THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL
What: By state law health insurers have to allow women to self-refer to gynecologists and obstetricians, but not midwives. SB 5920 will change that.
Who: Sen. Jeralita Costa, D-Everett
Chances: It was unanimously passed by the Senate.
I say: Costa says, "Parents deserve to have the provider of their choice deliver their baby." When you think in graphic terms about what birth is, you have to confess that the senator is right!
What: Imagine that you are poor (for some this won't be much of a stretch) and a state agency comes in and deprives you of your right to keep custody of your children or, in a different scenario, takes away your small-business license, without cause. You could appeal the decision but you would have to pay your own attorney fees, even if you prevailed. SB 5260 will call for a study of making the agencies responsible for such costs when appellants prevail.
Who: Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle; also supported by Sen. Mike Heavey, D-Seattle
Chances: Doing really well.
I say: A little bird (actually he was a lawyer) told me that the state Department of Social and Health Services, for example, loses nearly half of the cases brought against it by citizens who say they've been wronged. Perhaps that's why the agency helped kill an earlier bill that would have made it responsible for attorneys' fees without doing a study. That law would have swiftly granted equal access to justice to thousands of low-income citizens. What further studying needs to be done here?
CHILDREN OF THE COURT
What: Some in the Senate think it's a good idea to have kids try other kids for first time nonviolent juvenile offenses. To this end, a bill called SB 6008 would authorize school districts, municipal and district courts, and law-enforcement officials to set up "youth courts" for such cases. Participation would be voluntary, but the defendant would have to admit to the crime, thereby waiving his right to avoid self-incrimination, also known as the right to defend oneself.
Who: Sen. Jeralita Costa, D-Everett
Chances: It's languishing in the House.
I say: Both thumbs down (for the bill, not for Sen. Costa, who works hard and proposes lots of good laws). These wouldn't be real trials. They would just be meetings where kids get together and decide how to punish one of their own, albeit under adult supervision. I realize my cries will fall on deaf ears in this child-worshipping cult society, but still I plead that children are not equipped for grave tasks like dispensing justice.
What: Y2K preparation has been keeping state attorneys as busy as the computer experts. Accordingly, HB 2015 will limit the state's liability regarding Y2K disasters. There will be a deductible of $100 from each claim that the state won't have to pay. Also, state agencies will be separately, not jointly, liable. (This means each state agency that might be responsible only pays for its share of the damages.)
Who: Rep. Renee Radcliff, R-Lynnwood
I say: I personally have chosen not to believe in Y2K doomsday, so I'm unlikely to bring suits anyway. This law won't stop big suits from going forward and it does not absolve the state in cases of personal injury or accidental death. Most likely it will just protect the state from class action lawsuits where each plaintiff is looking for a small reward. No cause for hysteria here.
FAIR SHARE FOR GIVING CARE
What: Home health-care workers need a raise. The workers who enable our elderly citizens to remain in their homes and get the care they need make a measly $6.25 an hour. HB 1546 does not guarantee a wage increase (though an earlier version did) but does ask that it be worked into the budget.
Who: Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle
Chances: Slim, but proponents are doing their best to keep it alive.
I say: The bill was better when it demanded periodic pay increases for these workers. As it's written now they would only get one increase, and that depends on how much money is left for them when the budget becomes final. That's not good enough for these employees, and it does a real disservice to the state's elderly.
A couple of weeks ago I "whined" (to use a phrase employed by one senator in a recent Seattle Times editorial) about a bill to lower the blood alcohol limit from .08 to .02. Apparently I wasn't the only one upset. Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, demonstrated her opposition to the measure by reportedly driving, and getting arrested, with a blood alcohol level of .11. Now that's the kind of bold legislative action we don't see enough of in Olympia!