WSCC 2021 Catholic Advocacy Bulletin, No. 7  2.19.21

WSCC 2021 Catholic Advocacy Bulletin, No. 7                                         February 19, 2021

Bills Requiring Your Action Now

Legislative Cutoff Dates

Monday, February 15 marked the first cutoff day of the legislative session.  All bills were required to pass out of committee in their house of origin (either the House of Representatives or the Senate) in order to be eligible for further consideration.  However, bills in House fiscal committees, Senate Ways and Means, or the Senate Transportation Committee have through Monday, February 22 to be passed.  The next cutoff date is March 9, the last day to pass bills in their house of origin.  Ultimately, bills must pass both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then be signed by the governor in order to become law.  A full list of cutoff dates for the legislative session may be found here.

Action Alert: Urge Your Representatives to Oppose Abortion Coverage Requirement

Contact your two state representatives and urge them to oppose House Bill 1009 (HB 1009), which includes a new requirement that abortions be covered in student health plans.  Identify your district and state representatives here. HB 1009 is currently on the House Floor Calendar and is eligible to be brought up for a vote in the House of Representatives.  HB 1009 expands the coverage of abortion in student health plans for colleges and universities.  Any student health plan that provides coverage for maternity care or services will also be required to include equivalent coverage to permit the abortion of a pregnancy. The WSCC opposes HB 1009.

Action Alert: Urge your State Senator to support SB 5180, Which Helps Trafficking and Domestic Violence Survivors

Action Alert: Urge your State Representatives to Oppose Expanding Assisted Suicide

Last month we issued a separate action alert opposing assisted suicide.  If you have not yet done so, please click here to urge your state representatives to oppose House Bill 1141

Action Alert: Urge the House to Support HB 1151, Which Bolsters Economic Recovery

Urge your two House Representatives to support House Bill 1151 (HB 1151), which bolsters economic recovery.  Identify your district and House Representatives here.  HB 1151 aims to bolster economic recovery by providing assistance to families in need.  This bill allows Consolidated Emergency Assistance to be provided more than once in a 12-month period when directed by the governor; provides a one-time cash benefit and transitional food assistance; and requires the Department of Social and Health Services to update standards of need for cash assistance programs.  HB 1151 is currently on the House Floor Calendar and is eligible for a vote in the House of Representatives.  In accordance with the bishops’ economic justice priority, the WSCC supports HB 1151.

Action Alert: Urge the House to Support Voter Eligibility (HB 1078)

Urge your two House Representatives to support House Bill 1078 (HB 1078).  Identify your district and House Representatives here.  HB 1078 will automatically restore voter eligibility to individuals convicted of a felony offense who are not serving a sentence of total confinement under the authority of the Department of Corrections.  Currently, convicted persons must undergo a two-step process to regain voting eligibility.  The House Rules Committee passed HB 1078 on February 17, and it is now eligible for a House Floor vote.  In accordance with the Washington bishops’ restorative justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1078.

Action Alert: Urge the Senate to Pass SB 5010, Concerning Credit Scores and Equity

Urge your state senator to support Senate Bill 5010 (SB 5010).  Identify your district and state senator here. SB 5010 prohibits the use of credit scores to determine rates for personal lines of insurance.  The use of credit scoring to calculate rates for personal lines of insurance is unfair and has a disproportionately negative economic impact on women, low-income individuals, and communities of color in Washington. In accordance with the legislative priorities of economic and racial justice, the WSCC supports SB 5010.

Urge Appropriations to Pass the Housing Stability and Eviction Prevention

Action Alert: If one of your state representatives is a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, please urge your representative to support House Bill 1277 (HB 1277). Identify your district and state representatives here.  HB 1277 creates a revenue source for housing stability services for low-income individuals and those experiencing homelessness.  It also creates funds to prevent the eviction of households likely to become homeless or who would have severe health consequences, or both.  The House Housing, Human Services and Veterans Committee passed HB 1277, and it has been referred to Appropriations.  Committed to affordable housing, the WSCC supports HB 1277.

