Following the Feb. 6 legislative cutoff deadline for committee action on bills in their originating house, both chambers took up debate and voted on dozens of bills in floor sessions that lasted well into the night.
Lawmakers have until Wednesday, Feb. 14, to pass bills and move them to the opposite house for further consideration. Measures that don’t make it past this deadline, except budget-related bills, will likely be dead for this session.
Most bills passed this week cleared their respective chamber by unanimous or near-unanimous votes. Notable measures that passed by much narrower margins through at least one chamber and how our representatives voted on them follow.
District 10 legislators are Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor; Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island; and Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton. District 39 legislators are Sen. Keith Wagner, R-Sedro-Woolley; Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish; and Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan.
Senate Bill 6084: Requiring maintenance of minimum essential health care coverage. Passed the Senate on Feb. 7 by a vote of 25-3, one member excused. Senators Bailey and Wagner voted no.
The federal Affordable Care Act imposes an individual mandate for health insurance coverage that is enforced by an income tax penalty on uncovered persons. Beginning in January 2019, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law last December effectively eliminated the individual mandate by reducing to zero all penalties for failing to maintain minimum essential health care coverage.
This bill would impose a state individual mandate for health insurance coverage by requiring that all residents of the state must ensure that they and any dependents are covered under minimum essential health care coverage for each month.
Since Washington does not have a state income tax, the bill directs the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner to convene a task force to explore individual mandate enforcement mechanisms and report to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2018.
House Bill 1541: Providing for prescription drug cost transparency. Passed the House on Feb. 7 by a vote of 50-48. Representatives Hayes, Smith, Kristiansen and Eslick voted no.
This bill would require the Office of Financial Management to use a competitive procurement process to select a data organization to collect, verify and summarize prescription drug pricing data provided by issuers and drug manufacturers. “Prescription drugs” include generic, brand name and specialty drugs, as well as biological products.
The data organization would have to provide an annual report that identifies overall spending on prescription drugs; identifies the 25 most frequently prescribed and costliest prescription drugs, and provides summary data that demonstrates the impact of prescription drug costs, as compared to other health care costs, on health insurance premiums.
Senate Bill 6037: Concerning the uniform parentage act. Passed the Senate on Feb. 7 by a vote of 27-21, one member excused. Senators Bailey and Wagner voted no.
Washington’s Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) provides for how a legal parent-child relationship may be established or challenged, and how a determination of parentage may be used by courts in other proceedings including child support. It also regulates surrogacy and provides that surrogacy parenting agreements may not include compensation.
This bill would revise a number of provisions in the UPA, key among which are changes to surrogacy agreements. It would allow a surrogacy agreement to provide for payment of consideration and reasonable expenses and may include reimbursement for specific expenses if the agreement is terminated.
A woman acting as a surrogate would have to be 21 years of age, have previously given birth to one child, and have independent legal representation throughout the surrogacy arrangement.
Surrogacy agreements would have to include information disclosing how intended parents will cover expenses of the surrogate and child including health care provisions and must permit the surrogate to make all health and welfare decisions regarding the surrogate’s pregnancy. The right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy would not be diminished by this act.
House Bill 1298: Prohibiting employers from asking about arrests or convictions before an applicant is determined otherwise qualified for a position. Passed the House on Feb. 7 by a vote of 52-46. Representatives Hayes, Smith, Kristiansen and Eslick voted no.
This bill would prohibit an employer from including any question on an application or inquiring into an applicant’s criminal background until after the employer initially determines that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position.
It would also prohibit advertising job openings in a way that excludes people with criminal records and any policy or practice that automatically or categorically excludes individuals with a criminal record from consideration.
Prohibited practices would include rejecting an applicant for failure to disclose a criminal record prior to initially determining the applicant is otherwise qualified.
Senate Bill 5288: Authorizing certain public transportation benefit areas to impose a sales and use tax increase approved by voters. Passed the Senate on Feb. 7 by a vote of 34-14, one member excused. Sen. Bailey voted yes and Sen. Wagner voted no.
A Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA) is a special-purpose district authorized to provide public transportation service within all or a portion of a county or counties. The PTBA is the most common type of district providing public transportation service in the state, with 21 in existence. A PTBA may collect fares for service and, with approval of the majority of the voters within the area, impose a sales and use tax within the area.
Currently all but one PTBA may impose sales and use tax up to a 0.9 percent. One PTBA operating in Snohomish County meets the population threshold required to implement an additional 0.3 percent, for a total of 1.2 percent voter-approved sales and use tax. The bill would revise the requirements for allowing an additional 0.3 percent sales and use tax with voter approval.
The PTBA operating in Thurston County would meet the new requirement of being a PTBA in a county with a population of more than 250,000, but less than 400,000, and also containing two or more cities with a population of over 40,000.
Senate Bill 6086: Protecting the state’s marine waters from the release of nonnative finfish from marine finfish aquaculture sites. Passed the Senate on Feb. 8 by a vote of 35-12, two members excused. Sen. Bailey voted yes; Sen. Wagner voted no.
This bill would phase out Atlantic salmon net-pen farming by prohibiting the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from entering into a new lease or other aquatic lands use authorization that involves marine finfish aquaculture of Atlantic salmon. Additionally, DNR would not be allowed to renew or extend an existing lease or use authorization that involves those same activities.
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