We’re now past the halfway mark of the 2023 legislative session and things have been busy. There was a series of deadlines over last several weeks that have significantly cut down the number of legislative proposals that could eventually make it to the governor’s desk. Over the past few days, we’ve been working late into the evenings debating and voting on bills on the Senate floor.
While some like to focus on varying political divisions, the reality is that the work in the state Legislature, especially in the Senate, features civil discussions about policies that seek to make life better or Washingtonians. Don’t get me wrong, there are some proposals that have or will come before me that are challenging. However, the lion’s share of bills we are voting on are overwhelmingly bipartisan.
I’m pleased that several bills that I have sponsored have been approved by the state Senate this session. I have introduced proposals on issues ranging from fentanyl testing equipment to programs for Washington agricultural products, telemedicine and maternal health.
|Focus on health care
This past week, the Senate approved SB 5581, which was part of a package of maternal care proposals I announced earlier in the session. This bill would require insurance companies to work with health-care providers to develop strategies to reduce deductibles for maternal support services and postpartum care. The other legislation, Senate Bill 5580, has been pulled from the Senate Rules Committee and will soon be voted on the Senate floor. This helps low-income mothers struggling with addiction receive better, longer care aimed at improving outcomes for them and their new babies. You can read more about these approaches to supporting mothers by clicking here.
It no secret that communities around our state are being deeply affected by the opioid epidemic. While the root causes are being debated and worked on, we can at least deal with the effects by providing life-saving interventions. I sponsored Senate Bill 5022, which would make fentanyl testing equipment legal. Many jurisdictions around the state are already distributing these test strips but doing so illegally. We heard in committee that there were over 1,000 overdose deaths in King County last year and 70% of the victims had fentanyl in their system. Like the state did with Narcan in 2020, we need to change this law.
Our district is blessed with a bountiful agricultural industry, with many smaller farms and producers that offer unique products. Washington holds further distinction nationally by lacking ways to help these ag producers brand and promote their products. That is why I sponsored Senate Bill 5341, which cleared the state Senate recently. It would help consumers support local agriculture and make local producers more competitive across the country.
Regulation is sometimes necessary. Sometimes its effects are downright cruel. Our district has seen the unfortunate closure of an important industry as a result of regulatory actions by the state. While some could disagree about the benefits or harms of aquaculture, the impacts on the families who work in that industry are real. They’re our neighbors and deserve our help. I expect Senate Bill 5621 to be voted on the Senate soon, before next Wednesday’s deadline. It would expand unemployment benefits to these dislocated workers that resulted from the denial of a finfish net pen lease.