2019 SESSION UPDATES
Note: For a full history of a specific bill, please visit the Washington State Legislature website and type in the bill number. For updates on past sessions, please visit our Legislative Updates homepage.
The Washington Legislature finished its 2019 session on April 28th. We are thrilled to report that the Legislature passed several of Legal Voice's priority bills during the 105-day session! And for bills that didn't pass, Legal Voice set strong groundwork for progress during the 2020 session.
This year's legislative achievements include:
Strengthening Protection for Sexual Assault Survivors (HB 1149): This bill is in direct response to an unjust ruling by a divided Washington State Supreme Court that held that a survivor seeking a sexual assault protection order (SAPO) must not only allege that a sexual assault occurred, but also that she has additional reasons beyond the assault to fear her attacker in the future. This bill clarifies that to obtain a SAPO a survivor is only required to allege and prove that she was sexually assaulted. Legal Voice was proud to lead advocacy efforts for this bill in coalition with the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, Sexual Violence Legal Services, and the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.
Improving Statutory Protections Against Sexual Assault Crimes (SB 5649): Washington has some of the shortest and most complex statutes of limitations in the country for the prosecution of sexual assault crimes. Removing these barriers is critical to ensure survivors of sexual violence can come forward and seek justice when they are ready. SB 5649 eliminates the statute of limitations for most sex offenses against minors, and will provide longer periods of time to prosecute most other felony sex offenses. In addition, SB 5649 revises our third-degree rape statute to eliminate a requirement that survivors must "clearly express" their non-consent by their words or conduct.
Restricting Employers' Use of Wage History (HB 1696): This bill will prohibit employers from using an applicant's wage history when making pay decisions and require employers to disclose pay scale information to applicants and employees. When employers rely on prior wages as a factor in pay decisions, people who have historically been underpaid - including women, people of color, and LGBTQ people - continue to make less than other workers. Without pay scale information workers are at a disadvantage to negotiate fair wage. Legal Voice was proud to work with partners Moms Rising and Economic Opportunity Institute on this effort.
Protecting Trans Youth from Bullying (SB 5689): We were proud to support this bill to strengthen Washington's law against student bullying, harassment, and intimidation to include additional training and specific policies and procedures to protect transgender youth.
A few of our priority issues made incremental progress, but we'll be back to strengthen them in next year's session. These include:
Reproductive Health Access for All Act (SB 5602): In 2018, the Washington Legislature passed the Reproductive Parity Act (RPA) to protect access to reproductive health care for Washingtonians. But the RPA left gaps in coverage, especially for undocumented immigrants and transgender and gender non-conforming people. RHAA is an important step towards filling those coverage gaps. During the legislative session RHAA was amended to remove a fundamental provision that ensured access to family planning services for undocumented immigrants, but legislators in Olympia secured funding for those services via a budget proviso. This ensures services will be covered for two years and allows advocates to return to Olympia next session to codify those protections into law. Legal Voice advocated for this bill through our work with the Health Equity and Reproductive Rights Organizations (HERRO) Coalition.
Reducing Workplace Sexual Harassment (SB 5258): Legal Voice worked in coalition with Casa Latina, ROC Seattle, UNITE HERE Local 8, and the Washington Coalition to Eliminate Farmworker Sexual Harassment to draft a potential bill to reduce sexual harassment by requiring Washington employers, across all industries, to adopt sexual harassment policies and conduct sexual harassment training for all staff, including owners, supervisors and employees. While we were disappointed that the bill was not introduced this session, we are pleased to see a similar - but more limited - bill pass this session. The Isolated Workers Bill (SB 5258) requires employers to adopt sexual harassment policies and provide training to supervisors and staff to workers in a limited number of industries. Legal Voice will continue to advocate for the provisions in our original bill and is working with legislative champions to lay groundwork for the 2020 session.
Unfortunately, a few of our priority bills did not make it through this session:
Preserving & Expanding the Rights of Campus Sexual Assault Survivors (HB 1998): House Bill 1998 sought to create a joint legislative task force on Title IX protections and compliance. The bill was a response to the Trump Administration's proposed new rules, which sabotage the very purpose of Title IX. The task force would have proposed concrete protections to ensure Washington colleges and universities appropriately handle sexual assault cases without perpetuating harmful rape myths. While HB 1998 did not pass, Legal Voice is still working closely with advocates and legislators to ensure that Title IX protections will continue to exist in Washington State.
