OLYMPIA – A bill to improve language access services for Washingtonians passed the Senate on Friday on a 31 to 19 vote. 

Senate Bill 5995, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), creates a comprehensive licensing program for interpreters and translators, addressing a critical gap in the state’s regulatory framework. Currently, interpreters and translators are not licensed under Washington State law, leading to various state agencies having their own requirements and processes for interpreters and translators. 

This bill establishes a program within the Department of Licensing (DOL) to license interpreters and translators. DOL would be tasked with developing and administering exams. Additionally, a robust advisory committee would be formed within DOL to provide insights and recommendations as they develop the new licensing program. 

“Language should never hinder access to justice, healthcare, or other opportunities,” said Saldaña. “By establishing a statewide licensing program, we aim to provide quality language access services and ensure equitable opportunities for all Washingtonians, regardless of the language they speak.” 

If enacted, this legislation would make Washington the first state to officially recognize interpreters and translators as licensed professionals, emphasizing the importance of their role. 

This bill now heads to the House for consideration.