shootings.
  • Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich testified to oppose the bill, and cited California’s similar law, which he said, has been found unconstitutional by two courts in California, and that the law is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. He also claimed that the majority of high-capacity rounds used in school shootings come from shotguns.
  • Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell spoke to support the bill, referencing the 2016 Mukilteo shooting which involved an AR-15 high-capacity magazine. He said high-capacity magazines will continue to cause horror and pain for those affected by gun violence in our country and communities.

Thursday, Feb. 17th

The House Finance Committee met for a public hearing to discuss House Bill 1918, which aims to reduce emissions from outdoor power equipment such as those used in landscaping, like lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and wood chippers.

  • The bill’s goals are focused on reducing the use of fossil fuels and moving towards zero-emission technology.
  • Under the bill, zero-emission outdoor power equipment will be exempt from state and local taxes for the next ten years.
  • By 2025, the bill will also prohibit state agencies and local governments from buying gas-powered outdoor equipment except in emergency response situations.
  • Democratic Representative Nicole Macri, the bill’s sponsor, said it’s government agency requirement takes on a lead-by-example approach.
  • The bill received support from non-profit group, Climate Solutions, who said it would also benefit public health and meet the state’s statutory climate goals.
  • The Benton County Mosquito Control District asked the committee to exempt pest control from the proposed policy.
  • The Washington State Association of County Engineers also shared their concerns about the bill, saying that the power equipment needed to in maintaining county parks and lands are non-zero-emission.

The House Health Care and Wellness Committee held a discussion on Senate Bill 5546, which aims to cap the cost of a 30-day supply of insulin at $35 dollars opposed to its current $100 cap.

  • The potential policy would apply to health care plans, including those that cover state employees and dependents. If passed, the bill will take effect in 2023.
  • Senator Karen Keiser sponsored the bill, and said it was a result of a bipartisan effort, and that it is a collaboration by both parties to support those who have diabetes and depend on insulin to survive.
  • Healthcare For All Washington testified in favor of the bill, claiming that health insurers buy insulin for less than $30, and charging a $100 co-pay to consumers is unacceptable.
  • The Association of Washington Healthcare Plans expressed their concern about the bill, believing it will raise insurance premiums.

The Senate Ways & Means Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 5651, which concerns the Senate-proposed supplemental capital construction budget.

  • The bipartisan proposal would invest almost $1 billion in state infrastructure, which would include $115 million landmark investment in seismic safety.
  • This bill prioritizes the seismic retrofitting of school buildings in preparation for earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • Another $472 million would be invested in affordable housing, including $376 million for rapid housing and crisis stabilization services.
  • The proposed budget also allocates $327 million to address environmental health issues, such as water quality, recreation, and conservation of natural resources, homelessness, local community projects, and expanding broadband access, which the budget allots $120 million dollars to.
  • According to Seattle Senator David Frockt, Committee Vice-Chair, the proposed budget invests in the most pressing issues of the state, such as behavioral health, preservation 
  • Republican Senator Mark Schoesler offered his support for the bill, saying it allows for projects to be completed, despite the projected spike of material costs from inflation.
  • Speaking in support, Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin testified to thank the committee for investing in the Darrington Wood Innovation Center, a mass-timber facility designed to create jobs and support the construction of affordable housing.
  • Spokane City Councilmember Michael Cathcart testified to request funding for the Northeast Spokane Behavioral Health Clinic, saying behavioral health access for low-income communities and children is an important budget priority.
  • The Upper Columbia United Tribes shared their concerns about the bill, saying it needs to include efforts to recover salmon.

Friday, Feb. 18th

The Senate Health and Long-term Care Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 1852, which concerns prescription drug labels.

  • The bill comes from the House of Representatives, where it passed last week with a 64-32 vote.
  • The bill would require the Pharmacy Commission to provide medical translations for prescription drugs in at least 15 languages, spoken by at least 5% of the state population, or 1,000 people with limited English proficiency. 
  • The bill would require that the commission adopt principles of equity, and consult with agencies in considering the percentage of the population that speaks a certain language that population’s access to healthcare.
  • Translated drug label information will include directions for use, warnings or side-effects of the drug, and any other information that would otherwise appear on a container.
  • The proposed policy only applies to outpatient prescriptions for home-use medication, not pre-packaged emergency-use drugs.
  • Democrating Representative My-Linh Thai sponsored the bill, saying this will change the current system, and that the bill only reflects an end goal; and doesn’t yet require pharmacies to adopt certain rules, but rather, urges the Pharmacy Commission to start the rulemaking process with their public engagement and research.
  • No one testified to oppose the bill.
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