Washington State Catholic Conference Newsletter – 3.26.21

Special THANK YOU to the WSCC for being our VOICE in Olympia!

March 26, 2021
Bills Requiring Your Action Now
How To Sign In “Pro” or “Con” For A Bill

Now is the time to sign in “pro” or “con” for bills with scheduled public hearings. These public hearings are your opportunity to easily indicate your position on a bill electronically. When you click on the links ,they will bring you to a page titled “Committee Sign In – Remote Testimony.” Please note that “Remote Testimony” in this instance only refers to selecting your position (pro or con) via the web; it does not include verbal testimony. You will also notice that a paragraph in green font explains this. Select your position and fill in your contact information. You do not need to list an organization. Select the “I am not a robot” box. Finally, select “Submit Registration.” Thank you for your advocacy.

Action Alert: Sign in “Pro” for Working Families Tax Exemption
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 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, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities; and would provide a base credit of $500 to $900. In accordance with the bishops’ priorities of the state budget, economic justice, and racial justice, the WSCC supports HB 1297.

Action Alert: Sign in “Pro” for the Clean Fuels Bill  If your senator is a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee [votervoice.net], please urge your senator to pass the Clean Fuels bill out of committee. The Clean Fuels Bill reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In accordance with Pope Francis’ call to care for God’s creation in Laudato Si’, the WSCC supports HB 1091.

Action Alert: Sign In “Pro” for Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education
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.

Action Alert: Sign in “Pro” for Juneteenth
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation, when Galveston, Texas learned the Civil War ended, and enslaved people were freed. Juneteenth commemorates the abolition of slavery and recognizes the contributions of Black/African Americans. Forty-six states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or day of observance. As part of the bishops’ racial justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1016.

Urge Your Senator to Oppose Abortion Mandates for Student Health Plans
HB 1009 passed out of the Senate Committee on Health and Long Term Care and is now in the Rules Committee. It is expected to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote. 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. HB 1009 is also problematic as it would compel Catholic students and other prolife students at public colleges and universities to purchase health insurance that would subsidize and promote a procedure that violates their consciences. WSCC staff testified against this bill during its January 13 hearing in the House and during its March 17 hearing before the Senate Committee on Health and Long Term Care. In accordance with the bishops’ legislative priorities of religious liberty and respecting life, the WSCC opposes HB 1009.

Ending Debt-based Driver’s License Suspensions
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 amending the current form of SB 5226 to make it more effective.

Farmworker Housing: Senate Bill 5396 (SB 5396)
SB 5396 encourages the building and maintenance of farmworker housing by expanding tax exemptions to include housing in which at least 50% or housing units are used as farmworker housing. Tax exemptions are also broadened to include seasonal farmworker housing and housing occupied by households with at least one member who is a farmworker. In line with the bishops’ housing and immigration legislative priorities, the WSCC supports SB 5396.

Senate Committee to Vote On Prohibiting Private, For-Profit Detention Facilities
HB 1090 prohibits state and local governments from using private, for-profit detention centers, which are outside the purview of public oversight and accountability. Profiteering should not be associated with the detention system. Related to the bishops’ restorative justice and immigration legislative priorities, the WSCC supports HB 1090.

Just Cause Eviction: House Bill 1236 (HB 1236)
Under current law, landlords can evict tenants with just 20 days notice, even if the tenant has never violated lease terms nor paid rent late. Landlords are not required to provide any reason for the “no cause” terminations, which allows discrimination and retaliation to go unchecked. BIPOC households are disproportionately impacted, with Black women experiencing the highest eviction rates. HB 1236 protects tenants by penalizing the inclusion of unlawful provisions in lease agreements and limiting reasons for eviction, refusal to renew a tenancy, and termination of tenancy. In accordance with the bishops’ housing and economic justice priorities, the WSCC support HB 1236.

Extensions to Economic Assistance Programs
As the economic impacts of COVID-19 have affected low-income families and individuals disproportionately, SB 5214 creates benefit extensions for recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). TANF provides temporary cash assistance, subsidized childcare, and work programs for families. Under SB 5214 TANF recipients may apply for hardship extensions during months that the state unemployment rate is at or above 7%. In line with the bishops’ economic justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports SB 5214.

Support Postpartum Maternal Health Coverage
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.

