2022 Legislative Recap: Some wins, some missed opportunities

Every year, guided by our program agenda and with the support of our thousands of members across the state, WashPIRG advocates in Olympia to advance state level legislation that would create a healthier future for Washington. The 2022 legislative session ended last month, so we wanted to highlight some of the progress that was made this year, and some of the missed opportunities.

Every year, guided by our program agenda and with the support of our thousands of members across the state, WashPIRG advocates in Olympia to advance state level legislation that would create a healthier future for Washington. The 2022 legislative session ended last month, so we wanted to highlight some of the progress that was made this year, and some of the missed opportunities.  

Wins for Consumers

Phasing out PFAS “Forever Chemicals” by 2025 (HB 1694)

PFAS are a class of over 9,000 toxic chemicals that are used to provide water- and grease-resistant properties to a wide variety of consumer products, but pose a threat to air, water and consumer safety because they are highly mobile and do not break down naturally, resulting in long-term environmental contamination. This session, Governor Inslee signed HB 1694 into law, setting the fastest timeline in the nation to tackle PFAS contamination in a broad range of consumer products such as apparel, cosmetics and firefighter gear by 2025. We applaud Washington’s leadership in addressing harmful “forever chemicals”. 

Establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (SB 5532)

Washington is home to some of the best hospitals and medical care in the country, yet many cannot afford the care they need. In particular, Americans pay two to three times as much as people in other countries for the same medications. Last week, Governor Inslee signed SB 5532 into law to establish a prescription drug affordability board to hold companies accountable and drive down pharmaceutical costs by reviewing prices and setting upper limits for prescription drugs. This means greater out-of-pocket savings and access to health care for Washingtonians.

Aligning State Law and the Federal No Surprises Act (HB 1688)

One in 5 Americans who visits an emergency room or has surgery receives a surprise medical bill from an out-of-network provider, but often these patients do not know that the provider is out-of-network to them. The Federal No Surprises Act prohibits out-of-network providers from sending surprise bills to patients seeking emergency room care, air ambulance services or non-emergency cre at in-network hospitals. We are excited to see Washington further protect consumers from balance billing for even more services, including behavioral health emergencies treated outside of traditional hospital emergency rooms. The bill passed the legislature in March and is awaiting Governor Inslee’s signature to become law.

Missed opportunities

Right to Repair (HB 1810)

WashPIRG has championed Right to Repair for years because people need options when their stuff breaks. When only the manufacturer or their “authorized repair technician” can fix your stuff, they can charge you whatever they want, or push you to buy new. HB 1810 would have required manufacturers to make available, under fair and reasonable terms, the parts, manuals and tools needed to repair consumer gadgets like laptops, cell phones and tablets. Passing Right to Repair legislation means more choices in the marketplace and greater cost savings for Washingtonians, and keeping toxic e-waste out of our landfills.

Despite strong support from legislators, small businesses and consumers, and sailing through the House legislative committees, HB 1810 ultimately was not voted on in time before the legislative deadline in the House. Leading up to the session, the Right to Repair coalition worked with Microsoft to come to a neutral stance on the bill, and organized dozens of local organizations and repair shop owners. We will continue to fight for the Right to Repair, and look forward to supporting legislation next year.

The Renew Act (SB 5697)

We live in a throwaway society that has left us with a waste problem that we cannot recycle our way out of with our current waste systems. We need to hold producers responsible for the waste they create, and modernize our recycling systems. The Renew Act would have established a producer responsibility system, which would require packaging producers to help pay for the costs associated with recycling and disposing of their products. In time, this sort of policy would incentivize companies to produce packaging that is more reusable and recyclable, and altogether less wasteful.

WashPIRG submitted testimony in support of the Renew Act, generated calls and emails into legislators’ offices in support, generated visibility on social media and in the news, and organizing 20 local elected officials who manage municipal waste on a regular basis to call for producer responsibility to help tackle our growing waste problem. Despite strong momentum, the Renew Act faced opposition from the industry, and did not pass the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We will continue to work to build strong support for producer responsibility in Washington, and will work to bring this important legislation back next year.

 

Cover image by Jim Bowen via flickr

 

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Nicole Walter

Advocate, WashPIRG Foundation

Nicole directs WashPIRG’s consumer and public health campaigns at the statewide level. Nicole also works with WashPIRG Student chapters at the University of Washington and the Evergreen State College to train student activists on environmental and youth voter engagement campaigns. She was previously the board chair for CALPIRG Students as a student at UC Berkeley and a campus organizer with CALPIRG Students and with WashPIRG Students. Nicole has led campaigns to help pass statewide commitments to 100 percent clean electricity and single-use plastic bag bans in both California and Washington state, and has helped run campaigns to register thousands of voters. Nicole lives in Seattle, where she enjoys hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest.

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