Bolstering Support for Low-Income Parents (HB 1136 and SB 5144): Families eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are required to assign their rights to child support to the state in order to receive TANF benefits. States may keep the child support payments, or pass them on to the parent who has custody, usually a mother. This bill would have required the state to pass through at least a portion of child support to TANF recipients
Protecting Economic Rights of Caregivers (HB 1445): Currently, under Washington's unemployment insurance (UI) law, many unemployed workers are required to be available 24/7 in order to receive unemployment benefits. This law denies access to UI for workers with family caregiving obligations for children and vulnerable adults. Women workers disproportionately have such caregiving responsibilities. This bill would have updated Washington's UI law to better reflect the needs of working families.
All in all, we are thrilled with the progress made this session! Thanks to our legislative champions for fighting for these bills, to our community partners for their strong efforts to pass them, and to you, for raising your voice on the issues that matter to you and your community.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE #4
It's crunch time in Olympia as the Washington State Legislature heads into its final weeks of the session. We're thrilled to report that nearly all of Legal Voice's priority bills are still on the move! Read on for news about what has happened since our last update - plus, how you can learn about your new rights after the session!
What Has Happened Already?
Last Wednesday was the policy cutoff by which all bills had to be approved by committee in the "opposite house." And tomorrow, bills with budget implications need to be passed out of their respective fiscal committees, so lots of movement both today and tomorrow!
Here are some exciting updates:
The Reproductive Health Access for All Act (SB 5602) was voted out of the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness on April 2nd! This bill expands reproductive health care access for Washingtonians regardless of gender, gender identity, immigration status, or income. The bill now also has an amendment that addresses proposed federal changes to require "dual billing" for health insurance costs that go toward abortion coverage. Health insurance companies already need to keep their funds for abortion coverage in separate bank accounts, but the federal rule would require consumers to write two separate checks for their premium payments. The bill's amendment requires health carriers offering qualified health plans to bill enrollees through a single invoice. The passed the House Appropriations Committee this morning and is awaiting a vote by the full House.
The Title IX Task Force bill (HB 1998) was voted out of the Senate Committee on Higher Education & Workforce Development on April 2nd! This bill will create a task force to develop model policies that ensure that survivors' rights are maintained. As the U.S. Department of Education's proposed rules essentially gut Title IX protections for campus sexual assault and harassment survivors, this bill is a critical step in the right direction. HB 1998 is scheduled for a hearing in Senate Ways and Means tomorrow.
Anti-bullying legislation for transgender students (SB 5689) was voted out of the House Committee on Education on April 1st! This bill improves protections against harassment, intimidation, and bullying for transgender students in public schools in Washington.
Legislation to extend and standardize statutes of limitations (SB 5649) was voted out of the House Committee on Public Safety on April 1st. This bill—along with a similar House bill, HB 1231—eliminates the statute of limitations for prosecuting most sex offenses against minors and extends it for prosecuting many other sex offenses. SB 5649 also changes the legal definition of 'Rape 3' to eliminate language requiring prosecutors to show the victim clearly expressed non-consent by words or actions. This is a significant change as we know that the responses to assault and rape are varied and none of them are "better" than the others.
A bill to strengthen sexual assault protection orders (HB 1149) was voted out of the Senate Committee on Law & Justice on March 21st. This bill clarifies that to obtain a sexual assault protection order (SAPO), a survivor is only required to allege and prove that they were sexually assaulted; they are NOT additionally required to prove that the perpetrator said or did anything else that would create a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts.
A bill addressing the definition of 'Rape 3' (HB 1002) was voted out of the Senate Committee on Law & Justice on March 14th. This bill changes our third-degree rape law to focus on whether the survivor gave affirmative consent.
Salary and wage history legislation (HB 1696) was voted out of the Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce on March 28th. This bill helps fight the gender and racial pay gap by restricting employers from requiring applicants to provide their salary and wage history and by requiring employers to disclose the wage range for jobs at an applicant's request and for employees upon a promotion.
And on a more disappointing note:
SB 5395, the bill that would have required all public schools in Washington to provide comprehensive, inclusive, and medically accurate sex education, has effectively died. Comprehensive sexuality education is a right and we owe it to our young people to do better.
What's Coming Up?
