OLYMPIA – A bill sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) that would extend leave benefits to railroad workers was approved by the Senate this week. In total, Kuderer had six bills pass off the Senate floor before Tuesday’s deadline for policy bills to pass the Senate in this mostly remote legislative session.
Kuderer’s other priority bills now in the House of Representatives include legislation to prohibit open carry weapons at permitted demonstrations, reduce evictions, protect pregnant patients, and create a public financial cooperative.
More information on these bills is available below and at senatedemocrats.wa.gov/Kuderer.
SB 5065 – Railroad Worker Safety
SB 5065 would make our state’s railways and communities safer by extending family, medical, and bereavement leave to railroad workers. Research indicates these workers are highly susceptible to illness due to their presence in confined spaces yet they are not guaranteed sick leave. Currently, employers can administer disciplinary action for workers when both working while sick and taking sick leave.
“These workers should not worry about losing their job while they or a family member is experiencing injury or illness. This legislation simply affords the protections every other worker in this state already receives to ensure that our rail lines are safer for everyone.”
SB 5038 – Open Carry Weapons at Public Demonstrations
SB 5038 would prohibit the open carry of firearms and other weapons within 250 feet of permitted public demonstrations. Every state has laws prohibiting concealed or open carry possession of firearms by civilians in certain locations. Washington state law currently restricts firearm possession in courthouses, jail facilities, bars, airports, and behavioral health facilities.
SB 5038 would also prohibit open carry of firearms on the west capitol campus grounds where the state Legislative building, member and staff offices, governor’s mansion, and press houses are located. Several states, including California, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wyoming have prohibitions on concealed carry, open carry, or both at state legislative and other government-owned buildings, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“Honestly, I don’t see any practical purpose for carrying a deadly weapon at public demonstrations or here at the Capitol. The only purpose to do it is to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights.”
SB 5160 – Renter Protections and Landlord Assistance
SB 5160 would create new eviction protections for renters and expand programs to help landlords recover losses from unpaid rent from the COVID-19 public health crisis. The bill looks to significantly reduce the number of immediate evictions that are expected if the governor’s moratorium is lifted without legislative action. The current eviction moratorium is scheduled to expire on March 31.
SB 5160 also creates a new right to counsel where courts must appoint an attorney for an indigent tenant at any show cause hearing or scheduled trial.
To help struggling landlords, SB 5160 would allow them to apply directly to certain rental assistance programs. The bill also expands use of the Landlord Mitigation Program to reimburse claims for unpaid rent up to $5,000 to recover rental arrears accrued during the public health emergency when certain tenants vacate or abandon tenancy and default on a repayment plan.
“The ultimate goals of this policy are twofold: they are to keep tenants housed and to help landlords pay their bills. When we save someone from falling into homelessness, we actually save the taxpayers a lot of money. And so we get a really good bang for the buck with this investment.”
SB 5188 – Public Financial Cooperative
Profits from rates and fees charged by the public cooperative would be returned to the community through investments in local economic development and infrastructure projects. The public cooperative would have a goal of providing 35 percent of the amount it lends on an annual basis to support housing in low- to moderate-income areas after five years of operations.
“The public co-op’s core mission will be to serve the public, through reinvesting those profits back into the very communities we live in.”
SB 5140 – Pregnant Patient Protections
SB 5140 protects pregnant patients’ access to health care during urgent medical situations. The bill would bar hospitals from prohibiting health care providers from providing health care services related to miscarriage management and treatment for ectopic pregnancies.
Under current law, religiously affiliated hospitals may delay or deny critical medical care if such care is deemed in conflict with religious beliefs. Pregnant patients would then be required to seek health care from another provider, resulting in a delay or potential denial of urgent medical care.
Delayed or denied health care could lead to additional serious health issues that may not have occurred if the patient had received timely health care from the original provider.
“Women need to be safe, feel safe, and receive the best possible health care during pregnancy. Pregnant patients should never have their lives put in jeopardy by having urgent medical care delayed or denied.”
“Miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies are far more common than most people think. In my own family, my sister experienced an ectopic pregnancy and my mother went through a miscarriage. If they had been treated at one of these hospitals, they might have died. This is about health equity and ensuring pregnant patients have access to medical care when they need it the most.”
SB 5019 – Recording Standards Commission
SB 5019 would create a Recording Standards Commission that would make recommendations for streamlining the recording of documents such as judgements, liens, deeds, and mortgages. Currently, recording standards and practices vary from county to county, making work between different counties a challenge, and causing confusion and liability.
“This is the quintessential good government bill that will streamline the recording of many types of documents that our auditors handle.”
These bills are now in the House of Representatives for consideration. They have until April 11 to be approved by the House to be eligible to become law this year.
The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on April 25.