Dear friends and neighbors —
The Legislature is approaching the halfway point of this year’s short 60-day session. The pace has been brisk and will only accelerate. Over the next week, we will be considering dozens of new policies before the February 15 deadline to pass bills out of the Senate for consideration in the House. You can watch all the floor debates live at TVW.org.
A pause on long-term care programs
In 2019, the Legislature passed the Washington Cares Act, which made our state the first in the nation to offer a long-term care benefit for state residents, funded through a 0.58% employee payroll deduction. This program was designed to help people stay in their homes longer as they age, receiving care from family members or home care workers. If people need skilled care in a nursing home, or other services, this program is designed to bridge funding gaps until savings or federal Medicaid kicks in. It’s not the only solution to our nation’s long-term care challenges, but it’s an important step to meet a growing need. In the 2021 session, we extended the deadline for purchasing coverage and opting out of the state system from July 1 to November 1, but otherwise, the state did not do a very good job of using the two-and-a-half years between passage and implementation to let people know that this new system was coming.
As a result, the Legislature took swift action last month to pause the program for 18 months. House Bill 1732 delays collection of the payroll tax to fund the program until July 1, 2023, and House Bill 1733 ensures that when the program moves forward, we address things like exemptions for those who receive similar benefits or do not qualify for the program, including veterans, military spouses, temporary workers and non-state residents. Gov. Inslee signed both bills into law, giving us time to get the policy right.
Senate approves redistricting reforms
In my last newsletter, I wrote about Senate Bill 5560, which would reform our state’s Redistricting Commission process, including a requirement to make final map proposals publicly available three days before the deadline. The redistricting process and the legislative boundaries it creates are a key piece of our democracy, and what we watched unfold last year was unacceptable. These changes are necessary for transparency and public confidence in our democratic system. The bill now awaits approval in the House. You can watch my remarks during debate on the bill here.
Town Hall coming up Feb. 19
I’m looking forward to joining Reps. Frank Chopp and Nicole Macri for a 43rd District virtual town hall on Saturday, Feb. 19 at 1 p.m. The event will be streamed on YouTube and Facebook, and if you would like to ask a question in advance of the event, please click here.
Thanks for taking the time to read this update. As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions at Jamie.Pedersen@leg.wa.gov.