As mentioned above, all bills with budget requirements must be passed out of their respective fiscal committees by tomorrow; following that, all bills must be passed by the opposite house (Senate bills passed by the House, and vice versa) by April 17th. Meanwhile, budget negotiations have begun! The House and the Senate have passed their respective budgets, but they now must sit down to resolve their differences. They also need to determine if there is sufficient support for additional revenue sources, such as the capital gains tax.
We'll take a deeper dive into some of our priority bills at our upcoming Pints & Progress series, where we'll discuss the progress made and the rights you gained through our community's advocacy this session. Check out our event dates and locations and register for one that works for you. You won't want to miss it!
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE #3
The Washington Legislature just passed the halfway point in its 2019 session—and we have a lot of good news to report about our work to advance the rights of women, girls, and LGBTQ people in Washington!
This past Wednesday was the deadline for bills to pass out of their "house of origin" (the house in which they were introduced). Nearly all of our priority bills cleared this major hurdle and are still moving forward.
What's Happened Already?
So much! Here are some highlights since our last legislative update:
The Reproductive Health Access for All Act (SB 5602) passed the Senate on March 7 by a vote of 28-17! This bill will expand reproductive health care access for people in Washington regardless of gender, gender identity, immigration status, or income.
The Title IX Task Force bill (HB 1998) passed the House unanimously on March 5! At a time when the U.S. Department of Education has proposed rules to weaken protections for campus sexual assault and harassment survivors under federal law (Title IX), this bill will create a task force to develop model policies and options to ensure that Washington state law provides strong protections for survivors.
Anti-bullying legislation for transgender students (SB 5689) passed the Senate on February 27 by a vote of 29-20. This bill will improve protections against harassment, intimidation, and bullying for transgender students in Washington public schools. The House committee heard the bill yesterday, and is scheduled to vote on it next week.
Comprehensive sex education legislation (SB 5395) passed the Senate on February 27 by a vote of 28-21. This legislation will require all public schools in Washington to provide comprehensive, inclusive, and medically accurate sex education, including education about consent and sexual assault prevention.
Wage history legislation (HB 1696) passed the House on March 9 by a vote of 56-40. This bill helps fight the gender pay gap by restricting employers from requiring applicants to provide their wage history and by requiring employers to disclose the wage range for jobs at an applicant's request.
What's Coming Up?
The next big deadline in Olympia is April 3, when bills must be approved by committee in the "opposite house." In addition to the bills above, we'll be working to help pass:
Several important bills to improve protections for sexual assault survivors, including a bill to clarify requirements for sexual assault protection orders (HB 1149), bills to extend statutes of limitations for sex offenses (SB 5649 and HB 1231), and a bill to change our third-degree rape law to focus on whether the survivor gave affirmative consent (HB 1002).
A bill to protect isolated workers from sexual assault and harassment (SB 5258) by requiring certain employers of isolated workers to adopt sexual harassment policies, provide sexual harassment training to all staff and supervisors, and provide panic buttons to staff who work with two or fewer co-workers.
Legislation to protect confidentiality in health insurance communications (SB 5889) by restricting health insurers from disclosing sensitive health care information in explanations of benefits and billing statements without the consent of the patient.
We are thrilled to have so much good news to report from Olympia, and hope to have even more to share with you soon!
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE #2
Time flies when you're fighting for social justice! The Washington State Legislature is now more than six weeks into its 2019 session and there is a lot of exciting news to report on Legal Voice's legislative priorities.
What Has Happened Already?
So much! Many of our bills are way ahead of schedule and have made it through their originating chamber. Here's where we're at:
House Bill 1149, which strengthens protections for sexual assault survivors, passed in the House by a vote of 81-14 and has moved on to the Senate! This bill is in direct response to a troubling ruling by the Washington Supreme Court, in which the Court found that a survivor must not only prove the assault, but also show that she has a "reasonable fear" of future dangerous acts from the perpetrator. We believe that one assault is enough to warrant a protection order and are advocating for clarifications to the law.
Senate Bill 5649, which extends the statutes of limitations for prosecuting sex offenses has passed unanimously in the Senate and is moving on to the House! Washington currently has among the shortest and most complex statutes of limitations for sex offenses in the country. Removing these barriers is critical to ensure survivors of sexual violence can come forward and seek justice when they are ready.
Also receiving a unanimous Senate vote is SB 5258, which aims to protect isolated workers from sexual harassment and assault. This bill requires employers in certain low-wage industries (such as hospitality, retail, health care, and janitorial) to adopt sexual harassment policies and provide sexual harassment training and related resources to all supervisors and staff. It also requires, among other things, that employers provide panic buttons to staff who spend a majority of their working hours alongside two or fewer co-workers. These are critical steps to ensure the safety of some of our state's most vulnerable workers.
