State advocates offer overview of issues
At the Eastern Washington Legislative Conference, gathering about 140 people from faith communities in the region, Kristin Ang of the Faith Action Network (FAN), Mario Villenueva and Donna Christensen of the Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC), and Jessica Zimmerle of Earth Ministry/Interfaith Power and Light gave an overview of issues coming before the 2022 Washington State Legislature from Jan. 10 to March 10.
Donna and Mario presented WSCC priorities: the state budget, respecting life, human dignity, aging people, people with disabilities, immigration, education, restorative justice, health care, economic justice, children and families, affordable housing, workers' rights and care for God's creation.
Mario said they support increasing the personal needs allocation for state financial care from $1,000 to $2,382, still less than the cost of living: $2,900 per person. He said the Catholic bishops oppose proposals to expand access to assisted suicide, such as reducing the waiting time. WSCC supports bills expanding broadband access and overseeing permanent supportive care.
Donna discussed bills to provide a monthly diaper subsidy for parents and caregivers, to protect renters from excessive rent and fee increases and to allow unaccompanied or homeless youth to receive health care without parental consent.
Mario also pointed to the need for more permanent supportive housing to reduce homelessness, assuring better outcomes for people struggling with housing and other issues with the assistance of case managers and 24-hour staff.
For information, visit wacatholics.org.
Jessica is working with WSCC and FAN on bills to promote environmental justice.
The Growth Management Act includes climate change in updates to comprehensive planning.
The Lorraine Loomis Act for Salmon Recovery Act requires zones around rivers and streams to have trees and vegetation to keep the water cool.
The Renew Recycling Act reduces plastics wastes 100 percent by 2031 by fees on packaging manufacturers.
The Energy for All Act caps energy bills for low-income customers at 3 percent of household income.
Kristin, FAN's new policy engagement director, suggested that people can follow FAN's priorities, racial equity and economic justice, and the status of bills on its legislative agenda online at fanwa.org.
Economic justice issues include expanding free lunches, create a multilingual online tool for applications, increasing safety net supports of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), increase Aged, Blind and Disabled monthly cash grants, making paid family and medical leave more equitable, expanding the Working Families Tax Credit, a Tax on Excessive Wealth (over $1 billion), and making colleges more affordable and equitable, she said.
Reforms to criminal justice call for having an Independent Prosecution Unit prosecute deadly force by police, and addressing police officer accountability, solitary confinement and juvenile sentencing.
Housing/homeless acts include the Housing Justice Act to prohibit discrimination against people with prior convictions.
Civil and human rights concerns include equal access to health care for all low-income people regardless of immigration status, unemployment benefits for undocumented workers, protecting low-income people and people with disabilities from utility disconnections, and bills for gun responsibility and missing indigenous persons.
Other bills offer more equitable health care access, to ensure that future hospital consolidations do not restrict certain kinds of care, and to improve health-care worker safety and patient care.