During each Washington Legislative Session, Legal Voice advocates for legislation that positively affects women and LGBTQ+ people, and defends against bills that threaten to roll back the progress we've made. These updates cover Legal Voice's legislative priorities.
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2020 LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
The 2020 Washington Legislative Session began on January 13, 2020 and ended on March 12, 2020.
It was a fast 60 days, and we are thrilled to share that most of our priority bills passed. These bills will protect survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and ensure that all students have access to accurate and inclusive sexual health education. Let’s take a look at some of these successes below.
Supporting Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault:
√ Curbing abusive litigation (SB 6268): Survivors of domestic violence may seek civil protection orders to limit contact with their abuser, but even with a protective order, some abusers continue to exert power and control. Abusive litigation occurs when abusers use the legal system to control, harass, intimidate, coerce, and impoverish survivors. This bill offers survivors protections against this conduct and provides judges with a streamlined method to address abusive litigation clogging up the court system.
√ Addressing campus sexual misconduct (HB 2327): More than one in five women and nearly one in four transgender and gender non-conforming students are sexually assaulted in college. Requiring colleges and universities to complete investigations, make written findings, and document substantiated findings in an employee’s record are minimum steps to ensure accountability and improve campus safety. This bill will do just that. In addition to documentation requirements, HB 2327 also prohibits nondisclosure agreements in sexual misconduct settlements in higher education and requires all applicants applying for jobs as faculty, instructors, staff, advisers, counselors, coaches at post-secondary institutions to authorize the disclosure of any sexual misconduct findings from current or former employment.
Expanding Sexual and Reproductive Health Care:
√ Comprehensive sexual health education (SB 5395): It took several years, but comprehensive sexual health education will now be mandatory in Washington schools! This bill will require all public schools, beginning in kindergarten, to provide medically accurate, age-appropriate, culturally competent sex education that is inclusive of all gender identities and sexual orientations. School districts still have flexibility in designing a curriculum within certain parameters, and parents are still able to opt out. The curriculum must include information about affirmative consent for older students so they can better recognize inappropriate behavior and their right to reject it.
√ Holding insurance companies accountable (HB 2554): This bill will impose a fee on insurance carriers that, for any reason, opt out of providing any legally required benefit, like abortion care. In addition, the bill would require health carriers and the Health Benefit Exchange to tell consumers when those benefits are excluded from their health plans. The bill was modeled in large part after a bill that Oregon passed in 2019.
Working for Economic Justice:
X Domestic workers bill of rights (HB 2511) Unfortunately, we were disappointed that the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, HB 2511 did not make it through the session. Domestic workers are the backbone of our economy, providing essential work such as caregiving for children and the elderly. They also cook, shop, garden, and do other household maintenance that enables families to thrive in Washington. The bill would have prohibited discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against domestic workers and provided meal and rest breaks and other employee protections. Legal Voice was part of an extensive coalition composed of government stakeholders, community leaders, unions, and others. We’ll be ready to return to push for these protections next year!
We are excited about the progress made this session. A big shout-out to our legislative champions for sponsoring and fighting for these bills as well as to our community partners for their leadership and advocacy. Finally, thank YOU for contacting your legislators, educating your peers, sending postcards and emails, and raising your voice on the issues that matter most to our communities! We’ll be back in Olympia in 2021, even stronger!