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February 22, 2013 at 3:20 PM
By JONATHAN KAMINSKY
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Setting up what promises to be a contentious reckoning in the state Senate, the House on Friday passed a measure requiring that most insurance carriers in the state cover abortions.
House Bill 1044 is intended to ensure that insurers continue covering abortions once bureaucratic hurdles for doing so come into effect next year with the enactment of federal health-care changes. Lawmakers in the House passed the measure 53-43, with all but two Democratic votes cast in favor and all but one Republican voting against it.
“Today nearly every health plan in Washington state covers a full range of reproductive options,” said Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. “And we want it to stay that way.”
Opponents contend that abortion coverage in the state is already widespread and the bill is unnecessary. They also argue it could risk federal health-care funds by violating federal law and that it infringes on religious liberties.
“This bill takes away my choice as a woman and other individuals’ choices as well to choose not to have that care,” Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said.
Supporters point out language in the bill that makes any portion of it inconsistent with federal law moot and exempts insurance carriers — though not businesses or individuals — objecting to abortion on moral grounds from paying for the coverage. The measure goes next to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.
A similar bill in the upper chamber has 23 co-sponsors, leaving it two votes shy of a majority. Another senator, Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who leads the majority caucus of 23 Republicans and two Democrats, spoke recently in support of the bill at a pro-abortion rights rally at the Capitol.
Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, who is chairwoman of the Health Care Committee, said she will make hearing the bill in her committee a priority.
Given the widespread abortion coverage in the state, Becker said she is skeptical of the measure’s utility, but she is keeping an open mind. She declined to speculate on its prospects of clearing her committee, which is made up mostly of Republicans.
Sen. Steve Litzow, a Mercer Island lawmaker who is the sole Republican co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said he was heartened that it had cleared the House but said it was unlikely that any action would be taken to move it to the Senate floor in the event that it fails in committee.
“I would be surprised,” he said. “You’d have to do something that would be out of the ordinary.”
In a statement, Gov. Jay Inslee commended the House for passing the bill and implicitly urged Senate leaders to allow the bill to come up for a floor vote, where supporters believe they have the votes to pass the bill.
“The Senate should not shut the door of democracy when it comes to women’s health care,” he said.
February 14, 2013 at 1:44 PM
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said he does not expect floor votes this session on either universal background checks or the abortion measure.
“I would rather see our time focused on how we get to a four-year balanced budget, how we reform K-12, what we do about higher education,” Schoesler said in his most definitive remarks yet on the subject.
Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said he believes his caucus has the votes on the Senate Rules Committee, which largely controls the flow of legislation on the floor, to prevent votes on the measures if they ever get that far.
Taking on the gun control and abortion issues would distract the Legislature from more important business, like the budget, Schoesler argued.
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday blasted that logic, calling it “a fairly pathetic excuse for inaction.”
Inslee said this Saturday would be a good day for the Senate to pass the legislation. “It’s not something that is going to take months to develop a legislative package … this is an up or down vote on a common-sense measure,” he said. “It’s very disappointing to me that in a Senate that we were told was going to be open to democracy on a bipartisan basis to shut the door on an honest vote.”
Republicans gained control of the Senate on the first day of the session with the help of two Democrats — Sens. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch — who crossed party lines to caucus with the GOP.
Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said both bills deserve floor votes. “These bills need to come up for a vote because I believe the votes are there,” he said.
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday on a universal background-check proposal, House Bill 1588. The bill would require background checks for all firearm purchases. Currently, licensed dealers are required to do the checks, but private sellers are not.
A similar measure, Senate Bill 5711, has 23 signatures including two moderate Republicans. The bill has not gotten a hearing. Democrats think they likely have the 25 votes needed to pass the measure in the Senate if it gets to the floor.
The same is true, they say, for the Senate version of the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require that insurance companies continue to cover abortions once the national health-care law goes into full effect in 2014.
The bill’s supporters say it’s needed because there’s uncertainty about how the federal health-care overhaul, and restrictions on abortion funding, might affect abortion coverage in the future.
Both the abortion and background check measures have gotten a lot of attention during the first few weeks of the session and have generated strong opinions on both sides.
Schoesler said the Senate has more important jobs ahead.
For example, he said, the Legislature needs to discuss expanding Medicaid as part of the national health-care law.
“Do you want to spend all that time on the floor and committee hearing and caucus time on whether or not to accept it (the expansion), and if you do what safeguards you may want, or do you spend time talking about gun control that may very well go nowhere?” he said.
Democrats, informally, have talked about trying to use procedural rules in the Senate to bring the bills to the floor for a vote. But that’s considered a long shot at the moment.
February 4, 2013 at 8:00 AM
This week, legislators will address some old topics, such as workers compensation and abortion, and open up some new ones, such as marijuana legalization.
Senators could debate three of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus’ worker compensation bills on the floor today. One of the bills is Senate Bill 5128, changing compensation for injured workers. The bill sponsored by Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, was passed out of committee last week and amended on the Senate floor last Friday.
The Senate Law & Justice Committee will begin discussing Senate Bill 5156, requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortions. The bill was revised last week after Republicans faced criticism for a clause apparently repealing laws making abortion legal in Washington. A public hearing for the bill will be held on Feb. 6.
Members of the House will begin to address marijuana legalization this week with a work session on impaired driving in the Public Safety Committee on Feb. 6. Legislators will also polish the marijuana law with House Bill 1597, which makes technical corrections to the law. Public hearing on the bill will take place in the Committee on Government Accountability & Oversight on Feb. 7.
January 31, 2013 at 8:57 AM
A state House hearing room filled to capacity as soon as the doors opened on Thursday for a committee meeting on legislation
requiring health-insurance plans to cover abortions. Security guards had to send people to overflow rooms in the basement a half hour before the start of the 8 a.m. hearing on the Reproductive Parity Act. But, compared to past hearings dealing with abortions, the crowd was relatively subdued with no signs, chants or loud protests.
Debbie Ewald of Olympia stood outside the door with a group of friends. She had no plans to testify but said she wanted to be there “because I believe this is a great infringement upon a large portion of the citizens of our state.”
Supoorters say the law is needed to ensure continued access to insurance coverage of abortions. Opponents say the measure is not needed because all insurers in the state already cover abortion
The Reproductive Parity Act would require insurance companies continue to cover abortions once the national health-care law goes into full effect in 2014. But there’s uncertainty about how the federal health-care overhaul, and restrictions on abortion funding, might affect abortion coverage in the future.
Legislators say there’s strong support for the measure in the Democrat-controlled House. A similar measure has been introduced in the Republican-controlled Senate. It’s not clear if the Senate bill will get a hearing, given stronger opposition in that chamber.
January 22, 2013 at 4:01 PM
On the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the U.S., anti-abortion demonstrators gathered on the steps of the state Capitol building to protest abortion.
Washington State March for Life President Noreen McEntee-Hobson urged the crowd to speak out against “the abortion mandate” – specifically referring to Senate Bill 5009 and House Bill 1044, which would both require that certain health care plans providing maternity care also cover the voluntary termination of pregnancy.
Protester Jenny Sims of Belfair said she attended the rally because she feels strongly about “protecting the rights of the unborn,” and said it is especially important to protest this year because of the pending legislation.
“I’m obviously opposed to the abortion mandate,” Sims said. “As an individual, I don’t feel like supporting or paying for people to have abortions.”
Several legislators spoke at the event, including Democratic state Sen. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam. Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, led the crowd in singing “God Bless America” and said abortion is both a religious and a patriotic issue. Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, said the the Declaration of Independence is a pro-life document.
“The Declaration of Independence is about protecting life and property,” Scott said. “And with abortion, we’re not protecting life.”
January 18, 2013 at 2:26 PM
State legislators have no shortage of things to do this session. One week into the session,more than 350 bills have been filed. While some of these bills will never see the light of day, there are a few stand-outs:
Legislators from both the House and Senate filed bills regarding “voluntary termination of a pregnancy,” otherwise known as abortion. HB 1044 filed by Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, and SB 5009 filed by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, would require that certain healthcare plans providing coverage for maternity care provide coverage of abortion.
Numerous bills regarding sex offenders have been introduced to the House and Senate this session, including SB 5094, sponsored by Sen. Kirk Pearson, D-Monroe. This bill calls for school districts to notify parents, legal guardians, students over the age of 18 and school personnel if a level II or III sex offender is enrolled at any school, college or university. Necessary personnel determined by the school district or Department of Public Safety, would be notified if a level I sex offender is in attendance.
