Governor Inslee finished acting on legislation passed during the 2019 legislative session on May 21. Now we can begin to look back and see what was accomplished — quite a lot, in my opinion. It’s unfortunate that as the way we consume media evolves, coverage of what the Legislature actually does continues to decrease, with very little coverage for even the most important bills. For those who are unable to follow TVW or social media coverage of what is happening in Olympia, much of what happens often goes unreported.
In order to bridge the gap, I will be sending out a series of e-newsletters to highlight our major accomplishments of the 2019 legislative session. And, yes, I will mention some failures as well.
Increasing access to democracy
It was an honor to be the sponsor of the first bill to pass the Legislature this year. Senate Bill 5273 moves the state presidential primary to the second Tuesday in March, just one week after Super Tuesday. I worked closely with the major political parties to ensure that Washington would become a state that uses the primary results — rather than precinct caucuses — to determine the state’s allocation of delegates to the state and national political party conventions. Yes, voters will have to select a Republican or Democratic ballot just as they did in 2016 in order to cast a meaningful vote, but even with this requirement from the national Democratic and Republican Parties, the change will increase participation far beyond what we’ve seen previously in Saturday morning precinct caucuses, held in crowded rooms with hours of figuring numbers and waiting. Also, with an early presidential primary, our state can now play a significant role in the presidential nomination. The primary for non-presidential races will still be held in August.
This session, the Legislature also funded pre-paid postage for all mail-in ballots in 2019-20. No one will have to look around the house for a stamp any more to mail their ballot. Even so, if you’re returning your ballot on Election Day, I recommend depositing your ballot in one of the many drop boxes throughout the county to ensure it gets counted. There is one near you. You can find the location on the County Auditor’s website, and you save tax dollars by using the postage-free drop boxes.
Prioritizing health and wellness
This year, we passed the first-in-the nation long-term care bill. Most people over 65 will need some form of long-term care and services within their lifetime, and those of us who have experienced this in our own families know how rapidly these costs can eat up a budget. This establishes a long-term care insurance benefit for all eligible Washington employees, funded through a payroll deduction of 58 cents per $100 in income. Employees will begin paying premiums in 2022 and the benefits program will be implemented in 2025. This will give the state time to organize the program and build up the funding to provide services. In the first effective year, each eligible person will be able to receive up to $36,500 toward a number of long-term care services. More details will become available as the program develops.
Finally, we also enacted the first-in-the-nation public option health care plan, Cascade Care. When implemented, it will increase access to health care and serve as a safety net against federal government efforts to curtail health care. It will also help establish a path for universal healthcare for Washington. Starting in 2021, consumers not covered by an employer-provided plan will have the option to buy a state-sponsored plan for healthcare coverage through the Health Benefit Exchange, the state’s health insurance marketplace. This program is designed to keep premiums and out-of-pocket costs as low as possible.
Thanks for reading. That is all for now, but keep an eye out in the weeks to come for more in this series of recaps of the 2019 legislative session.
Here in the Senate we are hard at work on legislation to promote the interests of the people of Washington state. I’d like to hear from you about the issues that are important to you. My office welcomes you to call, write, or stop by to give us your input.
Sen. Sam Hunt