Frustrated Senate Democrats on Friday urged their counterparts in the Majority Coalition to schedule a committee hearing on the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require every insurance policy in the state that covers maternity care to also cover abortions.
The legislation has been referred to the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee and Health Care Committee, but has yet to receive a public hearing.
Earlier this week, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville) said the two committee chairs – Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley) and Randi Becker (R-Eatonville) – have struggled to find time to give the bill a hearing.
Power shifted in the Senate on the first day of the 105-day session when two Democrats – Sens. Rodney Tom (D-Medina) and Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) – joined 23 Republicans to form a new majority coalition.
“We have two very busy chairmen with issues that probably have much broader support. I’m not a dictator over my chairmen unlike some previous leaders,” Schoesler said.
The controversial issue is not likely to get a hearing in the Senate until a companion bill is passed by the House. Speaking during a Senate floor session Friday morning, Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) confirmed the House version would get a hearing.
Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) sent a letter to Majority Leader Rodney Tom on Thursday, offering to hear the bill in the committee he chairs. Here’s that letter:
Dear Senator Tom,
I’m writing about SB 5798, my third bill on the topic of assuring parity in access to reproductive healthcare for Washingtonians.
I understand that this is a divisive issue within your caucus, and this has caused political strain among your members. In an effort to achieve your goal of bipartisanship and a woman’s right to choose, both of which I share, please allow me to help relieve one of the issues facing your caucus by referring the Reproductive Parity Act to my committee, Financial Institutions, Housing, and Insurance.
The RPA has already been referred to the Healthcare and Law and Justice Committees, and I believe Financial Institutions, Housing, and Insurance is a legitimate landing spot for RPA, where it will receive a fair and just hearing.
This committee routinely handles insurance issues which are regulated by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. The OIC regulates most forms of insurance in Washington and has most of their agency request bills come through FIHI.
In fact, this committee has heard bills in the last two years – SB 6181 (2012) and 5213 (2011) – both conforming current health care law to the federal Affordable Care Act.
44th Legislative District