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Posts tagged: Reproductive Parity Act

Hobby Lobby to fuel RPA debate next year?

OLYMPIA – Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows some companies to refuse birth control coverage for employees is likely to add fuel to both sides of the Washington legislative controversies over the Reproductive Parity Act.

It probably won’t affect two other controversial cases that involve businesses and claims of religious freedom.

A priority for Gov. Jay Inslee and most legislative Democrats for the last two years, the Reproductive Parity Act would require any insurance plan that offers maternity care to also cover abortions. It easily passed the state House of Representatives this year and last, but died in the Senate where the ruling coalition is predominantly Republicans.

“I’m hoping that what this will do is urge the Legislature to pick (the legislation) up and pass it next year,” Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, prime sponsor of the Reproductive Parity Act, said of the court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said he doubted that the court’s decision will change any minds on either side of the issue, but it could cause both sides to step up efforts for or against the proposal: “Both sides have their share of passionate people.”

The Hobby Lobby involves forms of contraception that some people consider a form of abortion. The Reproductive Parity Act covers actual abortions, Padden said. “The position against the RPA is even stronger than the argument against abortion in the Hobby Lobby case,” he said.

Opponents of abortion will definitely use Monday’s decision to fight the proposal, Hobbs predicted, and supporters should take it as a sign that a woman’s right to decide to have an abortion is not “all worked out” even though that Supreme Court case is 40 years old. “I think this is a fight that will continue on a state-by-state basis.”

Hobbs said he will likely sponsor  a new version of the Reproductive Parity Act in the next session. Padden, who would lead a committee with jurisdiction over the proposal unless Democrats regain the majority, said he can’t decide at this point whether he’d schedule a hearing. “But I’m not a big fan of mandates,” he added.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the Hobby Lobby decision should have no impact on a court case in which some pharmacists don’t want to stock the morning-after birth control pill or a separate case in which a florist refused to serve a same-sex couple’s wedding. Religious freedom is cited in both cases, but they involve state laws, not the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act involved in Monday’s ruling, he said.

The court also said the Hobby Lobby decision doesn’t create a religious exception to anti-discrimination laws, Ferguson said. The state argues the florist case involves discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is illegal under Washington law. 

For comments about the Hobby Lobby decision from Northwest politicians, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

RPA passes House, not likely to get Senate vote

OLYMPIA — The Democratic House passed its latest version of a bill that would require insurance companies to cover abortion if they cover maternity care, but the Reproductive Parity Act seems unlikely to come to a vote in the Senate.

On a mostly partisan 54-44 vote, the bill passed despite objections from Republicans that it infringed on some people's religious rights because it forced them to pay premiums to a company for a procedure they found morally wrong.

Both sides used the term choice — a key word for supporters of abortion rights — in arguing their case. Opponents like Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said the Legislature was taking away the choice of people who want a policy that doesn't cover abortion.”There's no choice in a mandate,” Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, said.

 Rep. Larry Springer, D-Kirkland, said he supported the bill because it left the choice on whether to have an abortion to the woman, not to her employer who decides what policy to offer, or the insurance company. “There is no choice that is more significant to a woman,” Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said.

As is typical for abortion legislation, the debate sometimes got emotional. Rep. Leonard Christian, R-Spokane Valley, compared the bill to Nazi Germany, saying that some churches covered up the fact that Jews were being shipped concentration camps by playing their music louder as the trains passed. Some churches are objecting to the bill, but some legislators were playing their music louder and not listening, he said.

The Senate, which is controlled by a predominantly Republican coalition, is not likely to have an emotional debate over the RPA, or any vote at all. Majority Caucus Chairwoman Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee said she didn't believe the bill was necessary because abortion is covered by most insurance. (Editor's note: Sen. Evans Parlette's caucus position was incorrect in earlier versions of this post.)

“I think it's not going to come up for a vote,” Evans Parlette said.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said he personally supports the legislation but doesn't think it's as important as some other issues the Legislature faces this session.

