Summer is officially underway and with it we bring you our take on Gov. Inslee’s recent speech in Iowa, reporting on Rep. Jayapal’s “Medicare for All” bill, and an update from the Insurance Commissioner on legislation we can expect to see during the 2019 legislative session. Next week we will be taking a break from content at The Washington State Wireas we enjoy the 4th of July holiday, but we will be back to covering the politics, personalities, and political economy of Washington State the following week.
With help from Kylie Walsh & Marjie High
1. Inslee at Iowa Democratic Party event
Gov. Inslee spoke at the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2018 Hall of Fame Celebration this past weekend – once again fueling speculation he is planning a 2020 presidential run. Previous speakers at the fundraising event include Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley in 2015.
Inslee was invited to speak at the event in his role as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. During his speech, Inslee voiced his support for Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell, but also used his time to discuss various accomplishments in Washington State and to elevate himself as an adversary to Donald Trump. Here are our three takeaways from his speech.
2. Supreme Court rulings with impacts on WA
In light of the US Supreme Court’s South Dakota v. Wayfair ruling that allows states to collect sales taxes from online businesses, Senator Christine Rolfes, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, says new legislation will likely be necessary in 2019 to modernize the state’s sales tax collections. The Court’s ruling levels the playing field for brick-and-mortar businesses that are required to collect the state sales tax, but the exact amount of additional revenue the state will receive because of the ruling is uncertain.
The US Supreme Court also issued a “grant, vacate, remand” order sending Arlene’s Flowers, Inc. v. State of Washington, back to the Washington Supreme Court for reconsideration. The case again raises the question of whether state laws against discrimination require a business owner to provide services for events that may conflict with their religious beliefs like same-sex weddings. However, unlike a Colorado case decided last month, Arlene’s Flowers makes no allegation of religious bias or hostility on the part of the state, potentially paving the way for the Supreme Court to rule on the discrimination issue if the case returns.
3. Jayapal introduces “Medicare for All” bill
Congresswoman Jayapal introduced the State-Based Universal Health Care Act of 2018 earlier this month, which would allow states to create their own health plans to achieve universal access to health care. States would have to insure 95 percent of residents in 5 years. The state-based plan would replace nearly all other forms of coverage.
Given the current political climate, Jayapal’s bill is unlikely to pass out of Congress. But it does reinforce the idea that states are best equipped to develop innovative solutions. Washington had at least three bills die in committee last session (HB 1026, SB 5701, and SB 5747) that would have created a state trust to provide health coverage for all state residents. There’s a single payer initiative collecting signatures to qualify for the November ballot. We’re expecting more local efforts as the single-payer conversation stalls at the federal level.
4. Update from the Insurance Commissioner
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) hosted its Health Policy Round Table last week. We have the details for you here on the current proposed rule-making activity and the OIC’s 2019 legislative agenda. Two topics on the 2019 agenda include working to end surprise billing, which failed last session, and adopting the Insurance Data Security Model Law to increase cyber-security.
The OIC recently released a draft of a rule on short-term medical plans. The Trump Administration has a proposed rule to increase the duration of these plans from 3 months to 364 days. The OIC acknowledged the “legitimate need” for these plans in the market. The OIC rule would uphold the plans’ exemptions from the ACA but would keep the plans’ duration to a non-renewable 3 months.
5. Immigration policy: lawsuits and new funding
On Wednesday, President Trump signed an executive order ending the policy of immediate family separations just as Governor Inslee announced $1.2 million in funding for legal services for individuals and families served by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP). The executive order continues the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and suggests the courts allow indefinite detention of families, which Rep. Pramila Jayapal describes as “simply trading one cruelty for another.”
Then on Thursday Inslee and AG Ferguson announced Washington will lead a coalition of 10 states in suing the Trump Administration for the damages caused by its “zero tolerance” policy. The AG had planned to file the suit Thursday, but delayed filing to provide time to review and adjust legal claims in light of the President’s executive order. In addition to Washington’s lawsuit, NWIRP announced it would file a separate lawsuit on behalf of the separated parents that are detained here in the state.
6. Good news/bad news in latest state revenue forecast
The Office of Financial Management’s most recent state revenue forecast shows an additional $298 million in state revenue, but warns that a potential trade war and geopolitical risks bring an elevated level of uncertainty. Also, despite having economic growth that outpaces the U.S. economy, OFM says that the “forecasted revenue growth is not likely to meet current demands on the state’s resources.”
Jason Mercier, Director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center, wrote the following commentary on the good news in OFM’s June 19th state revenue forecast, as well as the tariffs, resource competition, and the current maturing economic expansion that put the state’s healthy economy at risk.