Last week, the full House and Senate debated and voted on a number of bills, including measures to provide civil legal aid funds for individuals who are in the United States illegally; to allow minors to continue to get abortions without parental consent, and to mandate cultural and racial equity training for healthcare professionals.
House Bill 1072 — Removing one of the restrictions on the use of civil legal aid funds
Passed the House on Feb. 12 by a vote of 56-40(two members excused)
The legislature in 2005 established the Office of Civil Legal Aid (OCLA) as an independent judicial branch agency to administer and oversee state funds appropriated by the legislature for the provision of civil legal aid services to eligible low-income people in Washington.
This law imposed a number of restrictions, including that moneys distributed to qualified legal aid programs by the OCLA may not be used directly or indirectly for representation of individuals who are in the United States without legal authority.
This bill would remove this prohibition, and make legal aid funds provided by taxpayers available for representation of undocumented persons.
Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes
Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) Yes
Senate Bill 5185 — Concerning capacity to provide informed consent for health care decisions
Passed the Senate on Feb. 16 by a vote of 30-17 (two members excused)
Current Washington law allows adolescents to make health care decisions on their own behalf at age 13 related to behavioral health treatment, at age 14 related to testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and allows decisions related to personal reproductive health care, including abortions, to be made at any age.
This bill would clarify language to affirm that a person is presumed to have the capacity to make health care decisions under current laws, unless subject to a guardianship that includes health care decision making.
A proposed amendment that would remove the capacity of a minor to provide informed consent for abortion services was rejected by voice vote.
Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) Yes
Senate Bill 5229 — Concerning health equity continuing education for health care professionals
Passed the Senate on Feb. 17 by a vote of 35-14
This bill would require health care professionals to complete health equity education training at least once every four years. It would require these courses to teach skills that enable a health care professional to care effectively for patients from diverse cultures, groups, and communities, varying in race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, religion, age, ability, and socioeconomic status.
During the public hearing on the measure, proponents said the bill is needed, because the health system is not equitable. They said that health professionals should be aware of their own biases, and learn to be more sensitive to the health needs of different communities.
No testimony in opposition to the bill was offered.
Proposed amendments to allow health care professionals to opt out and to limit the cost of such courses were rejected by voice vote.
Sen. Van De Wege Yes.