Dear friends and neighbors,
We are hard at work this legislation session and have just 24 days left to go. Scroll down for the highlights!
#1: The Senate unveiled its comprehensive $69.2 billion budget proposal for the next biennium. The investments in this budget are reflective of our values and priorities of building healthier communities, ensuring everyone has a home, leading the world on combatting climate change, finding pathways so every child is successful, and lastly, providing safety for all. Our budget includes historic investments:
#2: We are fast approaching a critical deadline: fiscal cutoff. April 4 is the last day for bills to receive a final fiscal hearing and become eligible for a floor vote. Opposite house cutoff follows on April 14; this is the last day for each chamber to consider opposite house bills, except for those that are necessary to implement budgets. The Senate will spend much of the next four weeks on the floor voting on bills.
Here is where a number of my prime sponsored priority bills stand right now:
- SB 5121 was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee. It renews the tenure of the Joint Select Committee on Health Care Oversight, allowing this committee to continue monitoring several health care agencies to ensure they are working together to improve health care quality and affordability.,
- SB 5122 was also signed by the governor. It extends the ambulance transport quality assurance fee program to ensure communities in our state can retain these critical services.
- SB 5242 is scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Appropriations. It eliminates cost-sharing for abortion services, ensuring equity and fairness by further relieving barriers to access care.
- SB 5336 is scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Finance. This will allow Vancouver to continue qualifying for the Washington State Main Street Program by clarifying population criteria for participation.
- SB 5338 has passed the House, but they added some amendments, so it is headed back to the Senate for final review. This bill directs a review of Washington’s current essential health benefits that are mandated to be covered by your health insurance plan, so we can consider any possible changes that may be needed before the 2024 federal deadline.
- SB 5454 has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee. It seeks to help nurses affected by the repeated trauma of caring for patients by improving their workers’ compensation benefits.
- SB 5538 is in the House Rules Committee. It removes the penalty of reduced benefits for retired nurses looking to return to patient care. This will help encourage and allow retired nurses wishing to help out in the face of the severe nursing workforce shortage to return to work without having their retirement reduced.
#3: Last week, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled the capital gains excise tax is legal. Here in Washington, we have one of the most upside-down tax systems, so this tax ensures the wealthiest few pay what they owe. Currently, low-income families pay nearly 18% of their household income in taxes, while the state’s highest-income households pay 3% or less. The work that we have already done on tax reform is part of the reason why we were able to present a no-new-taxes budget this year. Money from from the capital gains excise tax will go toward investments that Washington families count on in childcare and early learning.
#4: I want to extend my gratitude to all who participated in our most recent 49th Legislative District town hall. Rep. Monica Stonier, Rep. Sharon Wylie and I discussed everything from health care to housing, and firearm safety to law enforcement training. Here are some of the questions you asked:
- What is being done to make housing more affordable?
- What is the status on the Southwest Washington Law Enforcement Training Center?
- Is anything being done to ban AR-15 rifles?
You can listen to the town hall and hear our answers to these questions here.
#5: If you were unable to join us during our telephone town hall last night, I encourage you to participate in our end of session, in-person town hall. This is another great opportunity to meet with us, your 49th District lawmakers, to ask questions and get a final update on what was accomplished during this legislative session. Details are below:
Who: Sen. Annette Cleveland, Rep. Monica Stonier and Rep. Sharon Wylie
What: 49th Legislative District Post-Session Town Hall
Where: FVRL Vancouver Library – Columbia Room
When: Saturday, May 6 from 10 a.m. to noon.
It is a tremendous privilege to represent you in Olympia. Thank you for your continued engagement and feedback. I look forward to seeing you again soon!