With less than two weeks remaining in the scheduled 60-day legislative session in Olympia, legislators from the 26th Legislative District are touting the bills they’ve so far managed to move through both the House and the Senate.
Freshman state Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, was able to get her bill, SB 6128, through the Senate with a unanimous vote Feb. 17. The bill calls for expanding Medicaid benefits for new birth parents by extending postpartum coverage from 60 days to a full year following pregnancy.
According to Randall, the bill takes a phased-in approach to Medicaid coverage extension by serving Washington individuals with an income less than or equal to 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The bill calls for coverage for individuals to be phased in over four years for those with an income less than or equal to 193 percent of the federal poverty level. It also directs the Health Care Authority to apply for a Medicaid waiver, and with it, federal matching dollars.
“One full year of Medicaid coverage means that Washingtonians will be able to spend that precious period of time with their newest family member fully recuperating, bonding and getting back on their feet,” Randall spokeswoman Hannah M. Sabio Howell said.
“This investment in that vulnerable first year of life for an infant and that first year of post-pregnancy for a new parent is an investment in the future of the whole family. There is a demonstrated positive impact on future health outcomes, housing stability, financial security and family cohesion when an individual’s first year of life — and their parent’s first year of parenthood — is secure.
“When parents have the freedom to focus on their health and the health of their little one, everyone benefits.”
Randall’s office pointed to “a swell of support” for the bill as it worked its way through the Senate. It is now being discussed in the House’s Appropriations Committee.
State Rep. Michelle Caldier of the 26th District said in a news release that three of her sponsored bills passed unanimously in the House with bipartisan support.
Those bills are HB 2580, a measure that would increase accountability of services provided to ensure that independent living services are actually delivered to foster youth; HB 2584, which would establish rates for behavioral health services; and HB 2809, which would improve access for struggling pregnant women to receive services involving essential needs and eligibility for housing support.
Caldier said that HB 2584 is needed since managed care organizations have not passed on additional funds given to providers by the state so that Medicaid patients could access behavioral health services. She said the measure would provide yearly reviews to ensure Medicaid patients get the services they need.
“I serve on the Children’s Mental Health Workgroup,” Caldier said, “and this legislation was one of its priorities.”
Caldier and other Republican House members — including state Rep. Jesse Young — have signed on to legislation that would provide $1 billion in tax relief by lowering car tab fees to $30, as stipulated by the passage of Initiative 976. The measure also exempts sales tax from processed food.
The measure comes on the heels of the latest state revenue forecast that projects a $2.4 billion state budget surplus. In addition to the requested $1 billion tax cut, House Republicans also introduced bills to reduce the state property tax, provide a back-to-school sales tax holiday and reaffirm the prohibition of a local income tax.
“We need to hold the majority party accountable, honor the will of the people and implement $30 car tabs,” Young, of Gig Harbor, said. “This surplus gives us another opportunity to do that. We cannot let the governor and Democratic lawmakers spend this extra money carelessly.
“With this surplus, we can fund every state program we have and still have more than enough money to give back to the hard-working and low-income families that need it the most.”
The 2020 session is scheduled to adjourn March 12.