January 31, 2013 Print

What's hot today at the legislature - January 31, 2013

As we approach the end of week three, talk about the budget has been almost subsumed by the hundreds of other bills introduced so far. Legislators have requested Freedom Foundation expert testimony on several bills with public hearings today. Indeed, the schedule is packed with committee meetings, including some bills up for executive session--the point where a committee either propels a bill forward in the process or stops it cold.

Forced choice?
Back again is legislation to mandate abortion coverage in health insurance plans offered within Washington State. Mandates drive up the cost of health insurance and deny consumers a choice. The mandate proposed in HB 1044 would, of course, also violate the freedom of conscience of consumers and health insurers. The 8:00 a.m. hearing in the House Committee on Health Care is sure to draw a crowd, and our CEO, Jonathan Bechtle, will be there offering testimony for the Freedom Foundation.

Click here to watch his testimony

Legalizing Online Private Schools
Right now, Washington laws regulating private schools are silent about online education. Rep. Mark Hargrove’s HB 1304 would clarify that private schools can run online programs. The promise of these programs, especially in the private sector where competition drives innovation, was outlined last year in the Freedom Foundation’s Education 2.0 report.

Three ways to rein in regulations
Rep. Jason Overstreet, with his Regulatory Fairness Act, aims to do nothing less than restore the constitutional balance of power in Washington State. The legislature, after all, is supposed to do the legislating. Yet much of that power has shifted away from our elected representatives and into the hands of executive branch bureaucrats. HB 1162 says that no regulation imposing costs of $500 or more on an individual or $1,000 or more on a business or organization could take effect unless passed by the legislature. I will testify at the hearing this morning at 10 a.m.

Another bill sponsored by Rep. Overstreet has a public hearing in the afternoon. Current state law exempts “cottage food operations”--people who make food in their own home kitchen and then sell it locally--from certain state and local commercial food regulations. There’s a catch, however: the exemption has a revenue limit. That means that two people doing the exact same thing could be subject to different laws only on the basis of one making a bit more money than the other. HB 1135 would remove the revenue cap (one of just a few bills that, if enacted, would make the Revised Code of Washington shorter.) Freedom Foundation testimony has been requested for this bill as well.

Rep. Sam Hunt, a Democrat from Olympia, is often fond of government regulation. Yet he is the sponsor of HB 1228, which would protect some daycare operators from a new requirement that they hold a high school diploma or equivalent certification. His bill, set for a hearing this morning, would protect daycare operators who have been in business for at least five years and who have no complaints against them.

Can we call it the Opener Public Meetings Act?
HB 1197 offers an upgrade to the state’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA). The bill by Rep. Gerry Pollett would require the governing bodies of government agencies to release meeting materials and allow public comment before taking any official action. For more on this area of law, access the Freedom Foundation’s Best Practices for Public Agency Compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act.

What can you do?
Remember, you can communicate with your legislators. And you can watch them--all of the hearings are available, live and archived, from TVW.


Trent England

Executive Vice President

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