Over two thousand bills have been dropped at last count leading up to the first major cut-off of session. Committee chairs must vote bills out by of their respective policy committees by today in order for the bills to move to the next stage of the law making process. The Code Reviser’s Office is humming with activity drafting amendments and substitute bills for committees’ consideration. Committee chairs have scheduled rare evening meetings to assure that they complete all of their business by week’s end.
With the close majorities in the House and Senate, there will be continuing work on issues important to women and families. Although there may not be agreement at this time, there appears to be bi-partisan interest in creating a paid family and medical leave program. This as well as the debate about how to both fund McCleary and create a first rate education system will survive this first cut-off. These close majorities also mean that extreme positions directed against women’s comprehensive healthcare and labor’s rights to organize and collectively bargain will die this session.
When House bills move to the Senate and vice versa, refinements and revisions will continue. The process is dynamic and requires a watchful eye from the public as well as those more closely linked to the activity in Olympia.
Washington State legislators and Governor are monitoring policy changes and shifts in “the other Washington” to anticipate impacts here. Legislators have convened hearings on bills that would protect Washingtonians from the repeal or detrimental changes to the ACA as well as protect Washingtonians from discriminatory inquiries from employers into their religious affiliation as well as their co-workers. Stay tuned, as new issues will continue to emerge and contribute to the debate.
How are ACOG priority bills faring?
A bill that would improve access to contraception, SB 5554, was heard Tuesday and it subsequently passed out of the Senate committee on Health Care on Thursday. SB 5554 would ensure that women are able to obtain 12 months of birth control at a time rather than having to go back month after month for refills. Research has shown that dispensing one-year’s supply of contraception at a time reduces the odds of experiencing an unintended pregnancy by 30%. A number of individuals including Dr. Lauren Owens expressed their unwavering support for this policy during public testimony. The House version of this bill, HB1234, passed out of its policy committee last week and is ready to be taken up by the House.
Unfortunately SB 5084 passed out of committee and is ready for a vote by the full Senate. The bill requires breast centers to send a letter to patients about their breast density on mammograms. It encourages patients to talk to their doctor about further screening. We sent an email alert to OBGYNs in Washington State asking them to contact their senators to vote “no” on the bill. If and when the bill passes the Senate, it will move to the House. Stay tuned for further developments.
Executive Action was taken on HB1796, a bill that aims to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees in the workplace. This bill was ”execed” out of the House Committee on Labor & Workplace Standards, with a majority due pass vote. This means that House Bill 1796 now moves to the House committee on Appropriations.
In the Senate a new bi-partisan bill, SB 5835, passed out of Commerce and Labor on Thursday afternoon without public hearing. This is the third pregnancy accommodation bill introduced in the senate this session. SB 5835 improves outcomes for moms and kids by ensuring they have a healthy start. The healthcare elements of the original bills are retained. This compromise bill improves the law for pregnant women who are experiencing a normal pregnancy, but we do have concerns with certain elements of the bill, especially the fact that a woman would have to work for an employer with 15 or more employees before being able to take advantage of the law.
Next week will be filled with fiscal committee hearings as well as lots of time on the floor. If you’d like to follow the action LIVE on TVW, just click on http://www.tvw.org and look at the column on the right for the day’s activities.
ACOG has testified six times already this session. Dr. Owens testified twice on the 12 months of contraception bills and Dr. Annie Iriye and Dr. Kate McLean each testified on the pregnancy accommodation bills. Dr. Lyndsey Benson testified against the parental notification bill and Dr. Kimelman testified against the breast density notification bill. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!