Board member Kiana Scott shares some of the significant legislation that passed this year that benefits women in Washington state.
After sixty whirlwind days, the 2018 Washington State Legislative Session has ended—and some remarkable women legislators helped bring about some remarkable victories for women across the state.
The 2018 Legislative Session kicked off on January 8. A short (non-budget) sixty-day session, this session was a race to the finish line. After years of special sessions (extensions of the regular legislative session, called by the Governor when the legislature fails to finish its work on time) and with the midterm elections only a few months away, legislators and staff were eager to end of time—and packed a lot into these 60 days.
This year marked great successes in legislation supporting women across the state. As a recent Seattle Times editorial announced, “Washington state may just be the best place in the nation to be a woman.” In addition to meaningful victories including passage of Automatic Voter Registration and the Washington Voting Rights Act and (HB 2595 and SB 6002) and legislation protecting preventative health coverage if the Affordable Care Act should be repealed (HB 1523), significant legislation passed that benefits women across the state:
- After more than six years in the pipeline, the Reproductive Parity Act (SB 6219), landmark legislation that requires insurance coverage of abortion care, and continued coverage of contraceptives without cost-sharing, is now law.
- Several pieces of legislation around workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault passed, including laws encouraging the disclosure and discussion of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace (SB 5996), protecting an employee’s right to file a complaint or cause of action for sexual harassment or sexual assault in mandatory employment contracts and agreements (SB 6313), and developing model policies to create workplaces that are safe from sexual harassment (SB 6471). Women legislators led the way on these three pieces of legislation.
- Protections for survivors of domestic violence received attention as well, thanks to key pieces of legislation. Bills protecting survivors of domestic violence from employment discrimination (HB 2661) and adding domestic violence harassment to the list of offenses for which a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm (SB 6298) both passed this session.
- The Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1506) grants workers the right to discuss and inquire about pay and compensation, without retaliation, and requires pay to be based on job-based criteria (for example, education, experience, or training and credentials) instead of unfair assumptions and practices, which often disadvantage women.
This does not mean that all our goals were achieved, of course. Significant work remains to be accomplished—and we need champions to take on those battles. This year, women made up 37.4 percent of legislators in Olympia. Many of these women, including those endorsed by the Caucus, played important roles in these legislative victories. Imagine the legislative successes if half—or more—of the legislators were women!
And now the countdown is on to the elections in November. In addition to the races for U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and some municipal and county elections across the state, this will be a busy election season for state legislative seats. Fully half of the state Senate is up for election, while every single state representative will be elected. With almost 10 percent of legislators stepping down, this is sure to be an interesting election cycle.
While our women legislators have been working hard in Olympia, the Caucus has also been hard at work—getting women trained to run for office. Here’s how YOU can get involved: