Halfway through the legislative session, the Senate has made great progress to address the most pressing issues affecting us here in Washington—from pandemic recovery to health care to police accountability to fair pay for a hard week’s work. We have until April 25 to finish the work we have begun.
One of the bills I sponsored this year has already been signed into law:
- SB 5061 was the first bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor this year. It provided urgently needed relief in unemployment insurance premiums for employers, as well as increased benefits for our state’s lowest-paid workers. This bill was a crucial bridge for small businesses struggling to make it through the pandemic.
These are the bills I sponsored that have passed the Senate and now await consideration by the House:
- SB 5115 is known as HELSA – the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act. It would assure frontline workers during this pandemic that they will be kept informed about what is happening in their workplaces and their medical care will be covered if they catch COVID at work. We have to reduce the fear and anxiety they feel about coming to work every day.
- SB 5052 would establish a Health Equity Zones program to address health disparities in communities of color and other communities with disproportionately poor health outcomes—from pre-term births to diabetes to high blood pressure to COVID-19. It would help our public health authorities do the hard work of developing trust, doing outreach, building capacity, and increasing health care access.
- SB 5268 would give Washingtonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities better options for community residential settings. The product of three years’ intensive negotiations, the bill takes a balanced approach to transitioning developmental disabilities services from a residentially-based approach toward one that is community based. It retains the expertise and services for clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities who need crisis stabilization or intensive nursing services.
- SB 5003 would make it easier for people to consider donating a kidney or other organ by prohibiting insurance carriers from discriminating against living organ donors. It would give 86,000 patients in Washington with kidney disease a greater hope of someday receiving a transplant—the only lifesaving treatment.
- SB 5370 would simplify and improve the process of creating a mental health advanced directive, which declares a person’s preferences regarding treatment in the event of incapacitation. It also would establish a role for substance use disorder professionals, so people could create directives that take full account of their needs.
- SB 5004 would provide relief to qualified medical marijuana patients from the 37 percent cannabis excise tax. Patients who rely on marijuana to alleviate their symptoms deserve to be able to afford their medications.
- SB 5385 would help ensure that workers at Sea-Tac Airport keep the protections they won under my SB 6217, which passed last year.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, I negotiated a late compromise that enabled us to pass Sen. Curtis King’s SB 5172 just before this week’s deadline. The bill would make Washington the first state in the nation to bring the 40-hour work week to all agricultural workers. These are some of our nation’s lowest-paid workers, and they have been exempted from many protections since the original federal Fair Labor Standards Act passed in 1938. This bill would correct a historic injustice, and I am committed to continuing to work to ensure it passes the House.
Stay in Touch
If you’d like to follow what I’m working on, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here.
Please don’t hesitate to stay in touch. Stay safe and take care.
Senator Karen Keiser
Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee
Senate President Pro Tempore