Archive for Public Policy

House passes ban on aversion therapy on minors; bill heads back to Senate

By | April 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

A Senate bill that bans aversion therapy for minors passed the House on Thursday, but will head back to the Senate after it was amended to include talk conversion therapy in the ban.

Aversion therapy includes methods such as electric shock and ice baths to dissuade people from targeted behaviors. Opponents of that type of therapy say it has been used to try to convert gay people to straight.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, told members she hears from gay people, both young and old, who continue struggle from the effects of aversion therapy and talk conversion therapy used in efforts to change their sexual orientations.

“It has long-lasting, lifetime negative effects. Here’s one effect it doesn’t have: It doesn’t convert anybody. It doesn’t work,” she said.

The bill as passed in the Senate focused on the aversion methods. The revised version passed by the House also bans counselors from using talk therapy to try to change someone’s sexual orientation.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, says the revised version has constitutional implications and changes his vote.

“We had a very good agreement on addressing the bad things — the shock therapy and ice baths. We all agree those are bad and the underlying bill would have addressed that very clearly,” he said.

However, he says the amended version of the bill interferes with the counselor-patient relationship. “We don’t need the state getting involved directly in that,” he said.

The bill passed with a vote of 60 to 37, and heads back to the Senate with the amendments.

‘Legislative YouTube’ bills would allow video testimony

By | January 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

Washington residents would have the option to weigh-in on what’s happening in Olympia through video, under joint bills being considered in the state House and Senate.

Senate Bill 5267 would allow people in this state to upload video from their smartphones or laptops and send it to lawmakers, who can review statements while considering bills. The state’s public affairs network TVW is being considered as a portal for resident to submit videos to lawmakers.

The so-called “Legislative YouTube” bill would make the legislative process more accessible for people who are unable to negotiate long distances, or have other barriers to physical testimony, prime sponsor Sen. Cyrus Habib told a Senate committee on Monday. “It’s incredibly difficult for nearly all Washingtonians to come before this body and have their perspectives heard,” Habib said.

Committees have accepted video testimony in the past, but only under certain circumstances.

“In the age of YouTube and selfies, you should be able to record your own video, at any time and place convenient for you, and get that video in front of your legislators as testimony on an issue or bill, just like the lobbyists can testify before committee every day,” the Kirkland Democrat wrote in a statement.

Habib told The Stranger the bill was inspired by a segment on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

No one testified in opposition to the bill during Monday’s hearing. Companion House Bill 1388, sponsored by Spokane Democrat Rep. Marcus Riccelli, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Categories: Public Policy

Hundreds of bills passed by Legislature set to take effect this week

By | June 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

More than 200 bills passed by the Washington State Legislature this year are set to go into effect on Thursday, including new laws dealing with tanning beds, religious holidays and the number of credits required for high school students to graduate.

Here is the full list of bills that passed and the date they take effect. Among those taking effect on June 12:

Religious holidays: State employees will be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons, and public school children will be excused for two days under Senate Bill 5173.

Military in-state tuition: Veterans and active duty military members will qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency. Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families.

Homeless fees: A $40 document recording fee that people pay during real estate transactions, such as buying or refinancing a house, is extended until 2019. The fee supports homeless shelters, affordable housing and other homeless programs.

24 credit diploma: Starting with the class of 2019, high school students will have to earn 24 credits for a diploma. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum. The bill also provides more opportunities for students to take career and technical classes that meet graduation requirements.

Tanning beds ban: Teenagers under the age of 18 will no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington. Senate Bill 6065 bans minors from using tanning beds, unless they have a written prescription for UV radiation treatment from a doctor. Tanning salons will be fined $250 for violations.

Domestic violence: Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders will be barred from owning guns. The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement.

Many of the other bills passed by the Legislature this year take effect July 1, including a bill that bans minors from purchasing cough syrup that contains dextromethorphan.

Also beginning July 1, all adoptees over the age of 18 will have access to their original birth certificates unless a birth parent files a form declining to release the information. More information about the law and forms are available at the Dept. of Health website here.

Categories: Public Policy, TVW

Review of children’s toys in Washington finds some toxic chemical violations

By | April 22, 2014 | 0 Comments

More than 20 children’s toys and products sold in Washington state violate the state’s limits on toxic chemicals, including baby sandals sold at Gap and Old Navy, a Minnie Mouse purse at Toys R Us and “funny teeth” at Fred Meyer.

The state Dept. of Ecology purchased 226 children’s toys and products from 10 retail stores in Washington state and two online retailers in the spring of 2013.

A review of the products found 15 violations of phthalates, a chemical platicizer often used to increase flexibility in plastic products. The review also found seven violations of lead or cadmium, and two toxic metal violations in the packaging that came with children’s products.

The Ecology department noted in a press release that the majority of manufacturers are in compliance. The agency notified the companies with potential violations, and said it is working with state and federal agencies on the issue.

