2020 Legislative Highlights
Education, Vice Chair
State Government and Tribal Relations Committee,
The following are a few legislative highlights for the first half of 2020 that I am proud to have sponsored or worked to help pass:
House Bill 1521: Providing for Accountability and Transparency in Government Contracting
One of the bills I am most proud to have sponsored is House Bill 1521: Protecting Taxpayers by Providing for Accountability and Transparency in Government Contracting. The
Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) and the Washington Public Employees Association (WPEA) had asked me to sponsor this bill four years ago, and in 2020 we finally succeeded in getting this landmark legislation to the Governor’s desk.
In 2008, during the Great Recession, the State of Washington balanced our budget on the backs of our state employees. Many of our state workers were fired, many were furloughed, and many were asked to work without pay because their jobs were mission critical. Following 2008, many state union jobs were contracted out, and since that time, our state employees have been inching their way back to a full work force.
Over the interim between the 2019 and the 2020 sessions, working with the Washington Building Trades, HB 1521 was carefully negotiated to make it clear that state employees are the stable workforce responsible for the daily operations of the state, while contracted union workers are brought in during emergency situations or for huge public works jobs over $500,000. State employees may also compete for contracts if they wish to do so.
Being part of writing, negotiating and passing this bill is one of my best memories of being your state representative. Friendships are formed built on trust and respect, and those last a lifetime.
House Bill 1888: Protecting Employee Information from Public Disclosure
I was not the sponsor of HB 1888, but the bill came through State Government and Tribal Relations so I worked alongside other members to get it passed. Our state employees work directly with the public, often in dangerous jobs. Their work on our behalf should not put them at risk in their private lives of identity theft harassment, stalking or physical danger. The state has a duty to ensure protection for all of our public servants. HB 1888 assures that sensitive, personal information, including addresses, birth dates and financial information will be protected from public disclosure requests.
I appreciate the many constituents in the 22nd Legislative District who made their voices heard during the legislative process on this critical bill. Your voices made all the difference in negotiating these important safeguards.
House Bill 1552: Health Care Provider Credentialing
HB 1552 was brought to me by Dr. Eddie Cates, a primary care physician in private practice in the 22nd LD, who also happens to be married to my seat mate, Rep Beth Doglio. Eddie explained that when his practice hires a new physician, although that physician arrives with her/his own medical licenses, it might take several months for that physician to be credentialed by health care providers so the practice is reimbursed for the patients s/he is seeing. Obviously, this extended timeline for reimbursement creates financial problems for both small private offices and large hospitals. HB 1552 was signed by the Governor just in time for COVID-19, creating surge capacity in the state’s health care workforce. The bill also helps ensure service providers can treat the people who need care. Under the law, treatment given during pending credential applications is reimbursed to health care businesses. HB 1552 also permits Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) to fill positions or cover absences with substitute health care providers.
House Bill 1216: School Safety and Student Well Being
(In 2020, through the budget process, the second position was added to our Regional School Safety Centers)
During the 2019 legislative session, HB 1216 became law (see below). HB 1216 proposed three school safety positions being funded in each of our nine Educational Service Districts under the umbrella of “Regional School Safety Centers,” geographically located throughout the state. The 2019 legislation only funded the threat assessment coordinator position.
During the 2020 legislative session, thanks to the lobbying efforts of our education community (OSPI, WSSDA, WASA, AWSP, WEA PTA, etc), the second requested position (mental health “navigator” who coordinates student mental health and suicide prevention) was funded in each of the nine ESDs. As students are returning to school after the COVID-19 crisis, these mental health services will be critical to their well being. These new coordinator positions in the ESDs will train teachers and counselors across the state. Tragically, we lose more students to suicide prevention than any other form of gun violence.
