Law Articles

Five Areas Washington Legislature is Focused on for 2019

By January 20, 2019 February 18th, 2020 No Comments

The Peninsula Daily News recently published a rundown of Washington’s legislative priorities for 2019, broken down into five categories. We made a post breaking each category down into key points.

Mental Health Programs

Governor Jay Inslee is proposing a $675 million program to improve mental health services in Washington. One of the main focuses of this program is to move patients who have been involuntarily committed from psychiatric hospitals into community facilities. Other aspects of the program include additional treatment and housing for individuals suffering from mental illness. Mental health reform in Washington is an issue with significant bipartisan support, so expect to see some legislation this year.

Education Funding

After ending the decade-long funding case in the state Supreme Court, Washington lawmakers are eager to begin addressing the state’s education system. Propelled by bipartisan interest in special education, Governor Inslee’s proposed budget includes an additional $146 million for special education over the next two years. Given that the legislature has finally regained control over state budgets for education, there will likely be quite a bit of activity focused on all aspects of K-12 education.

Protecting the Environment

With the increasingly urgent climate reports coming out from the UN and the wildfires that plagued the West Coast this year, Governor Inslee has stated that he wants Washington’s electricity to be free of fossil fuels by 2045. Also on the table is an effort to create legislation that would require fuel companies to reduce carbon intensity in transportation fuels, which is generally higher than those in petroleum. This program would be similar to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The governor’s $268 million proposed environmental budget also looks to incentivize energy-efficient buildings and vehicles, as well as improve water quality and salmon recovery efforts.

Sexual Harassment in the Capitol

This past year, the #MeToo movement had a resounding impact on the way we talk and think about workplace sexual harassment. Washington lawmakers are looking to do more to address harassment in the government, including providing independent HR offices and improved resources for individuals who have been subjected to harassment. After a number of candidates and officials were accused of sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct, lawmakers are also promising to fully investigate additional claims.

Public Records Transparency

Although lawmakers voted last year to hide their own records by exempting themselves from the Public Records Act, the action created enough outcry to spark a debate within the legislature, with some member promising to improve transparency. After Governor Inslee vetoed the bill, a public records task force recommended that transparency needed to be improved.