With the 2022 session underway in Olympia — or rather, it’s being conducted remotely — the Washington State Legislature is looking to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle issues that typically are front and center for legislators: the economy, health care and education, among a litany of others.
State Sen. Emily Randall of the 26th Legislative District compiled a list of Senate bills she and her team plan to campaign for passage this session. The bills include a buy-down of tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (SB 5488); a requirement for health carriers to reimburse advanced registered nurse practitioners at the same rate as physicians when delivering the same service (SB 5704); and the elimination of subminimum wages for workers with disabilities (SB 5763).
In an emailed report to 26th District constituents, Randall said SB 5488 will put money back in the pockets of Narrows Bridge commuters.
“As we all know, the financing on the bridge was broken from the start,” Randall said in the report. “Commuters in our community shouldn’t be on the hook for that bad decision forever. It’s time to fix it.”
Randall said that the passage of SB 5704 would be an important step toward equal pay for equal work for nurse practitioners.
“[It] both strengthens our economy and our network of primary care providers in our state,” she said.
The state senator said passage of SB 5763 would eliminate an unused loophole to the prevailing wage law and allow all workers to be compensated fairly.
Randall touted legislative efforts in making investments to strengthen the state’s health care system by extending postpartum coverage for new patients. She said her team is focused on three legislative bills that involve different aspects of the state’s health care system.
The state senator, who is up for re-election this November, pointed to accomplishments in which she was involved, particularly in the economic and educational realm. She said an unemployment insurance tax fix and investments in grants and other resources for small businesses needing help were major achievements in 2021.
“We also expanded access to affordable childcare and invested in K-12 schools’ students and educators so that working parents could get back to the jobs they love and support their families,” Randall said.
The Democratic legislator pointed to these health care achievements in 2021: the allocation of billions of dollars to expand COVID-19 vaccine testing and vaccine distribution, and means to better equip the state’s public health system for current and future public health crises; improvement of the public option Cascade Care system, to ensure it is available statewide by requiring major hospitals to participate under some conditions; and creation of the Universal Health Care Commission to examine near-term improvements to the state’s health care system.
She said one of the three bills — SB 5688, or the Keep Our Care Act — is supported by a statewide coalition to ensure health system mergers improve access to affordable, quality care for district residents.
“As Kitsap County and Bremertonians know first-hand, hospital mergers change the health care landscape,” Randall said in the report. “5688 would protect access to reproductive care, end of life care, and gender reaffirming treatment that is so often eroded by these mergers.”
She said SB 5730 is a “small fix” in support of Graduate Strong’s Handle With Care initiative, a “trauma-informed” partnership between Kitsap County schools and first responders.
Randall said that in 2021 she contributed in getting the state to make significant investments in its community and technical college system; helping expand support for students experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity, and helping former foster youth enter state four-year, and community and technical colleges.
She said that last year, the College Bound Scholarship program was strengthened so more students are able to get needed financial support enabling them to pursue their higher education goals.
“Brought to me by a constituent, this bill allows LEOs and first responders to continue to partner with schools in providing trauma-responsive support to students who were present on the scene of an incident,” she said.
The third bill — SB 5766 — is a legislative response to what Randall calls “attacks on reproductive rights sweeping the nation” in states such as Florida, Idaho, Louisiana and Texas. She said some Republicans in the state are working to roll back reproductive rights.
“I’m fighting alongside my Democratic colleagues and neighbors of all political stripes to ensure that Washington is a beacon for reproductive justice,” the Democrat said.
She said the bill updates and modernizes gendered language, and protects abortion providers and “those who would assist someone in seeking abortion care.”
Randall said that her focus on the education front will be “access and pathways.”
“What do I mean by that? I mean that too many students don’t think college is for them — because they don’t think their family can afford it, or because there are other career pathways that excite them more,” she said.
“I know that there are a lot of pathways to family-wage jobs,” the legislator said. “And in Washington state, many of those pathways are through registered apprenticeship programs.”
A bill she’s advocating — SB 5764 — provides for a better structure to award apprenticeship graduates with transferrable associate degrees and streamlines access to financial aid.