Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last Thursday, the House passed its first two bills. More legislation is coming down the pipeline and we'll be back on the floor next week to send more bills over to the Senate.
The first bill we passed was HB 1258, or “Joel's Law.” As you'll remember from my last email, I've been working with my colleagues in the Legislature for two years on this important legislation. It will enable families of mentally ill individuals who pose a serious threat to themselves or others to petition the courts for involuntary commitment. This is critical legislation that puts Washington another step forward in fixing our broken mental health system.
The bill passed unanimously off the House floor and it now waits to be assigned a hearing in the Senate. Check out my speech in favor of Joel's Law, and click here for the latest information on the progress of this bill.
We also passed an early action supplemental operating budget, HB 1105. This provides some emergency spending for the eastern Washington wildfires, the Oso landslide, mental health treatment capacity, some children's services, and other emergency needs.
In this email, I'll give you a quick update on some of the issues I've been involved with since session began. I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or concerns about any of the issues before the state Legislature.
It's an honor representing you.
In addition to “Joel's Law,” I've sponsored a bill that would add an alternative standard for a person to be committed for involuntary mental health treatment. Currently, an individual must display “likelihood of serious harm” or be “gravely disabled” to qualify for involuntary commitment. Under HB 1451, individuals identified as having a “persistent or acute disability” would also be candidates for involuntary commitment.
We've diverted a lot of our critically, mentally ill individuals to jails where they're not receiving proper treatment for their illnesses. In doing so, we've provided such a disservice to families and their loved ones. The time to establish a quality mental health system is now.
HB 1451 received a public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee last week.
Our health care system is evolving, and patients and providers are particularly seeing the impacts of that since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. HB 1403, which passed out of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee Wednesday, would allow health care providers in certain specialties to receive the same reimbursement for a telemedicine consult at the same rate as an office consultation. This will save time for providers and patients, reduce costs and help our rural communities throughout the state. A similar bill passed the House last year.
Additionally, I've sponsored a bill to provide immunity to physicians and health care providers during the time of a governor-declared state of emergency. Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and other natural disasters throughout our country, have taught us a lot about emergency preparedness and services. This bill, HB 1944, would allow providers to come into Washington during a state of emergency, ensure they have proper equipment and facilities, and provide critical services to our residents and not be faced with a potential malpractice charge.
The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee but has yet to receive a hearing. Track its progress throughout the legislative session here.
I spoke to you briefly about some transportation concerns in my last email update. The 5th District really has three major projects awaiting funding:
- improvements on the SR 169 corridor;
- the I-90/SR 18 interchange project;
- and additional lane capacity on I-90 thru Issaquah, as well as $2 million to define and identify needed interchange modifications for Front Street and 11th and 12th.
The Senate is working on a transportation package now to send over to the House and I'm hopeful we'll be able to include these important projects to mitigate congestion, and improve traffic flow and freight mobility.