The Reproductive Health Access for All Act (RHAA) cleared its first hurdle this past Friday when the Senate Committee on Health and Long Term Care voted to advance SB 5602. The RHAA will fill gaps in current law to ensure reproductive health access for all people in Washington regardless of their immigration status, and strengthen the law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. Legal Voice is advocating for this bill through our work with the Health Equity & Reproductive Rights Organizations (HERRO) Coalition.
HB 1002 passed unanimously in the House and is heading to the Senate! This bill seeks to eliminate the requirement in Washington's third-degree rape statute that a victim's lack of consent be "clearly expressed by the victim's words or conduct," and instead focus on whether consent was freely given.
The Title IX Task Force bill (HB 1998) passed out of the House Committee on College and Workforce Development on February 20th, and is now moving toward a vote by the full House. While the federal government has proposed rules that would weaken Title IX protections for survivors of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses, this bill will create a task force that will work to ensure that survivors in Washington have the protections that they need and deserve.
Also moving forward in the House is HB 1687, which would prohibit gay and trans "panic" defenses. And moving forward in the Senate are: SB 5689 to strengthen requirements for school district policies that address bullying in schools, specifically adding protections for transgender students; and SB 5889 to prohibit health insurers from disclosing "sensitive health care information" in explanations of benefits and billing statements without the consent of the patient.
What's Coming Up?
Two of our other priority bills will be heard by their respective committees in the coming days, and BOTH need to pass out of committee by March 1. Specifically:
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee will be hearing HB 1696, which would restrict employers' use of wage history when setting employees' pay; and
On Wednesday, the Reproductive Health Access for All Act will be heard in the Ways & Means Committee.
Of course, there are numerous other bills that Legal Voice is supporting this year, including one that would prohibit the denial of unemployment insurance benefits to workers who are separated from work due to caregiving responsibilities, and another that seeks to lessen the impacts of deep poverty and increase family stability by reinstating the child support pass through.
We still have a lot of work ahead to keep these change-making bills moving forward this session. Will you join us by attending one of our upcoming Legislative Action Nights? We'll be in Ballard on Tuesday, March 12th, and in Downtown Seattle on Thursday, March 14th. Find out more and register to attend!
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE #1
Winter may have shown up full force in Seattle, but things in Olympia are really heating up! The Washington State Legislature is more than three weeks into its 2019 session and we already have some exciting news on Legal Voice's legislative priorities.
What Has Happened Already?
A critical bill we are supporting has cleared its first hurdle and is quickly moving forward! House Bill 1149 strengthens protections for sexual assault survivors. This bill is in direct response to a troubling ruling by the Washington Supreme Court where the court ruled that a survivor seeking a sexual assault protection order must not only prove that she was sexually assaulted, but must also show that her attacker said or did something else that causes her to have to have a "reasonable fear" of them in the future. We believe that such a requirement is an out-of-touch and unjust burden on survivors, and are advocating for clarifications to the law. We are excited to report that the House Committee on Civil Rights & Judiciary passed the bill by a near-unanimous (14-1) vote!
What's Coming Up?
Several of our other priority bills will be heard by their respective committees in the coming days, including:
The Reproductive Health Access for All Act, which will fill gaps in current law to ensure reproductive health access for all people in Washington. The bill specifically addresses the reproductive health needs of Washington's immigrant and transgender communities, who routinely face discrimination, harassment, and denials of coverage when seeking reproductive health care. Legal Voice is advocating for this bill through our work with the Health Equity and Reproductive Rights Organizations (HERRO) Coalition.
A collection of bills that would either eliminate or extend the statutes of limitations for prosecuting sex offenses. Washington currently has among the shortest and most complex statutes of limitations for sex offenses in the country. Removing these barriers is critical to ensure survivors of sexual violence can come forward and seek justice when they are ready.
We are also working with our legislative champions to move forward on other priorities, including legislation that would lessen the impacts of deep poverty and increase family financial stability by reinstating the child support pass through, restrict employers' use of wage history when setting employees' pay, strengthen state law against student bullying to better protect transgender youth, and more.
All bills need to be passed out of their policy committees by February 22nd to continue progressing this session. Stay tuned for more information on how you can keep these powerful bills moving forward!