Van De Wege proposes bill to cover occupational injuries

From the offices of
Kevin Van De Wege
and Steve Tharinger

Washington State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, testified in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee in favor of his bill, the “Brian Walsh Act” (House Bill 1445). The bill adds heart attacks and strokes that occur under certain conditions to the list of occupational injuries for purposes of industrial insurance for law enforcement officers and firefighters.

Last year, Federal Way police officer Brian Walsh died of a heart attack while securing the perimeter of a crime scene.

Officer Walsh was a 34-year-old healthy nonsmoker. Although the federal government found his death to be duty-related, the state of Washington did not, and his family did not qualify for survivor benefits. Walsh’s widow, Vanessa Walsh, testified on the bill as well.

The bill establishes a clear nexus between the onset of a stroke or heart attack and exposure to smoke, fumes, toxic substances, strenuous physical activity or a stressful situation.

The testimony can be viewed at

Reps. Steve Tharinger and Rep. Van De Wege are co-sponsoring a measure (House Bill 1577) to discourage those who are not lawfully in the United States from coming to Washington to obtain a driver’s license. Currently Washington is one of only two states that does not check immigration status when issuing driver licenses.

As a result, Washington has become a magnet state for those who want to get a driver’s license without showing proof of legal residency. House Bill 1577 would require proof of legal residency when applying for a driver’s license, and if no proof is provided, the license still will be issued but will be stamped as not being valid for identification purposes. Both Van De Wege and Tharinger see this approach as a “common sense” way to dealing with the situation.

“Immigration is ultimately a federal issue and we don’t want our state Department of Licensing employees to have to do the federal government’s job,” Van De Wege said. “At the same time, in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, our state has to take steps to discourage people from coming here to skirt the law.”

Tharinger said House Bill 1577 is a way of getting tough on those who try to skirt laws without compromising safety.

“We won’t turn anyone away from getting a license — we want those who drive on our roads to be properly licensed,” he said. “But we don’t want people using a Washington state driver’s license to get around our immigration laws.”



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