The review focused mostly on big box retailers because the items sold in the stores are likely to be found throughout the state.

Among the toys that exceeded toxic chemical limits were a Spiderman swimming mask and flippers at Big Lots, baby sandals at Gap and Old Navy, bendable zoo animals and alien putty at Amazon, bath toys at Wal-Mart, pencil cases at Toys R Us, a bath book at Target, princess makeup at Claire’s and gem pendants at the Dollar Tree.

Click to download the list of children’s toys and retailers here. The agency completed five reports related to the testing of the products, all of which are available here.

The tests were done to measure compliance with the state’s Children’s Safe Product Act, which limits the amount of lead, cadmium and phthalates allowed in children’s products sold in Washington after July 1, 2009. The law also requires the Dept. of Ecology and Dept. of Health to develop a list of chemicals of “high concern” to children.

The full report was released in April and is available here.

A segment about the toxic toys will air on “The Impact” on Wednesday, April 23 at 7 & 10 p.m.

Categories: Public Policy

Should all private workers in Washington have access to a state retirement plan?

By | April 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

Retirement experts agree: Getting people to voluntarily save money for retirement doesn’t work.

Public campaigns to convince people to open an Individual Retirement Account or voluntarily contribute to a 401(k) have proven unsuccessful, experts say. In Washington state, only 51 percent of workers between the ages of 55-64 participate in a retirement plan at work.

“We’ve studied this for 100 years and the only way that people save for retirement is if they do it automatically from their paycheck,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, a New York-based think tank.

“The job is where is the money is,” she said. “The paycheck is where the discipline is.”

Several Democratic state lawmakers held a work session Tuesday to consider ways to make sure that Washington workers have enough money to retire. One in four Washington residents between the ages of 45-64 years old has $25,000 or less in savings for retirement.

“What’s happening to our citizens is not right,” said Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma. “To have so many on the edge of poverty in the years when they should be enjoying their lives.”

Experts discussed ongoing efforts in other states, including California and Oregon, to study the creation of a state retirement plan that would be available to all private sector workers. California is considering a plan that would give private workers an individual account with CalPERS, the state’s pension fund for public employees.

Employees could contribute between 3 to 10 percent of their paychecks into the state retirement account and use the money to supplement social security when they retire. The plan infrastructure would look similar to the state’s health insurance exchange, said Ghilarducci, who was one of several experts who addressed the panel and worked on California’s plan.

Ingrid McDonald of AARP Washington said other states have faced three types of opposition in trying to pass this type of legislation.

First, the plans are complex and lawmakers want to avoid creating a new liability for the state. Second, the plans face opposition from the financial services industry because they don’t want a public-private partnership to “take over their turf,” she said.

Lastly, the plans get “pushback” from the small business community. Small business owners don’t want additional burdens or to be forced to make a contribution match to retirement accounts, McDonald said.

This year, the Washington state House voted to pass House Bill 2474, which would have allowed private workers to contribute money to plan administered by the state’s retirement system.

The bill passed 54-43 largely along party lines, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed. The bill did not get a committee hearing in the Senate, which is controlled by the Majority Coalition Caucus.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, told TVW this week that Republicans support moving more workers into defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s. He proposed Senate Bill 6305 this year, which would have transitioned elected officials away from pensions into defined contribution plans.

“A lot of this is fear of change,” Braun said. “People think about their retirement they want security, the want safety, they want something they know. In many cases, especially in the public sector, a defined contribution plan is an unknown. For that reason alone it is worthwhile for elected officials to lead the way and take some of the fear out of it.”

Republican lawmakers also introduced a bill this session, Senate Bill 5851, that would have created a defined contribution plan option for public employees, such as teachers and law enforcement officials. The bill passed 25-22 out of the Senate, but did not get a hearing in the Democratically-controlled House.

TVW taped the Democratic-sponsored work session and it will be archived at this link. Watch interviews with Senators Braun and Conway for a segment on the retirement issue on The Impact this week:

Categories: Public Policy, WA Senate
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State officials warn against mudslide scams

By | March 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

State officials are warning people to avoid scams spurred by the Oso mudslide in Snohomish County that has left 16 dead and dozens more unaccounted for.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman released a joint statement this week urging people to look out for scam artists who may be soliciting donations for the disaster. They instead recommend donating through give.org, a website run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Washington state’s Combined Fund Drive has also launched a campaign to help mudslide victims. The program allows state public employees to donate to charity through payroll contribution and agency fundraising events. The website can be found here.

Categories: Public Policy

Legislative Year in Review

By | March 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

On this special one-hour edition of “Legislative Year in Review,” we recap the highlights from the 2014 session — from opening day to Sine Die. The show includes debate over issues such as the Dream Act, minimum wage, gun control, abortion insurance bill, death penalty, mental health, teacher evaluations, taxing e-cigarettes and the supplemental budget. Plus, a quick wrap-up of several of the bills that passed this year. Watch the show below:

2014 Roundup: What bills passed, what didn’t pass during session

By | March 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature adjourned shortly before midnight on Thursday, the final day of the regular 2014 session. It’s the first time since 2009 that lawmakers finished their work without going into an overtime special session.

