Update from Olympia

A list of 2019 Washington State bills.

Levi Gettleman, A&E Editor

The founding fathers built the United States upon a system of federalism, dependent on both the federal government and the state governments fulfilling certain duties and responsibilities. However, in the current world, it is easy to focus on the work being done on the federal level and lose track of the important work being done in our state legislature that affects us.

The Washington State Legislature meets annually starting in January. In even numbered years, the session is 60 days and in odd numbered years, it is 105 days with the added requirement of passing a state budget.

Washington is broken into 49 districts, with each district having one state senator and two representatives. Bothell is represented by Senator Guy Palumbo (D) and Representatives Derek Stanford (D) and Shelley Kloba (D).

This year, the state legislature has several important bills that have passed in the 2019 session that have an effect on the entire state of Washington.

One of the most significant bills for students is House Bill 2158, which takes measures to make post-secondary education significantly more affordable, including expanded a state grant program so it benefits all Washington Students.

Several bills have passed that are related to public health and wellness. Perhaps the most significant bill in this area is House Bill 1638, which is awaiting a signature from Governor Inslee. The bill requires specific testing or a medical statement of immunity for children to be allowed to claim the immunity exception to being vaccinated.

Likewise, the bill also eliminates the option for personal and religious exemptions to several vaccines preventing the most dangerous diseases, most notably measles, mumps, and rubella.

Several bills, including SB 5526, are focused on health-care coverage. SB 5526 is significant as it expands the state healthcare exchange program, Cascade Care, and works to establish three standardized insurance plans available to all Washingtonians.

Another major issue in our state legislature is the protection of the environment. Senate Bill 5116 has passed both the senate and the house and is focused on creating clean energy and proposes making Washington a 100% clean energy state by 2030, requiring the elimination of coal power.

The legislature has also spent time considering the affordable housing crisis, and HB 1406 requires the state to invest significantly more funds into affordable housing.

In considering our current national climate, HB 1732, which passed the senate and house is significant as it creates standards for what constitutes a hate crime and roles of police in preventing them.

HB 1949 is one of the most important bills of the session as it establishes a Washington background check system for gun sales, a response to the FBI’s discontinuation of NICS, the federal background check program. The bill has been signed into law.

The legislature has also been working to expand Democracy, with SB 5063 requiring the state to pay for all counties to have prepaid postage on Ballots. SB 5273, which has just become law, will move the presidential primary from May to March, in order to assure Washington has an influence on the party nominees.

The statewide budget has also been passed, which includes more funding for education, affordable housing, and natural resource care.  $3.9 billon have been appropriated for K-12 education, and an additional $34.8 million has been designated for the development of a state early childhood education program. Perhaps the most significant increase in the budget is the $280.5 million dedicated to redeveloping the state mental health system.

Senator Guy Palumbo explains one of the biggest takeaways for Bothell, saying “[Bothell] has taken growth from Seattle, yet hasn’t received the investment in  infrastructure– This was by far the best session [for these goals]”