Democrats prioritize equality, hard-working families, the environment, and schools as legislative deadline passes.
OLYMPIA – Wednesday evening marked the legislative cut-off, where bills either get passed on to the other chamber or die a legislative death for the year. As the cut-off came and went, the differences in priorities between Democrats and Republicans became increasingly clear.
On Wednesday, the final bill Democrats in the House took up was the Equal Pay Opportunity Act sponsored by Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island), aiming to eliminate gender discrimination when it comes to compensation in the workplace. Despite the state’s 1943 Equal Pay law, women make just 79 cents to the man’s dollar, ranking Washington 33rd in the nation.
The bill, which was opposed by an astounding 43 Republicans in the House, would seek to lessen that gap by prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees for discussing workplace compensation.
“The difference in priorities is clear,” said Jaxon Ravens, Chair of the Washington State Democrats. “Actions speak louder than words, and Republicans in Olympia have repeatedly shown that instead of investing in Washington, they side with special interests, big corporations, and extremists who want to take us backward when it comes to our basic rights.”
Other key policies passed by the House and opposed overwhelmingly by Republicans include:
- The passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which requires health carriers to cover contraceptives and other women’s health services, better allowing women, not employers or special interests, to control health decisions.
- Landmark legislation to support workers and economic growth by increasing the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour incrementally over the next four years and provide sick and safe leave for workers who may fall ill, have a loved one get sick, or be victim of domestic violence.
- The Washington Voting Rights Act, which ensures equitable and fair elections and protects all Washingtonians’ right to participate in local elections, regardless of where they live.
- New laws to protect our environment by holding oil companies accountable through the implementation of new safeguards on oil train transport and banning of toxic chemicals flame retardants from furniture and children’s products.
- Expanded investments in early learning through the Early Start Act, which expands the effective, high-quality programs and policies that have made Washington state a nationally recognized leader in early learning.
Additionally, Senate Republicans showed their misplaced priorities by advancing an agenda that aimed to roll back environmental protections, attack workers rights, and eliminate needed school funding despite an overwhelming budget deficit.
Policies passed by the Senate Republicans, despite objections from Democrats, included:
- Oil train legislation that would hurt first responders’ ability to respond to rail accidents and that sides with oil companies by forcing safety improvements upon taxpayers.
- Rollbacks of workers compensation laws that help protect injured workers who are hurt on the job and attacks on the right of workers to organize.
- Legislation that would shift nearly $1 billion that could go toward our schools to pay for roads and that hurts the environment by preventing low-carbon fuel standards.
“Republicans in the Olympia are out of touch with the priorities of Washington residents,” said Ravens. “When hours are spent on the floor of the Senate debating if scientific consensus exists on climate change or when good policies like increasing the minimum wage and providing sick leave for workers don’t even get a public hearing in committee – we need a change in leadership.”