Topic: Reproductive Parity Act
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April 1, 2013 at 5:00 PM
OLYMPIA — One of the most contentious social issues of the 2013 legislative session won’t get a vote in the state Senate Health Care Committee, the chairwoman announced Monday afternoon.
The so-called Reproductive Parity Act, which narrowly passed the Democrat-controlled state House on a party-line vote in February, would require health-insurance plans to cover abortions.
Supporters released a letter earlier Monday, signed by a majority of the chamber, saying they have the votes to pass the bill in the Republican-run Senate, too — if leadership would bring it up for a vote.
Following a heated two-hour hearing in the Health Care Committee, chairwoman Randi Becker said she won’t.
“The fact is that at this point, House Bill 1044 is a solution in search of a problem,” said Becker, R-Eatonville, in a statement. “Even advocates of the bill admit that there is no need for the bill today as every health insurer in the state of Washington provides for abortion coverage.”
While that’s true now, supporters of the bill note there’s uncertainty about how the federal health-care overhaul, and restrictions on abortion funding, might affect abortion coverage in the future.
In a statement, Democratic state Sen. Karen Keiser said after the bill didn’t get a vote at the hearing that “unfortunately this is not an April Fools joke —- I wish it was —- a woman’s access to reproductive health care is no laughing matter.”
April 1, 2013 at 11:27 AM
Updated with Republican reaction
State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, says a House bill requiring health-insurance plans to cover abortions has the 25 votes needed to pass the Senate.
Hobbs, the sponsor of a Senate version of the bill, and other supporters have been pushing for a floor vote since then, but the GOP-led caucus in the Senate has resisted.
That appears to remain the case. When asked if the letter changed anything, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, would only say, “I’ll bet there are bills that have 50 plus votes in the House that aren’t moving, too.”
Senate Health Care Committee Chairwoman Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, would not stop to answer questions when I saw her outside the Senate wings on Monday.
Democrats have been saying for awhile that they believed they had the votes needed to approve the measure, but this is the first time they’ve produced a letter. The letter was written, and dated, March 5. But it took Hobbs awhile to collect all the signatures.
Hobbs said he’s gotten no indication from Republicans –- who control the flow of legislation in the Senate – if they’ll bring it up for a vote. “They aren’t telling me anything,” he said.
Two of the senators who signed the letter, Sens. Rodney Tom and Steve Litzow, belong to the majority caucus. Tom, D-Medina, crossed party lines on the first day of the session along with Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, to give Republicans control of the Senate. Tom was appointed Senate majority leader. Litzow, R-Mercer Island, has long indicated support for the measure.
Democrats have talked about trying to use a controversial procedural move to outmaneuver the majority and bring the bill up for a floor vote. Hobbs, however, said that although the votes exist to pass the bill, he’s not sure the votes exist to bring it to the floor.
Supporters say the law is needed to ensure continued access to insurance coverage of abortions. Opponents have argued the measure is not needed because all insurers in the state already cover abortion.
The Reproductive Parity Act would require insurance companies to continue to cover abortions once the national health-care law goes into full effect in 2014. There’s uncertainty about how the federal health-care overhaul, and restrictions on abortion funding, might affect abortion coverage in the future.
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.
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 16, 2013 at 2:33 PM
Republican legislative leaders used a post-inauguration news conference to express concern about several parts of new Gov. Jay Inslee’s inaugural speech.
Richard DeBolt, leader of the House Republicans, said he was nervous about Inslee’s support for new tax credits for clean energy programs, calling those and other Inslee priorities a case of “picking winners and losers.”
DeBolt, R-Chehalis, also criticized Inslee for mentioning support for the Reproductive Parity Act, which would require health-insurance plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortions.
“It was funny that he would take a day of unification and try to make it a politically dividing event,” DeBolt said. “I don’t like special interest politics being brought up in the State of the State address.”
DeBolt and other leaders also mentioned climate change and gun policy as additional concerns.
They also argued that Inslee was not specific enough in his first speech.
“There were a lot of nice things said today, but it (the speech) was very short on detail,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “That’s unfortunate, because the details are what will drive this process through the next 103 days.”
