OLYMPIA, Wash. — Several unique pieces of legislation was passed by the Washington House of Representatives this weekend.
The approvals were ahead of the March 8 deadline to pass bills in the house of origin.
Effort to protect healthcare data
Legislation that supporters say would strengthen protections for consumer health data was passed by the House.
"For only $160 the quarter cost of a phone in your pocket, you can purchase a woman's search history from a data broker," Rep. Vandana Slatter said on the House floor Saturday.
Though it is intended to protect all consumer health data, it was introduced in response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision.
“In Washington state, we expect our healthcare data to be protected and that includes reproductive health and gender-affirming care,” said Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-Bellevue). “That means combatting predatory behaviors such as the sale of private reproductive healthcare data that leads to restrictions on healthcare in states like Texas. Protecting us from attacks on our most sensitive health data is long overdue. Websites and apps have the tools to protect our data. It’s time they did that.”
If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, House Bill 1155 would, among other things, prohibit the sale of consumer data not protected under HIPAA and would require consumer consent before health data is shared or collected.
Being better prepared for disaster
The House also passed House bill 1728, which would create a statewide resilience program and direct the Washington Military Department to develop ways to track overall resilience efforts, coordinate funds from federal and state entities and enhance interagency collaboration, according to its backers.
“Knowing what hazards exist is critical to creating resilient communities and saving countless lives,” said Rep. Brandy Donaghy (D-44th Legislative District). “We know for every dollar spent on disaster preparation and improving resilience, we save six to eight dollars in recovery costs.”
Rep. Donaghy pointed to the recent earthquake in Turkey, "A month ago 45,000 people died in Turkey, because they had what a 7.8. And we're overdue for a 9.0 that is multitudes larger. We need to be sure that we have in place all the resources that are going to be necessary when we do have a major disaster like this."
The bill heads to the Senate.
Combatting student homelessness
The House approved legislation to help combat student homelessness with a unanimous 96-0 vote on Saturday.
House Bill 1622 makes changes to provisions governing state grant programs of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Department of Commerce for students who are homeless. That includes aligning program goals, establishing common reporting requirements and establishing examples of permitted expenditures for OSPI programs.
The original bill, introduced in 2015 and passed in 2016, created a grant program to help school districts connect students who are homeless to stable housing and improve access to resources.
“Unfortunately, we still have a homelessness crisis in our state, with as many as 30,000 — or 3% — of students in our state identified as being homeless each year,” said Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma) and bill sponsor. “I recognized the need to do more to help our young people. With the increased supports and funding in this current bill, we have an even greater opportunity to make a difference in the lives of students who are homeless or those at risk of facing housing insecurity."
The bill advances to the Senate.
House Majority Leader Joe Fitzgibbon said there are still important bills house lawmakers need to get to before the March 8th deadline.
"Our top caucus priorities this year are to to fight for affordable housing by fighting the housing shortage," said Fitzgibbon.
Fitzgibbon points to HB 1110 which would allow for more diverse housing by making it legal for property owners to build a duplex or triplex on their property.
Fitzgibbon said gun legislation is another key issue left for House lawmakers which includes an assault weapons ban.
"Gun violence prevention, which is a really important issue for us this year. We're hoping to make some progress with a few more bills on keeping guns out of the hands of folks who who might not be safe to have firearms," Fitzgibbon said.