State Legislative Update

Virtual Catholic Advocacy Day on March 23, 2021 

Register for our first virtual Catholic Advocacy Day (CAD).  Scheduled for March 23, CAD will include several opportunities to choose from: pray at Mass, learn about current legislation that is important to Catholics, talk with your legislators virtually alongside fellow Catholics in your district, and/or participate in a social media campaign.  Participate in all or some of the day’s activities as your schedule allows.  Please register for this free event by March 9 if you would like to meet with your legislators during CAD.

Senate Committee On Law and Justice Passes SB 5226 To End Debt-based Driver’s License Suspensions

On February 15 the Senate Committee on Law and Justice voted to pass Senate Bill 5226 (SB 5226), which ends debt-based driver’s license suspensions.  The bill has been passed to the Rules Committee.  Current law adversely affects low-income families and individuals.  When low-income individuals are unable to pay fines for civil driving infractions that are not crimes, such as failing to signal, their driving license may be suspended.  When they must inevitably drive to work, the grocery store, or a medical appointment, low-income individuals then risk being charged with a crime: Driving While License Suspended in the Third Degree (DWLS3).  Ultimately, inability to pay for a civil driving infraction leads to being charged with a crime with an accompanying loss of vehicle insurance coverage.  SB 5226 stops the suspension of driver’s licenses for financial reasons and the accompanying automatic loss of vehicle insurance coverage. Having a valid driver’s license is a necessity of life for many people in Washington, for work and to provide transportation for their families.  In accordance with the bishops’ economic justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports SB 5226.

Transportation Committee to Vote on Clean Fuels Bill

On February 19 the House Committee will vote on the Clean Fuels Bill, House Bill 1091 (HB 1091).  The Clean Fuels Bill reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its Senate companion bill is SB 5231. In accordance with Pope Francis’s call to care for God’s creation in Laudato Si’, the WSCC supports HB 1091.

SB 5068, Which Improves Maternal Health Outcomes, Passes Ways and Means

On February 17 Senate Bill 5068 (SB 5068), which improves maternal health outcomes, successfully passed out of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.  Thank you to all the advocates who signed in “pro” for this bill.  SB 5068 expands postpartum maternal coverage from 60 days to one year for recipients of Apple Health.  Apple Health provides health coverage for eligible families, children, low-income adults, and certain disabled individuals.  Throughout Washington state and the US, maternal mortality rates are much higher than other developed countries, with stark ethnic disparities.  Related to our health care and racial justice legislative priorities, the WSCC supports SB 5068.

House Appropriations Passes Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education (HB 1044)

On February 16 the House Committee on Appropriations passed House Bill 1044 (HB 1044).  HB 1044 permits the Department of Corrections (DOC) to implement postsecondary education certificate and degree programs at state correctional institutions.  It also establishes processes for identifying, assessing and accommodating incarcerated persons with learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and cognitive impairments. Related to the bishops’ restorative justice priority, the WSCC supports HB 1044.

Appropriations to Vote on the Working Families Tax Exemption

Today the House Committee on Appropriations will vote on the Working Families Tax Exemption, House Bill 1297 (HB 1297).  Also commonly known as the Working Families Tax Credit or the Recovery Rebate, HB 1297 will assist low-income, working individuals and families, including tax-paying immigrants.  The HB 1297 tax credit seeks to address Washington’s regressive tax system, which causes low-income Washingtonians, who are primarily Black, American Indian and Alaskan Native, Latina or Latino, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, and multiracial, to pay six times more in taxes as a percentage of their household income in comparison to wealthier residents.  The Working Families Tax Credit would reach 500,000 households, including one in four children; have an outsized impact on Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC); and would provide a base credit of $500 to $900.  The WSCC supports HB 1297.

Civil Legal Aid Funds for Undocumented Immigrants (HB 1072) Moves to the Senate

House Bill 1072 (HB 1072) gives undocumented immigrants access to civil legal aid funds.  These funds can be used for legal matters such as domestic relations and family law, elder abuse, disability rights, and health care.  HB 1072 passed out of the House on February 12 and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Law and Justice.  In accordance with the bishops’ legislative priorities to help low-income individuals, including immigrants, the WSCC supports HB 1072.

