OLYMPIA — State lawmakers are under the clock in Olympia, as they work long hours to pass hundreds of bills in time for March 13’s 5 p.m. deadline for bills to pass their originating chamber.
After today, fewer than 700 measures, out of some 2,150 introduced, will continue to be considered for this scheduled 105-day regular session. Budget and transportation matters, as well as initiatives by the people before the legislature, are not subject to cut-off dates until the closing days of the session.
In a rare weekend session, the state House of Representatives on Saturday passed a proposal to make daylight savings time permanent in Washington state. The members approved HB 1196, to keep daylight savings time year-round, by a 89-7 vote, just hours before the annual ”spring forward” switch to daylight savings time.
The Senate followed suit on Tuesday by approving its own version of the proposal, SB 5139, by a 46-3 vote. The Senate bill includes a referendum clause to put the proposal to a vote of the people at the next general election. Federal law allows states to adopt year-round standard time, but Congress would have to give permission for states to move to year-round daylight savings time. Adoption of the bill by the state’s voters “would send a strong message to Congress” to allow Washington state to make daylight savings permanent, according to supporters of the bill.
On Friday, the House approved HB 1523, a bill proposed by Governor Inslee to create a subsidized state-funded public health plan. The bill would require the State Insurance Commissioner and the Health Care Authority to set up plans by 2021 with insurance companies that offer qualified plans in this state.
These plans would be available through the state’s health care exchange to all residents, but the state would pay subsidies to individuals with incomes of up to five times the poverty level. That annual income threshold level would currently be about $62,000 for an individual. Premiums would be limited to no more than ten percent of adjusted gross income, and payments to doctors and other health care providers would be restricted to Medicare-level limits.
The bill was heavily debated on the floor and passed along close partisan lines by a vote of 57-41. One House Republican, Rep. Zack Hudgins (R-Tukwila) voted with Democrats in favor of the bill. One Democrat, Rep. Mary Dye (D-Pomeroy) voted with Republicans against the measure.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Eileen Cody (D-Seattle) said the proposal would provide subsidized coverage to those who don’t qualify for current government-assisted programs, because their income is too high. But, Republicans argued the plan, if enacted, would destabilize the state's health care market and that the price controls imposed on payment to doctors and providers would be too low.
“This is an illusion of care,” said Rep. Joe Schmick (R-Colfax). “Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean you can find a provider.” Others said that the low reimbursement rates under the proposed bill would cause health care providers to raise their prices for other patients, leading to higher costs for the rest of the public. Rep Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) said that “this bill is the train wreck that comes first, and then there’s socialized medicine.”
Keep up with what is happening in Olympia by visiting WashingtonVotes.org and follow them on Facebook and Twitter #waleg.