However, the Republicans did see some things they liked. All of the leaders praised Inslee for his prioritization of jobs. And state Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, said she appreciated that Inslee has lived in both Eastern and Western Washington.
The leaders answered questions after a videotaped official GOP response from state Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane.
Parker used his speech to call for an increase in education funding without raising taxes.
The Legislature is currently facing a state Supreme Court order to increase education funding. Democrats generally want to rely partially on new taxes to do that, while Republicans generally do not. Inslee has said he doesn’t think new taxes are needed.
“Gov. Inslee has promised he will not raise taxes, and we stand shoulder to shoulder to him on that,” Parker said. “We have the resources to fund education. We don’t need to raise taxes to do it.”
January 16, 2013 at 12:06 PM
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee promised to bring “disruptive change” to Olympia in a wide-ranging inaugural address before a joint session of the Legislature. The speech touched on the state’s budget shortfall, the need to provide more money for education as well as gun control and other issues.
The address for the most part went over well-trodden ground from his gubernatorial campaign, but Inslee said he wants to start on a bi-partisan transportation package this session, sign the “Reproductive Parity Act” into law and dig into gun control.
“I heard a clear and powerful message on Election Day. The people of Washington state are tired of a state government that doesn’t change with the times,” Inslee said. “Today we begin a multi-year effort to bring disruptive change to Olympia, starting with the very core of how we do business.”
The Reproductive Parity Act mentioned by Inslee would require health-insurance plans covering maternity care to also pay for abortions. A bill has already been introduced in the state Senate, sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island.
“Washington women need the freedom and privacy to make the health care decisions that are best for themselves and their families. That’s why I look forward to the Legislature sending the Reproductive Parity Act to my desk, which I will sign.
Let’s get this done.”
Regarding guns and violence, Inslee referenced the recent shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. “Any failure to address the issue of violence in our communities and our schools will be intolerable,” he said. “In the coming weeks, I will work with the Legislature to address this crisis responsibly … Common sense tells us that this solution will involve mental health and keeping guns out of the wrong hands.”
On transportation, the governor said, “This session I expect to work with stakeholders that have already committed to a bipartisan plan to build an infrastructure for the next generation … I want us to turn our innovative spirit towards crafting a transportation package that includes roads, trains, light rail, buses, bike routes and other modes of transportation.”
Most of Inslee’s address dealt with familiar themes, reinvigorating the state’s lagging economy, creating jobs, health care reform, and climate change. There were few specifics on what he plans to do in those areas.
January 10, 2013 at 8:37 AM
Although Senate Republicans vowed not to get bogged down by social issues in the upcoming legislative session, a big one is primed to smack them in the face.
State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, plans to reintroduce legislation that would require health-insurance plans covering maternity care to also pay for abortions. The Legislature goes into session on Monday.
More interesting, though: The measure, called the Reproductive Parity Act, is co-sponsored by Republican state Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island. In addition, Sen. Rodney Tom, who’s expected to be the new Senate Majority Leader starting next week, also supports the measure.
In case you missed the recent political machinations in the Senate, Republicans are expected to take control on Monday with the help of Tom, D-Medina, and Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach, who will caucus with the GOP.
Under this arrangement, Tom will get the top spot as majority leader. Tom and other members of his caucus have said everyone agreed not to let social issues distract the Legislature from focusing on jobs, education and passing a budget.
This could test that promise. Tom and others downplayed the prospect of discord.
“You are going to see individual members do what they want to do, but what we have said is, we’re not going to let social issues divide our focus,” Tom said. “I’m fully supportive (of the measure) and still will be supportive, but we’ll see how others react to it.”
Litzow took hits during his re-election campaign for voting against the measure last session in the Senate, after it had already passed the House. Litzow says he’s always supported the legislation but voted against it last year, because it got tied up in a complicated procedural move on the Senate floor when the GOP took control of the budget.
“This is a bill that I think is important. I’ve supported this bill. I think it’s about reproductive justice,” he said. “I want to bring the issue up.”
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