Here’s an overview of what lawmakers accomplished — and didn’t accomplish — during the session.

PASSED:

Supplemental budget: Both chambers agreed on a supplemental operating budget that spends about $155 million, including $58 for K-12 books and supplies. It also adds additional money to the mental health system, early learning and prisons. It does not include any new taxes or tax breaks, nor does it include teacher pay raises.

Dream Act/Real Hope Act: The Dream Act allows undocumented immigrants to apply for state need grants to help pay for college. The House passed its version of the Dream Act on opening day. The Senate renamed it the Real Hope Act and added $5 million to the state need grant. It was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee in February.

Homeless fees: As part of a last-minute deal, lawmakers agreed to extend until 2019 a $40 document recording fee that people pay during real estate transaction, such as buying or refinancing a house. The fee supports homeless shelters, affordable housing and other services and was scheduled to sunset unless the Legislature took action.

24 credit diploma: Starting with the class of 2019, high school students will have to earn 24 credits for a diploma. The current minimum is 20 credits, although some school districts require more than the minimum. The bill will also provide more opportunities for students to take career and technical classes that meet graduation requirements.

Tanning beds ban: Teenagers under the age of 18 would no longer be allowed to use tanning beds in Washington. Senate Bill 6065 bans minors from using tanning beds, unless they have a written prescription for UV radiation treatment from a doctor. Tanning salons would be fined $250 for violations.

Domestic violence: Washington residents under domestic violence restraining orders will soon be barred from owning guns. The bill says that someone who is under a protection, no-contact, or restraining order related to domestic violence must surrender his or her guns to law enforcement.

Drones: The Legislature approved a bill that puts limits government agencies that use drones, or remote-controlled monitoring devices, for surveillance. An agency may only use a drone after getting a warrant or under several exceptions, such as a fire or other emergency.

Religious holidays: State employees will be allowed to take two unpaid days off a year for religious reasons, and public school children will be excused for two days under a bill approved by the Legislature.

Military in-state tuition: Veterans and active duty military members will soon qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency. Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families.

Short-barreled rifles: Washington gun owners will soon be allowed to own a short-barreled rifle under a bill approved by the Legislature. It is currently a felony to own a gun with a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, or to have a modified gun that is shorter than 26 inches overall. (more…)

Fees that support homeless programs extended through 2019

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

A document fee that raises money for homeless programs will be extended through 2019, under a bill passed by the Legislature on Thursday night.

The bill passed out of the Senate, 41-8, and was immediately transferred to the House, where it passed 74-22.

“This bill will save lives,” said Rep. David Sawyer, D-Tacoma.

Programs that operate homeless shelters, low-income housing and other homeless services depend on money raised through a $40 document recording fee collected during certain real estate transactions, such as a buying or refinancing a house. The fee is set to decrease starting next year.

Senate Bill 5875, which would have extended the fee for one year, was amended by Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, to extend the fee through June 2019. It also creates a work group to look at the effectiveness of the program, and plan for homeless funding in the future. In addition, the bill sets aside 45 percent of the money raised through the fee for private rental housing.

The bill calls for a performance audit in 2016 and a task force starting in 2017.

“I made a commitment to make it work to help homeless people,” Angel said, who said that she was nearly homeless at one point in her life. “I know what that feeling is like. I’ve been very committed to coming up with a good solution.”

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, spoke in support of the amendment.

“I wish there was not a sunset or the sunset was pushed out further,” he said. “We are saving thousands and thousands of people from losing their homes.”

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said he supported the bill.

“I personally preferred removing the sunset, frankly. But there are others who are not. And I have responsibilities for that team,” he said.

“We have four years to work on it,” Benton said. “We’re going to make sure it’s going to go where we all want it to go to. And that’s to help folks who are homeless and not toward administrative costs toward some agency somewhere.”

More than 20 people testified at a public hearing on the bill this month, including homeless advocates who say many programs rely on the fees to provide services across the state.

Categories: Public Policy
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Military tuition bill approved by Legislature

By | March 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Veterans and active duty military members will soon qualify for in-state tuition at Washington colleges and universities without having to first establish residency.

Senate Bill 5318 waives the one-year waiting period for veterans, military members and their families. It passed out of the House unanimously in the final hours of the regular 2014 legislative session. It previously passed unanimously out of the Senate, and now heads to the governor for his signature.

“This legislation is a tiny token of appreciation to our veterans and their families,” said Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo.

The bill was one of two pieces of legislation that leaders exempted from last week’s policy deadline, allowing the bills to be considered up until Thursday.

Categories: Public Policy