Capitol Hill Communit Post | Rep. Macri: An update at the halfway point

The Washington State House of Representatives convenes for floor debate, Feb. 9, 2017.

The Washington State House of Representatives convenes for floor debate, Feb. 9, 2017.

From State Representative Nicole Macri, 43rd District

We’re about halfway through the legislative session now, so I wanted to provide a quick update on what we’ve been up to.  Bills have moved through our policy and fiscal committees, and now we’re spending long days and evenings passing our House bills and sending them to the Senate for consideration.  I’ve highlighted just a few of the many dozens and dozens of bills we’ve passed so far.

Fully funding education

I voted YAY on our two comprehensive education funding bills.  The legislature has (slowly) made progress to finally catch up with our moral obligation–and Paramount Duty– to fully fund our public schools.  We must finish that job this year.

HB 1059 Our bill to save schools from the “levy cliff”

  • This bill delays the date by which the local maintenance and operations levy lid is reduced from 28% to 24% for one year, protecting local districts from losing hundreds of millions in local levy funding.
  • The bill was referred to the Senate Ways & Means Committee, but no vote has been scheduled even though this was the very first bill we passed and sent to the Senate.
  • Find more information here, including a map that shows how much each school district stands to lose if the Senate doesn’t pass HB 1059.

HB 1843 The House plan to keep our promise to one million school kids

  • Our bill takes a significant step towards closing the opportunity gap and improving student outcomes by making new investments in learning assistance, transitional programs for bilingual students, class size reductions for career and technical education and skills centers, and guidance counselors.
  • It addresses the teacher-shortage crisis through recruitment and retention investments.  The bill makes a serious commitment to our teacher workforce by paying new teachers a fair salary, providing additional professional learning opportunities, and ensuring compensation keeps up with market rates.

Health care

There’s been a lot of talk out of DC about “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act.  As a result, we have a lot of work to do to protect the nearly 800,000 Washingtonians who depend on it for coverage.  Among the hundreds of bills we’ve sent to the Senate over the last five days, I was particularly happy to support four measures that will make a difference in the health and wellbeing of Washington families.

  • Pregnancy accomodations– HB1796 requires employers with 15 or more workers to grant reasonable accommodations in the workplace for pregnancy and pregnancy-related health conditions. A “reasonable accommodation” can include more flexible restroom breaks, a modified food/drink policy, and flexible scheduling for prenatal visits.
  • State protections for ACA preventative care services– HB 1523 requires health plans to cover, with no cost sharing, the same preventive services that are required by federal law as of December 31, 2016, which include many immunizations, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, colorectal cancer, HIV, and many other screenings.  Importantly, it also maintains coverage for contraception at no cost to women.
  • Consistent access to birth control– HB 1234 allows women to receive 12 months of contraception at one time, giving them greater and more consistent access to birth control.
  • Opioid treatment programs– HB 1427 represents an important step toward reducing barriers to treating people with opioid use disorder. The bill removes unnecessary requirements for siting and regulating opioid treatment programs and will expand access to treatment.

Voting rights

Voting is the foundation of our system of government and representation, and it is my priority to make as easy as possible for people to exercise their power of the vote.  We have passed three bills to do just that, though our work is far from over.

  • Youth voter registration– HB 1513 Authorizes persons 16 and 17 years old to sign up to vote online, by mail, or at the Department of Licensing (DOL) and other locations prior to completing official voter registration at age 18.
  • Eleven day voter registration– HB 1468 changes the deadline to register to vote from 29 days before an election to 11 days.  I’m pleased with this step, but my priority is to implement same-day registration.
  • Voting Rights Act–HB 1800 is an important piece of legislation to protect the equal opportunity for minority groups to participate in local elections. Promoting fair representation is a matter of economic justice.

College affordability

Even before the Great Recession, tuition began climbing, but the financial crisis made it skyrocket.  Before I was in office, the legislature made a choice to balance the budget on the backs of students, and we are finally correcting course to make college more affordable.  We are taking additional actions to protect student rights following the legislature’s lowering of tuition rates in the previous state budget.

  • Student loan reform–HB 1169 enacts the student opportunity, assistance, and relief act, and HB 1440 establishes a student loan bill of rights.

Justice

Actions by the new federal administration make it more important then ever for our state government to stand up for the people who live here.  We in the House are taking steps to make our criminal justice system more fair while keeping our communities safe.

  • “Ban the box”–HB 1298 is the Washington Fair Chance Act.  It gives people with criminal records, who have paid their debt to society, a fair chance to earn a living and start a new, productive life.  The bill prohibits an employer from asking about an applicant’s criminal background until after the employer initially determines that applicant’s merit, experience, and skills for the job.
  • Legal financial obligations (LFOs)–HB 1783 gives people a chance to get back on their feet once they leave prison.  There are many barriers to reentry, and LFOs are one of the hardest to overcome.  This bill eliminates interest accrual on the nonrestitution portion of LFOs, provides that a court may not impost costs on a defendant who is indigent at the time of sentencing, and establishes provisions governing payment plans.

 

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