On Thursday, the governor signed into law a number of bills I have been working on this session — and some I have been working on for several years.
One was my bill banning female genital mutilation, SB 5453. Forty other U.S. states have already outlawed this cruel practice, which can cause serious consequences for the reproductive and mental health of the young women subjected to it. Now Washington will be the 41st. Absa Samba, founder of the Washington Coalition to End Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, and other survivors and advocates joined us for the bill signing. You can read more about the issue and the bill here.
Among the other bills the governor signed into law Thursday were several important labor bills that have been in the Legislature for years without success.
- SB 5217 gives the state Department of Labor & Industries the authority to establish standards to prevent repetitive motion injuries in the workplace in industries that are considerably more dangerous than average. This has been a twenty-year goal of labor, and we finally have a strong enough majority to get it passed.
- SB 5236 requires hospitals to implement the recommendations of their joint staffing committees to ensure nurses will have adequate meal and rest breaks, and to limit mandatory overtime. The bill also provides for state enforcement if needed.
- SB 5286 strengthens our state’s popular Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program to ensure stability and adequate financial reserves. The pandemic and high demand for PFML benefits created a drain on the revolving fund that needed to be corrected. This will put PFML on a solid financial footing for the future.
- SB 5238 expands collective bargaining rights to employees of academic programs at all our regional universities. Before, that right was restricted to just the employees at the University of Washington and Washington State University in Pullman. Now organizing can occur at Western, Central, Eastern and Evergreen, too.
- SB 5331 adjusts the job search requirements to remain qualified for unemployment benefits to include on-line job searches and applications.
Thanks to the many workers who brought forward these problems and worked hard to ensure the solutions made it over the finish line!
Join us for a telephone town hall
My seatmates Rep. Tina Orwall, Rep. Mia Gregerson, and I will be taking questions from constituents in a telephone town hall on Thursday, May 4, from 6-7 pm.
Our automated system will dial out to landlines in the district. To be sure you receive a call, you can sign up ahead of time here: https://vekeo.com/whdc33. You can also call in during the event at 877-229-8493 and use PIN 116286.
More information and RSVP are on Facebook.
I look forward to hearing from you then.
Highlight of the week: Washington Connection
Each week this session, I have highlighted a state resource that may be of use to you, your family, or your neighbors. I hope you’ll pass the information along to anyone who may be able to take advantage of it.
For the final highlight of the session, I want to let you know about Washington Connection.
Washington Connection brings together many of the resources I’ve written about over the past weeks, and more. It’s a one-stop-shop: an easy way for families and individuals to apply for state services, including food, cash, childcare, long-term care, and Medicare savings programs. People who are age 65 or older, blind or disabled can also use it to apply for medical assistance. Click “See If I Qualify” to get started.
Previous highlights of the week: Dementia Road Map for Caregivers, Paid Family and Medical Leave, Healthy Starts Act pregnancy accommodations, Working Families Tax Credit, Washington State Quitline, my resource guide, WorkSource WA, ArrayRx Discount Card, Building for the Arts, Child Care Check, Homeowner Assistance Fund, Housing and Rent Assistance, DSHS Food, Cash, and Medical Assistance.
Please Stay in Touch
Don’t hesitate to contact me via the information below. If you’d like to follow what I’m working on, you can like my official legislative Facebook page here. Stay safe and take care.
Sen. Karen Keiser
Senate President Pro Tempore
Chair, Senate Labor & Commerce Committee