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Morning Wire: Health policy update, Coronavirus, Rep. Mia Gregerson

“I just love the Wire.” That’s what we heard recently from one long time Olympia insider, which was so refreshing for so many reasons. We’re trying to create a new model of civic journalism, and it’s often far harder than anyone might guess. So, we thought we might ask folks to come and join us in person for a conversation about how we’re doing – and, more importantly, how we can better provide content and information that you’re interested in.

We’ll hold a get together in Olympia and one in Seattle. If you’re interested in joining us to talk through the Wire, drop me a note and we’ll send you the details as they come together.

With help from Michael Goldberg
and Madeline Shannon

1. Secretary of State race heats up amid mobile voting dispute 

Voting is underway for an election in the King County Conservation District, where the unprecedented ability of residents to vote via smartphone was the subject of a dispute between Secretary of State Kim Wyman and one of her leading 2020 challengers, Rep. Gael Tarleton. After news of the mobile voting program broke, Rep. Tarleton rebuked Wyman for not being aware of it until recently. 

After speaking with both Wyman and Tarleton, reporter Michael Goldberg ironed out a timeline for when the secretary first learned about the mobile voting program and revealed how differently the rivals seem to view the scope and responsibility of the secretary of state’s office. The dispute offers a preview of what could be the most hotly contested statewide race of the 2020 cycle. 

2. New documents to help explain Shea suspension

A number of local Republican party organizations have adopted resolutions calling for the reinstatement of Rep. Matt Shea to the House Republican Caucus. Some have called for Rep. JT Wilcox to step down as a result of his actions. The timing, the language and coordinated effort appear to be part of a campaign to benefit Shea, at the cost of Republican Party unity in the session and perhaps electoral success this fall.

We asked 20 House Republican members, many from districts that passed resolutions, if these resolutions were reflective of their positions on Shea and Wilcox. Almost none of the members were willing to talk on the record. Rep. Paul Harris, Caucus Chair of the House Republicans, tells Michael Goldberg that there will be a release of documents later today that show in detail the rationale for removing Shea from the caucus.

3. Rep. Mia Gregerson is a workhorse

Rep. Mia Gregerson is already having a good session. She won early praise for moving her bill off the House floor that would have created a first-in-the-nation Office of Equity. Her committee has a busy nine meetings set before the cutoff, and she’s prime sponsor on eleven bills this year, including some of the most talked about legislation this year. 

Madeline Shannon spoke with Gregerson late Monday about her session so far. On addressing disparities: “On behalf of my caucus, it’s safe to say we’ve introduced more than 40 pieces of legislation dealing with those issues.” On creating opportunities for Washingtonians: “We do things businesses have decided they can’t make money doing. We have a strong, laser focus on building community.”

4. Washington activates military to monitor Coronavirus 

The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) at Camp Murray, just south of Tacoma, has raised its activation level to “Full” in response to the Novel Coronvirus. The SEOC is operated by the Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division. Among the emergency support functions ushered in by the military’s involvement include public health and medical services, external affairs, and natural resource monitoring.

That the military has been activated to watch what public officials assured was a low risk situation last week is a sign of how serious this developing story is becoming. Meanwhile, about 50,000 people die annually from the flu. So, get a flu shot…

5.  Health policy moving in this session

Speaking of flu shots, several pieces of health care legislation may move before cutoff this year. HB 2294 addresses violence against care givers, like nurses. The bi-partisan bill HB 2662 will likely be exec’d out on Friday. It caps the out of pocket payment for insulin at $100 for a 30-day supply. A bill regulating PBMs and pharmacy pricing has a hearing tomorrow in the House.

HJM 4014, which would have the state ask the federal government to include dental care in Medicaid coverage, is being heard in the House Health & Wellness Committee today, Jan. 28. Two bills concerning opioid abuse disorder and treatment, HB 2335 and HB 2337, are both undergoing public hearings in the House Health & Wellness Committee Jan. 31.