2019 Legislative Highlights
Education, Vice Chair
State Government, Elections & Information Technology, Vice chair
K-12 Education Funding
One of the main reasons that I came to the legislature was to fix the funding mechanisms for K-12 education that were damaged during the McCleary lawsuit fix. Washington became a state in 1889, and the “Paramount Duty “of the state to fund the basic education of our students was written into the state constitution. Forty years earlier, in 1849, citizens in the Oregon Territory (in what would become Washington), elected the first school board members to make educational decisions. For 130 years, the juxtaposition between state funding and local decision-making has been our legacy. During the McCleary fix, the legislature was so concerned about fully funding basic education (the prototypical model) that we locked down local levies way too tightly. The truth is, parents and community members expect far more from their public schools than just the “basics of the prototypical model.” They expect after-school activities, sports, music and even additional staffing beyond what the prototypical model provides. On the final day of the 2019 session, the legislature was able to pass a new levy bill. The new levy lid will allow local communities to determine what “enhancements” they want for their children. The state will pay for the prototypical basic education while individual districts will pay for the enhancements to basic education.
School Safety (HB 1216)
The education of our 1.1 million students is the paramount duty of the state, and within that responsibility, there is nothing more important than our children’s safety. Our children not only need to BE safe, but they need to FEEL safe. HB 1216 was written with this in mind. The research for this bill evolved out of the work done last summer by the Mass Shootings Task Force as well as our own House Education Committee, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a number of professional teacher, school director, school administrator, and parent organizations, plus our Educational Service Districts.
What we learned is that mass shootings, God forbid, are more likely to take place in white suburban communities than large cities. Knowing that any school safety bill would need to encompass our smallest towns as well as our largest districts, HB 1216 sets up school safety centers in each of our nine Educational Service Districts to focus on threat assessment (training to recognize when a student might be a danger to himself or others), and suicide prevention/mental health. We know that our safest schools are those with caring adults who regularly check in with their students. HB 1216 will give those caring adults a new set of skills, building the capacity to offer a whole new level of school safety for our students.
I appeared on "Inside Olympia" to discuss our school safety plan. Check it out here!
Salary History (HB 1696)
Women and people of color face steep challenges in negotiating pay. HB 1696 enacts the strongest-in-the-nation pay transparency protections. It prohibits an employer from seeking the wage or salary history of an applicant in most circumstances. It also requires an employer to provide the wage or salary range for the job title to a job applicant or employee both upon hire and annually, upon request. Washington will be the first state to extend this right to job applicants. Women in our state have regularly experienced pay discrimination based on salary history. Furthermore, women are regularly offered lower initial pay for the same jobs, even when education and experience are comparable. This results in lower lifetime pay, less family income, and more children and families in poverty.
Sexual Harassment Investigations (HB 2020)
Sexual harassment and assault are not crimes of passion, but rather crimes of power of one person over another. There is little as sacred as our own emotional and physical safety, control of our own bodies and personal choice. HB 2020 was brought to me by survivors of sexual assault from our own state agencies who know that as long as sexual harassment and assault can remain hidden, it will flourish. HB 2020 creates a process that protects all parties and their identities during an investigation. Prior to an investigation being made public, the victims and witnesses have the opportunity to choose to be identified in the report. If you have been harassed or assaulted, and made to feel powerless, there is probably no greater catharsis than the ability to tell your own story in your own voice.
AAG Salary Bargaining (HB 1299/SB 5297)
Senator Hunt and I were the prime sponsors of the bills to extend collective bargaining rights to our assistant attorneys general (AAGs). The state of Washington does a excellent job of hiring and training the best AAGs, but their salaries are so low that they too often leave for higher paying jobs in other state agencies and private practice. Over a recent two-year period, 18 % of our AAGs have left for higher paying jobs. Constantly training new AAGs is highly expensive. SB 5297 will extend CB rights to our AAGs with the goal of turning their work into a career instead of a training ground.
Hearing Aides (HB 1078/SB 5210)
Although it was SB 5210 that became the vehicle for this legislation, it began it’s life as HB 1078 when one of my constituents came to me with this important idea. This bill requires persons who dispense hearing instruments to notify potential purchasers of the uses, benefits, and limitations of the technology (such as telecoil-enabled and bluetooth devices). Buying hearing aides is an expensive purchase that is rarely covered by health insurance. This new legislation will make sure that purchasers remain happy with their hearing aides once they get them home.