In an attempt to reform social services provided by the state, Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, introduced HB 1190. The bill would require that certain recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, a Department of Social and Health Services program providing families in need with temporary cash and medical assistance, be subjected to drug tests. Current state law only requires that recipients deemed drug or alcohol dependent participate in a drug or alcohol treatment program.
Republicans in both the House and Senate filed bills regarding identification cards for undocumented immigrants. Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, filed HB 1041, which would require driver’s license and identification card applicants to provide evidence of a valid Washington residential address. The Department of Licensing would then mail the newly-issued card to that address. Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, filed SB 5012 which would require people obtaining or renewing state driver’s licenses to show proof of U.S. citizenship, residency or a valid visa.
October 31, 2012 at 2:36 PM
Congressional candidate John Koster has been very squeamish in recent weeks when talking publicly about his views on abortion. The Republican is a longtime foe of abortion rights, but on a KING-TV appearance he sidestepped questions about how he would vote, saying he would uphold the current law.
“My personal beliefs are my personal beliefs on abortion,” he told Robert Mak on Up Front.
But Fuse Washington, a liberal organization based in Seattle, secretly audio-taped Koster speaking frankly about abortion over the weekend at an Everett fundraiser. They say his comments are “disturbing.”
On the tape, an activist with Fuse asks Koster whether there is any situation in which he would “agree” with abortion. He responds that he would make an exception for the life of the mother, but not for rape or incest, and describes his thinking in detail, using the phrase, “the rape thing” twice.
“Incest is so rare, I mean it’s so rare. But the rape thing, you know, I know a woman who was raped and kept the child, gave it up for adoption and doesn’t regret it. In fact, she’s a big pro-life proponent. But, on the rape thing it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s a consequence of this crime, how does that make it better?”
The activist says, “Yeah, but she has to live with the consequences of that crime.”
And Koster responds, “Yeah, I know. I know crime has consequences, but how does it make it better by killing a child?”
Koster’s campaign manager, Larry Stickney, said the candidate has nothing to hide.
“Consider that John was at a dinner with many people trying to get his attention, yet his words were still thoughtful and heartfelt,” Stickney said. “He very clearly and honestly stated his thoughts on an extremely sensitive subject. He has nothing to be ashamed of here.”
October 23, 2012 at 3:52 PM
Women supporting Democrat Jay Inslee for governor, including his wife Trudi Inslee, held a news conference in Seattle on Tuesday to denounce Republican opponent Rob McKenna as pro-choice in name only.
“When you’re running for office, it’s not enough to say you’re pro-choice,” said Jennifer Brown, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. “You have to act pro-choice.”
Brown and the others cited the fact that McKenna joined other attorneys general to sue to overturn President Obama’s health-care law, which expands women’s access to contraceptives and breast cancer screenings. They also noted his opposition to the Reproductive Parity Act last session. The bill, which would have required many insurers to cover abortions, died in the Legislature after concerns it could jeopardize the state’s access to federal funds.
The speakers also latched onto McKenna’s tendency to frame his support for women’s abortion rights as resulting from the fact that it’s the law.
“What would he do if some other legislation comes to his desk?” said Trudi Inslee, a former NARAL board member. “That’s what we’re concerned about.”
Charles McCray, a McKenna spokesman, said McKenna’s pro-choice positions speak for themselves.
“This is a tactic that we’ve seen Congressman Inslee and his partisan allies use consistently,” McCray said. “It’s an attempt to divide the electorate into target audiences that are conveniently exploited.”
Polls have consistently shown Inslee leading McKenna among female voters. The latest poll, conducted over the weekend by Strategies 360, showed a tied race overall but Inslee winning women 52-42 percent.
Democrats say the Reproductive Parity Act will come up again next year.
Tuesday’s event marked Trudi Inslee’s first time leading a campaign event this year.
August 20, 2012 at 2:50 PM
Updated to include comments from Republican John Koster, candidate in Washington’s 1st Congressional District contest.
Several prominent Washington state Republicans Monday joined a growing chorus calling on U.S. Rep Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race.
Akin, a veteran conservative congressman challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, is under fire for comments he made Sunday about rape and abortion. Asked whether abortion should be allowed in the case of rape, Akin said pregnancy is unlikely — the body somehow prevents the pregnancy – in cases of “legitimate rape.”
