WSCC 2021 Catholic Advocacy Bulletin,
No. 14 April 9, 2021
Good News: Bills That Have Passed Both the House and Senate
Next Steps: Bills in the section have passed both the House and Senate. If no amendments were made in the second chamber, the bill will move toward the governor’s desk for approval. If amendments were made in the second chamber, a conference committee will need to reconcile the differences before the bill can be sent to the governor.
Senate Passes Clean Fuels Bill: On April 8 the Senate passed House Bill 1091 (HB 1091), the Clean Fuels Bill. The Clean Fuels Bill reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In accordance with the call of Pope Francis to care for God’s creation in Laudato Si’, the WSCC supports HB 1091.
House Passes Extensions to Economic Assistance Programs: On April 6 the House passed Senate Bill 5214 (SB 5214), which provides 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.
Senate Passes Postpartum Maternal Health Coverage: On April 5 the House passed Senate Bill 5068 (SB 5068). It was signed by the Senate President on April 8. SB 5068 is expected to be sent to the governor for his signature. 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.
Senate Passes Bill To Eliminate Copays for Student Reduced-Price Lunches: On April 6 the Senate passed House Bill 1342 (HB 1342). It was signed by the Speaker of the House on April 7. It is anticipated that HB 1342 will be signed by the President of the Senate and then sent to the governor for his signature. 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.
Senate Passes Civil Legal Aid Funds for Undocumented Immigrants: On April 5 the Senate passed House Bill 1072 (HB 1072). It was then signed by the Speaker of the House on April 7. It is anticipated that the President of the Senate will sign the bill and that it will then be sent to the governor for his signature. 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.
House Passes the Landlord-Tenant Bill: On April 8 the House passed Senate Bill 5160 (SB 5160), which addresses landlord-tenant relations. 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 Just Cause Eviction: On April 8 the Senate passed House Bill 1236 (HB 1236), which addresses just cause for evictions. 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 supports HB 1236.
Bill Prohibiting Private, For-Profit Detention Facilities Delivered to Governor: Both the House and Senate passed House Bill 1090 (HB 1090). It was delivered to Governor Inslee on April 8 and awaits his signature to become law. 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.
Voter Eligibility Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature: Both the House and Senate passed House Bill 1078 (HB 1078). It was delivered to Governor Inslee on April 5 and awaits his signature to become law. 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.
Private Schools Emergency Waiver Bill (HB 1131) Awaits Governor’s Signature: House Bill 1131 (HB 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.
Additional State Legislative Updates
State Budget: Both the Senate and House have passed their operating budget proposals. The Senate operating budget may be found here, and the House operating budget is posted here. Next week a conference committee will be appointed to reconcile differences between the two budgets.
Senate Passes Abortion Mandates for Student Health Plans: On April 6 the Senate passed House Bill 1009 (HB 1009), which mandates that student health plans cover abortion. It was then signed by the Speaker of the House on April 7. HB 1009 is expected to be signed by the President of the Senate and then sent to the governor for his signature. 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.
HB 1151, Which Bolsters Economic Recovery, Signed Into Law: On March 31 Governor Inslee signed House Bill 1151 (HB 1151), which bolsters economic recovery, into law. This new law will 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.
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.
Legislative Cutoff Dates: The most recent legislative cutoff date was Sunday, April 11, the last day for bills to pass out of the opposite chamber. 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.
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.
Virtual Cornerstone Catholic Conference: October 30: The bishops of Washington state invite you to attend the virtual Cornerstone Catholic Conference on October 30. Fr. Robert Spitzer and Gloria Purvis will present their keynote addresses in English, and the Washington bishops will be hosting a panel. Fr. Agustino Torres and Brenda Noriega will present their keynote addresses in Spanish. Pedro Rubalcava will provide music. Spanish interpretation will be provided, and some workshops will be offered in Spanish. There is no charge for this virtual conference. Registration will open in May.