Civil Legal Aid Funds for Undocumented Immigrants Passes Committee
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. In accordance with the bishops’ legislative priorities to help low-income individuals, including immigrants, the WSCC supports HB 1072.

Catholic Advocacy Day 2021 Thank You, Catholic Advocacy Day Participants!

Senate Committee Scheduled To Vote On Assisted Suicide Thank you to advocates who contacted their senators to oppose this bill. In 2008 Washington voters approved Initiative 1000, the Physician-Assisted Death Initiative, but only after being assured that certain “safeguards” would be in place. HB 1141 loosens safeguards, increasing access to physician assisted suicide and accelerating the process. The bill broadens the definition of a “qualified medical provider” who can make a diagnosis and prescribe lethal medication. HB 1141 also loosens the definition of those who can provide counseling; in lieu of a psychiatrist or psychologist, a social worker, mental health counselor, or psychiatric advanced nurse practitioner may determine if a patient is suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgement. Additionally, this bill shortens the minimum amount of time from 15 days to just 72 hours that a patient is required to wait between making a request and receiving a prescription to terminate his or her life. The 72 hour wait time may even be waived if the “qualified medical provider” deems that a patient has less than 72 hours to live. HB 1141 also permits assisted suicide prescriptions to be delivered via the mail. Bishop Mueggenborg of the Archdiocese of Seattle and Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) Executive Director, Mario Villanueva, testified against HB 1141 on January 18. In accordance with the bishops’ legislative priority to respect life, the WSCC opposes HB 1141.

Voter Eligibility Bill Passes Senate
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. In accordance with the Washington bishops’ restorative justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1078.

Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act Passes Out of Committee
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 [votervoice.net]. 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.

House Committee Passes Landlord-Tenant Bill
HB 5160 will now be sent to the House Appropriations Committee. As low and moderate-income workers have experienced economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic due to layoffs and reduced hours, paying rent has become more difficult. In response, SB 5160 provides some tenant protections during the current public health emergency, provides legal representation for tenants in eviction cases, establishes an eviction resolution pilot program for nonpayment of rent cases, and authorizes landlords to access rental assistance programs. In line with the bishops’ affordable housing legislative priority, the WSCC supports SB 5160.

Senate Passes HB 1151, Which Bolsters Economic Recovery
This bill aims to bolster economic recovery by providing assistance to families in need. HB 1151 also requires the Department of Social and Health Services to update standards of need for cash assistance programs. Current standards are based on a 1991 study of living costs and do not accurately capture current need. Updating standards will have multiplying effects in getting assistance to more qualifying families and individuals. HB 1151 also permits Consolidated Emergency Assistance to be provided more than once in a 12-month period when directed by the governor and provides a one-time cash benefit and transitional food assistance. In accordance with the bishops’ economic justice priority, the WSCC supports HB 1151.

Bill Eliminating Copays for Student Reduced-Price Lunches Passes Ways and Means
House Bill 1342 eliminating copays for student reduced-price lunches, was passed by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means on March 25. It will now be referred to the Rules Committee. 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. Related to the bishops’ families and children and economic justice priorities, the WSCC supports HB 1342.

Private Schools Emergency Waiver Bill (HB 1131) Awaits Governor’s Signature
House Bill 1131 provides a waiver for private schools to maintain their approval status when they are unable to meet minimum school 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. Both the House and Senate passed this bill, and it has been delivered to the governor. It awaits his signature to become law. Related to the bishops’ Catholic Schools legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1131.

Voice Your Opinion on Legislation
As a reminder, you may submit written comment [votervoice.net]s on a bill at any time. To leave a message for legislators about a bill, call 1-800-562-6000.

Legislative Cutoff Dates – The next legislative cutoff date was Saturday, March 26, the last day for bills to pass out of committee in the opposite house. Bills in the House fiscal committees and Senate Ways and Means and Transportation Committees have an extended deadline to April 2. Bills then have until April 11 to pass out of the opposite house. 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 [votervoice.net].

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.

Important Dates
March 26 Last day to pass bills out of committee from the opposite house, except House fiscal committees and Senate Ways and Means and Transportation committees
March 28 Holy Week Begins
April 2 Last day to pass bills from the opposite house out of House fiscal committees and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation Committees
April 4 Easter
April 11 Last day to pass opposite house bills
April 22 Earth Day
April 25 Final day of the state legislative session