Ways and Means to Vote on Healthy Environment For All (HEAL) Act

Today the Senate Ways and Means Committee will vote on the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act, Senate Bill 5141 (SB 5141).  Low-income and communities of color are disproportionately affected by environmental burdens.  The HEAL Act addresses this by implementing the recommendations of the Environmental Justice Task Force.  Among its provisions, the HEAL Act defines environmental justice and requires its application in state agencies, using a racial justice lens.  The HEAL Act also incorporates tribal consultation, directs funding with environmental benefits towards communities highly impacted by pollution or climate change, and establishes the Environmental Justice Council.  In accordance with Pope Francis’s call to care for God’s creation in Laudato Si’, the WSCC supports the HEAL Act.

HB 1342, Eliminating Copays for Student Reduced-Price Lunches, Moves to the Senate

House Bill 1342 (HB 1342) eliminates lunch copays for students who qualify for reduced-price lunches under the National School Lunch Program.  This program provides nutritionally balanced meals to qualifying low-income children at public schools and nonprofit private schools, including Catholic schools.  HB 1342 was passed by the House and has now moved over to the Senate.  Related to the bishops’ families and children and economic justice priorities, the WSCC supports HB 1342.

Private Schools Emergency Waiver Bill (HB 1131) Passes the Legislature

House Bill 1131 (HB 1131) provides a waiver for private schools to maintain their approval status when they are unable to meet minimum schools days or instructional hours due to a significant disruption resulting from an emergency situation. This bill is favorable to Catholic schools and allows them to be in good status with the state as schools contend with the challenges of the pandemic.  The House passed HB 1131 unanimously on January 27, and the Senate passed it on February 16.  Its next stop is the governor’s desk. Related to the bishops’ Catholic Schools legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1131.

Solitary Confinement Restriction Act (SB 5413) Misses Cutoff

The Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry, and Rehabilitation failed to schedule a vote for the Solitary Confinement Restriction Act, Senate Bill 5413 (SB 5413). SB 5413 has now missed the February 15 cutoff to be passed out of committee.  SB 5413 is not expected to move further this session.  Studies demonstrate that solitary confinement can induce devastating and lasting psychological effects.  Those subjected to solitary confinement also have higher rates of medical concerns and a shorter life expectancy once released into the community. Solitary confinement is disproportionately imposed upon Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic individuals in Washington’s prisons.  According to SB 5413 solitary confinement should only be used when necessary and should not be used against vulnerable populations or for time periods that foster psychological trauma, psychiatric disorders, or serious, long-term damage to a person’s brain.  In accordance with the bishops’ priorities of respecting life and restorative justice, the WSCC supports SB 5413.

School Choice Bill Misses Cutoff

The Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education failed to schedule the School Choice Bill, Senate Bill 5200, for a vote, and it has now missed the February 15 cutoff date to be passed out of committee.  SB 5200 is not expected to move further this session.  SB 5200 would establish a tax credit for contributions to student scholarship organizations.  While this bill focused on benefits for students who receive special education services or are foster children, the WSCC supports all efforts that lead to school choice and could be expanded in the future to benefit Catholic school students and families.  The WSCC supports SB 5200.

Voice Your Opinion on Legislation

As a reminder, you may submit written comments on a bill at any time.  To leave a message for legislators about a bill, call 1-800-562-6000.

WSCC Legislative Priorities

Each year the bishops of Washington establish state legislative priorities based on the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Details of these 11 priorities may be found on our website.  These priorities are reflected in the WSCC’s positions on the bills above.

From the US Conference of Catholic Bishops

USCCB Action Alert: The Equality Act

Click here to take action and learn more about the US Conference of Catholic Bishop’s opposition to the Equality Act.  Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Yet the Equality Act, which is being voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives soon, in many ways does the opposite and should be opposed. Instead of respecting differences in beliefs about marriage and sexuality, the Equality Act would discriminate against people of faith. The Equality Act would: punish faith-based organizations, such as charities and schools who serve everyone in their communities, simply because of their beliefs; force girls and women to compete against boys and men for limited opportunities in sports, and to share locker rooms and shower spaces with biological males who identify as women; risk mandating taxpayers to fund abortions; force people in everyday life, and especially health care workers, to support gender transition; and expand what the government considers a “public” place, forcing even some parish halls to host functions that conflict with Catholic beliefs.

Upcoming Events

USCCB Respect Life Action Guide: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is March 25.  The USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities released this parish action guide to aid with planning.