Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We are about a month into the 2017 legislative session and detailed plans to address the state Supreme Court McCleary order are emerging. The Senate Republicans released their One Washington Education Equality Act late last week.
I believe the Senate plan is a good starting point that sets some goals and focuses on student outcomes. It would promote local control and accountability. The Senate passed their plan, Senate Bill 5607, on a party-line vote last week.
House Democrats have also unveiled their plan, House Bill 1843. On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee held a public hearing on both the House and Senate measures. With both plans before the Legislature and the details in front of us, we are hoping meaningful negotiations can begin to put the last pieces of the McCleary puzzle in place.
It is important to note House Republicans have not been watching from the sidelines. A group of House Republicans, including myself, have met throughout the interim. We have put a lot of time and effort into finding solutions to the McCleary order. We are working with both Senate Republicans and House Democrats on what we feel are important pieces to the plan. We will continue to provide input and be part of the negotiations as we move forward.
As the lead Republican on the House Education Committee this year, I have taken a very active interest in education issues. Two other high profile education bills I am working on are:
House Bill 1046, which would delink state tests from graduation requirements but would maintain all other graduation requirements. Current testing requirements are numerous and complex. It has taken away from learning, especially in the fourth academic quarter as the entire focus has shifted to the state-imposed test. The bill passed the House Education Committee 17-2. It is now in the House Appropriations Committee.
House Bill 1509 would eliminate the 24-credit graduation requirement for classes graduating in 2019 and after, and establish a 21-credit requirement with delineated credit requirements by course type. Freeing up some credit requirements would give students more flexibility in their schedule, and choosing elective classes.
Age limit on purchasing tobacco products
I continue to serve on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee this session, so I am still concentrating efforts on health care issues. Protecting our young people from the harmful effects of tobacco is a priority for me.
This session, I have introduced House Bill 1054, which would prohibit the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products, and vapor products to persons under the age of 21.
Nicotine is extremely addictive. One in five kids either smokes or vapes, and one in three young smokers will die of smoking-related illnesses. We are still seeing a lot of tobacco use in our schools. I am hopeful this legislation will get most of the tobacco off of our school campuses. Healthier young people also means a positive impact on long-term health care costs. The bill did pass the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. It is now in the House Finance Committee.
Other health care issues I continue to work on:
House Bill 1339 would provide restrictions on prescriptions for opioid drugs. We are looking at a number of bills that would address our nationwide opioid epidemic. This legislation would limit initial prescriptions for opioid drugs for outpatients, and it would also limit supplies prescribed by dentists. The bill has had a public hearing in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.
House Bill 1870 would protect consumers from “balance billing” or charges for out-of-network health care services. Balance billing can occur when an insured individual receives care from an out-of-network provider. The situation could come up in an emergency when the patient has no ability to select the emergency room, treating physicians, or ambulance providers.
It may also happen when a patient receives planned care from an in-network provider, but other treating providers brought in to participate in the patient's care are not in the same network. These can include anesthesiologists, radiologists, surgical assistants, and others. In some cases, entire departments within an in-network facility may be operated by subcontractors who don't' participate in the same network. Also, in non-emergency situations the in-network provider or facility generally arranges for the other treating providers, not the patient. That is how patients can end up with a surprise medical or “balance bill.”
Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns or comments about these bills or other issues before us in Olympia. Your input is important to me.