WA Legislative Roundup: Police Reform, Insulin Caps, Salary Laws

OLYMPIA, WA — This year’s legislative session may only be 60 days long, but that’s still plenty of time to get overwhelmed by the hundreds of bills Washington’s lawmakers will have to consider. If you’re lost in this year’s bonanza, don’t worry: here’s a look at a few of the most important bills the state legislature is working on right now.

A bill requiring job postings to include salary ranges

Sponsored by State Sen. Emily Randall (D-Gig Harbor), Senate Bill 5761 would require employers to disclose salary ranges on job postings.

“Every job-seeker deserves to have *all* the information they need to make the best career decision for themselves and their family,” Randall wrote in a Facebook post explaining the legislation. “And when they have that info, our communities benefit, our economy benefits, employers and workers benefit.”

The bill would apply to all employers with 15 or more employees, and requires the opening include hourly or salary compensation, or a range for hourly or salary compensation, plus a “general description of all of the benefits and other compensation.”

SB 5761 passed the Senate on Wednesday, and is headed to the house for consideration.

A price cap on insulin

The Washington State Senate on Thursday passed SB 5546, which would cap the cost for insulin at $35 per month.

“Insulin is a lifesaving medication,” said nill sponsor Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines). “It was first used 100 years ago. There is no reason for the price of insulin to be so high today, but across the country, it has skyrocketed by 54% in recent years. We have a responsibility to keep vital prescriptions affordable.”

Back in 2020 the legislature passed a bill capping patients’ out-of-pocket cost for insulin at $100 per month, but that bill is set to expire at the start of next year. If the House of Representatives passes the new bill, it would replace the $100 cap and last another full year, through to Jan. 1, 2024.

During that time period, lawmakers say they hope to create and pass a “more permanent solution” to keep insulin prices down.

Funding for seismic upgrades for schools

When ‘the big one’ hits, Washington wants to be as ready as it possibly can be. Helping in that effort is Sen. David Frockt’s (D-Seattle) SB 5933, which sets aside half a billion dollars for a school seismic safety grant program, which local schools could draw from to replace or retrofit buildings against earthquakes.

“Hundreds of school buildings across the state, from tsunami zones on the coast to seismically active areas inland, face a high risk of serious damage,” Frockt said in a written statement. “Low-probability but catastrophic risks like earthquakes and tsunamis are some of the hardest for communities to guard against. The cost is high, and the likelihood for any one town is that its schools will be spared a disaster, making it hard to justify funding.”

“But when multiplied by all the communities in potentially geologically active areas across our state—one with an unusually high risk of seismic activity, as Mt. St. Helens demonstrated so lastingly—this problem is urgent.”

Grants would pay up to two-thirds the cost of replacing or retrofitting schools in high seismic areas or tsunami zones. The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday, and heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

More free school meals

House Bill 1878 would require all of Washington’s public schools to participate in the USDA’s Community Eligibility Program if eligible, and gives them the money to pay for the program’s free school meals.

“Food is health,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane), the bill’s sponsor. “Consistent access to nutritious food is a part of how we protect kids from getting sick while ensuring they have the fuel they need to learn, grow, and play, and free school meals are the most effective way to ensure that all of our kids are getting the food they need to thrive.”

The USDA’s Community Eligibility Program is available to select schools with a high number of students whose households receive assistance from SNAP, or medicaid, are struggling with housing stability, or are in foster care, to apply and receive free meals to all of the school’s students. Supporters say making the meals universally free reduces the stigma of free and reduced lunch.

Right now, 491 Washington schools participate in the program, and 9 more are in the process of joining, but HB 1878 would expand the program to an additional 626 schools.

HB 1878 passed the House on a vote of 93-3. It is now headed to the Senate.

A rollback of police accountability bills

Last year, the legislature passed House Bills 1054 and 1310, two landmark police reform laws. The first “established requirements for tactics and equipment used by peace officers” by putting limits on when tear gas can be deployed and when officers can use choke holds or engage in vehicular pursuits of suspects. The second established a statewide standard for police use of force. Both were met with a strong, negative response from police and law enforcement agencies, who claimed the new regulations were overly restrictive.

In response to that pushback, lawmakers are considering SB 5919 and HB 2037 — both of which would lower the bar for police to use physical force against suspects, though how far the bar is lowered differs per bill. Supporters have argued that the two bills are necessary to protect officers as they make arrests, but others aren’t so sure. ACLU police practices attorney Enoka Herat told The Stranger SB 5919 was “a dangerous step backward” that would hobble police accountability.

A ban on high-capacity magazine sales

Finally, legislation that would ban the sale of gun magazines with a capacity for more than 10 rounds in Washington passed the state Senate late Wednesday, with senators voting 28-20 to advance the bill to the House for final approvals.

That bill, SB 5078, would not prevent gun owners from possessing high-capacity magazines, but would ban retailers from selling them or distributing them within the state. The legislation was formally requested by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who celebrated the Senate’s passage of the bill.

“The Legislature put public safety above the interest of the gun lobby,” Ferguson said. “This historic vote represents an important step toward combating mass shootings. The devastation of mass shootings traumatizes entire communities. The research is clear — bans on the sale of high-capacity magazines save lives. It’s time for the House of Representatives to act, and this public safety bill to the governor.”

If the bill makes it all the way, Washington would become the 10th state to place restrictions on high-capacity magazine sales.

Read more: WA Senate Approves Ban On High-Capacity Magazine Sales

Friday was the 33rd day of the 60-day 2022 legislative session. Tuesday will be the last day the legislature can pass bills in their house of origin. The last day to pass bills that have already made their way through the opposite house will be March 4, and the session will officially wrap on March 10, 2022.

Source: Bellevue Patch