April 10, 2023

Dear friends and neighbors,

We are in the final stretch of the current legislative session! As we enter these final two weeks, we will see historic votes in each chamber, pass our various budgets, and see legislation signed into law by the governor. Scroll down for an update on the status of a few of my focuses:

#1: We are moving ahead with our transportation budget!

This budget prioritizes traffic safety, funds new and existing projects, helps electrify our transportation sector, and fulfills the commitments we made in Move Ahead Washington. It also includes investments in our community, including:

  • I-5 corridor improvements, ensuring continued progress toward a new Interstate Bridge Replacement Project between Vancouver and Portland
  • SR 14 corridor improvements from I-205 to SE 164th Ave
  • Regional mobility grants for C-TRAN and the City of Vancouver Residential TDM Program

Also included in this package is funding for one of my bills that passed last year. Senate Bill 5815 creates a program to provide ID cards to houseless Washingtonians. ID cards are a necessity for accessing medical care, food stamps and housing.

#2: One of my ongoing goals is to ensure economic growth for our state that supports healthy communities and provides good living wage jobs. A bill I prime sponsored on behalf of our community this year has passed the House and Senate and is now headed to the Governor’s desk:

  • SB 5336: Provides needed clarification of criteria for participation in the Main Street Program to ensure that our city can remain a participant. Strong Main Street businesses benefit our entire region’s economy.

#3: Progress is being made to fulfill my top healthcare priorities – continuing pandemic recovery, addressing workforce shortages, finding solutions for the mental health crisis and strengthening reproductive rights.

This week, an additional four of my bills focused on the following health care priorities received final approval from the Legislature and are now headed to the governor’s desk!

  • SB 5242 prohibits cost-sharing for abortion, ensuring equity and fairness by further decreasing barriers to access care.
  • SB 5338 directs a review of Washington’s current essential health benefits that are mandated to be covered by your health insurance. This allows us to consider any possible changes that may be needed before the 2024 federal deadline.
  • SB 5454: will help nurses affected by the repeated trauma of caring for patients by improving their workers’ compensation benefits.
  • SB 5538: removes the penalty of reduced benefits for retired nurses looking to return to patient care. It will help encourage and allow retired nurses wishing to help in the face of the severe nursing workforce to return to work without having their retirement reduced.

Another important health care bill that I worked to advance as Chair of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee is House Bill 1222. This bill, sponsored by my colleague and friend Rep. Tina Orwall, requires health plans to cover hearing instruments. The impacts of hearing loss are broad and profound – it can lead to delayed development in children and loss of the ability to communicate.

The Bujnevicie family (pictured with me below) have been fierce advocates for ensuring that hearing aids are covered by health insurance so that all who need them can obtain them. Their young son, Hugo, shared his personal story of hearing loss with us in committee, and how hearing aids changed his life. The cost of hearing aids, however, are often out of reach for individuals and families. I was honored to help usher this legislation across the finish line and help the Bujnevicie family, Hugo, and Rep. Orwall celebrate Senate passage.

#4: Washington took unprecedented action in protecting reproductive rights this week by purchasing a three-year supply of the safe abortion medication mifepristone.

This action was taken as its future Food and Drug Administration approval is in limbo because of a federal lawsuit in Texas. Mifepristone currently remains legal in Washington, but its future is unclear.

What is clear is that the drug will remain available for the foreseeable future because of the action our state took.

The supply was purchased through the Department of Corrections using its existing pharmacy license. Now, legislation is needed to authorize DOC to distribute or sell the medication. I am a co-sponsor of SB 5768, which would do just that and ensure access to this medication is available as prescribed.

SB 5242, the bill I prime sponsored to prohibit cost-sharing for abortions, will also be essential in preserving access to needed reproductive health care should the Texas ruling take full effect.

These last two weeks will be spent primarily focused on negotiation and passage of final operating, capital, and transportation budgets, as well as final policy bills necessary to implement the budget. I will continue to fight hard to ensure our 49th Legislative District needs are included. The final days of session are extremely long, frenetic, and busy. Send good energy our way for a successful finish on April 23rd!

All my best,