As reported by Katherine Buchanan, our Branch Public Policy Director.
The First Virtual Lobby Day for AAUW-WA was Feb. 1, 2021. [click to read about agenda on the WA State AAUW website…] Our state leadership had a list of bills in the legislature important to AAUW-WA.
The criteria adopted by the legislature for bills to pass this year were: Racial Equity/Justice, Economic Recovery, Covid Response, Climate Change, and Police Accountability. We tried to tailor our talks with our legislators following these criteria. A very useful website to follow all the bills and legislative action is: leg.wa.gov. You can sign in to testify on a bill, track committee assignments, and look at the fiscal notes, sponsors, etc.
We listened to a great line up of speakers: Dr. Laura Sienas, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology gave a very informative and passionate plea for SB 5140 – Protecting pregnancy and miscarriage-related patient care. Margaret Babyan from the Washington State Budget and Policy Center spoke on new revenue bills and tax credit legislation. AAUW-WA public policy director Karen Anderson discussed AAUW-WA priority bills. Nancy Sapiro, our AAUW-WA lobbyist, emphasized we must tie AAUW’s bills to the above criteria.
Karen Besserman, Emerge Washington, spoke on creating opportunities for women to run for state or national offices. Sandra Distelhorst of Edmonds AAUW explained candidate/issues the comparison charts she developed. These may be modified for the local venue.
FOLLOW UP WITH OUR OWN LEGISLATORS ON SPECIFIC BILLS
The Port Townsend Lobby Day group selected 5 bills of most interest to discuss with our meetings with District 24 legislators. We met with:
- Rep. Chapman Feb. 1
- Rep. Tharinger Feb. 4
- Sen. Van De Wege Feb 4
The Working Families Tax Credit (HB1297/SB 5387) pays $500 annual cash payment to low- and moderate-income workers each year with an additional payment for children in the home for those who qualify for the EITC.
Extending Apple Health (SB 5068) from 60 days to 12 months post partum. Research has found 30% of all pregnancy-related maternal deaths and the majority of suicides and accidental overdoses occur 43 to 365 days after deliver. There are significant racial/ethnic disparities in maternal mortality rates.
Improving Access to Paid Family and Medical Leave (HB 1073/SB5097) Expands the definition of family, expands job protection for workers on the job for 90 days, reduces the hours worked requirement down to $1,000 in earnings or about 73 hours .
Fair Starts for Kids Act (HB 1213/SB5237) address the underinvestment in early childhood education. It would increase subsidy rates for providers, low co-pays, increase eligibility to families at or below 85% of state median income, expand early childhood education program, makes a capital investments in child care facilities, and expands statewide mental health consultation program.
Protecting Pregnant Patients Act (SB5140) assures that health care providers can provide pregnant patients who are experiencing complications of pregnancy, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy with necessary care.
And we talked a bit about the Wealth Tax (HB 1406) a new 1% tax on extraordinary intangible wealth and assets, potentially raising $4.9 billion; and the Capital gains tax (SB 5096), proposed 9% tax which would raise over $1 billion in the first cycle, and over $2 billion in future cycles.
The bills that are going to pass will have to meet the criteria as presented, be revenue neutral or create more revenue, or have significant positive impact on our state and its people’s health and welfare. The last day to consider (pass) bills in house of origin is March 9, 2021. The last day allowed for regular session under the state constitution is April 25, 2021. See the website for cutoff dates for passage by committees and House/Senate. The legislature must pass the biennial budget this year so the pressure is on to produce it.