He has since repeatedly apologized, saying he was misinformed and misspoke. Despite blistering criticism, he has insisted he is staying in the race.
On Monday, Washington state’s top-ranking Republican questioned that decision.
“Rep. Akin’s remarks are both deeply offensive and ignorant,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna, who is moderate on abortion and running for governor. “He should give the people of Missouri a real choice for the U.S. Senate this November by withdrawing from the race, and allowing a replacement on the ballot.”
Kirby Wilbur, the chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, was equally blunt.
“Kirby believes Akin’s statement was ridiculous, insulting, and reprehensible and that Akin should step aside and let someone else run,” said Meredith Kenny, party spokeswoman.
The criticism was just as fierce from Republicans who, like Akin, oppose abortion in cases of rape.
Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, who is running for Congress in the 1st district, called Akin’s language about “legitimate” rape “reprehensible and bizarre.”
“I can’t believe anybody would actually say that,” said Koster, who agreed Akin should step down.
He added that he wanted it to be known that “not all pro-life people are crazy.”
Meanwhile, the state party’s 2012 Senate nominee, Michael Baumgartner, released a statement calling Akin’s comments “inexcusable.”
“I completely disagree with Mr. Akin’s ignorant remarks regarding the links between pregnancy and rape,” Baumgartner said in the statement. “To belittle the trauma rape victims go through is extremely offensive, and I am horrified that he would show such little empathy.”
In a follow-up email, Baumgartner spokeswoman Jami Herring clarified that the candidate “is not issuing a call for him to step aside, but would support finding an alternative candidate.”
Baumgarter is pro-life and has also publicly spoken against abortion in cases of rape. He is challenging Maria Cantwell in a race that is not expected to be close.
Before this incident, McCaskill was considered among the most vulnerable Democratic senators in the country.
Republicans are hoping to take back the Senate this fall.
August 1, 2012 at 8:31 AM
Attorney General candidate Reagan Dunn was criticized by abortion-rights advocates for saying pharmacists should not have to provide “Plan B” morning-after contraceptives if they have moral or religious objections – even though the state Board of Pharmacy has approved rules requiring that such prescriptions be filled.
Speaking to KGMI radio in Bellingham on Saturday, Dunn was asked if it’s appropriate for the state to sue a pharmacy over contraceptives. The question referred to a legal battle in which the Storman family, owners of an Olympia pharmacy, have challenged state rules in a case now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate at this time,” Dunn replied. “I believe personally that Mr. Storman, the Storman family, is right in their fight that under the religious liberty of the Constitution of the United States and the state of Washington that if somebody has a legitimate religious and moral objection to selling something like the morning-after pill they ought to have the right not to sell it if they so choose.”
He went on to say about the Stormans, “I hope they win.”
That brought a rebuke from abortion-rights advocates.
“It is incredibly disappointing that a candidate for Attorney General – the very office charged with defending the Pharmacy Board rules in court – would come out in such strong opposition to patient access at the pharmacy counter,” said Jennifer Brown, executive director NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, in a statement.
In an interview Dunn, a Republican, said he was misunderstood. He was speaking about his personal views, not his approach as state attorney general. As attorney general, he said would support the state’s appeal to the 9th Circuit, and his office would make the best arguments possible.
Dunn’s Democratic opponent Bob Ferguson – endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington – accused Dunn of trying to backtrack from what he said on a conservative talk show.
Alison Mondi, a spokeswoman for NARAL, said she’s glad Dunn says he would stand up for Pharmacy Board rules.
“I still find it concerning,” she added, “that his personal views are not in line with the Pharmacy Board and what a majority of Washingtonians support in terms of protecting patient access at the pharmacy counter, and it calls into question how vigorously his office would defend the rules.”
Dunn’s first sentence is clear and troubling, Ferguson said, and only after that did Dunn talk about his personal views.
Ferguson also jabbed at Dunn for pulling for the Stormans in court. “For someone who wants to be attorney general on a case that may end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s not a good idea to say you’re rooting for somebody suing the state,” Ferguson said.
Dunn insisted he wasn’t “walking back” and said if Ferguson, who was invited, appeared on the Saturday radio show he would’ve been happy to debate him on the issue.
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