“We leave full discretion up to our committee chairs,” Tom said. The bill died in committee last year.

Panel narrowly passes Reproductive Parity Act

OLYMPIA — With a one-vote margin, the House Health Care and Wellness Committee passed a bill that would require most insurance companies to cover abortion if they cover maternity services.

HB 2148, often called the Reproductive Parity Act was denounced by opponents like Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, as limiting the choice of people who are morally opposed to abortion and don't want insurance plans that cover it for others.

But supporters like Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said the decision on whether to have an abortion should be made by a woman and the people she chooses to consult — her doctor, family or faith community: “It is not for a business to decide, it is not for an insurance company to decide, it is not for someone else's faith community to decide.”

Committee Chairwoman Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, the sponsor of the bill, said for years she's had men ask her why they should pay for insurance plans with maternity services that they'll never use. But, she added “we're not going to change anyone's mind either way on this.”

On a 9-8 vote, the bill was sent to the full House, which passed similar legislation last year. That bill stalled in the Senate when a Republican committee chairwoman refused to put it to a vote after a hearing and Democratic efforts to force it onto the floor through parliamentary maneuvers failed. 

Among Spokane-area legislators on the Health Care Committee, Short and Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, voted no and Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, voted yes.

WA Lege Day 1: House passes DREAM Act

House Speaker Frank Chopp presides over the opening day of the session.

OLYMPIA — The House moved swiftly to reiterate its support for expanding college aid to qualifying students who aren't legal residents, passing the so-called DREAM Act less than an hour after the session started.

Legislators rarely vote on legislation on the opening day because bills routinely must go through the hearing process first. But in a 71-23 vote, the House re-approved legislation it passed last year and sent it back to the Senate, where it died in committee last spring.

HB 1817 allows any graduate of a Washington high school who is eligible for state-sponsored college aid to receive it, regardless of whether he or she is a legal resident. . . 

To read the rest of the item, how local legislators voted on the bill, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Inslee narrows top priorities for special session

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee has shortened his top priorities on the Legislature’s “to do” list for the special session to three things:

Pass an operating budget. Pass a new package for transportation projects. Toughen penalties for those who drive drunk or high.

At a press conference on the opening day of the 30-day special session, Inslee acknowledged that three other things he listed as priorities two weeks ago might not get done.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Sunday Spin: Parity bill cut off at cutoff

OLYMPIA – The Legislature has a variety of deadlines designed to winnow down the thousands of bills  introduced in any given session to a few hundred that actually require everyone to cast a vote.

These deadlines, known as cutoffs, generally require a bill to prove it has enough support to move to the next step: get out of a committee, win a vote in the chamber where it was introduced, get out of a committee in the other chamber, and so on.

They can also provide a bit of drama, because by missing the cutoff, a bill is often described as dead – not quite accurate because they do sometimes get called forth from the grave like Lazarus, although that’s more an exercise in parliamentary legerdemain than divine intervention.

As one of the final cutoffs neared last Wednesday, much of the drama revolved around the Reproductive Parity Act. . .

Heated debate over RPA in the Senate. More ahead?

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats tried a new way to bring the Reproductive Parity Act to the floor through a parliamentary procedure.

After failing Tuesday in an attempt with one manuever — known as the 9th Order — on a 23-25 vote, they moved this morning to bring up a broad insurance bill this afternoon at 4:59 p.m., essentially making it the last bill before the clock ran out for one of the Legislature's key deadlines to pass bills. They would then amend the parity act onto the broader bill.

The motion from Sen. Karen Keiser brought loud objections from the Majority Coalition, with Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville shouting “Point of order” so many times that Lt. Gov. Brad Owen finally said “I heard you the first time.”

Keiser said the Majority Coalition said Tuesday they objected to the method of bringing up the RPA, which would require abortion to be offered by most insurance companies that cover maternity services. This was a different method, based on the fact that the insurance bill has a title so broad the parity act would fit under its umbrella.

Schoesler said Keiser was making a reference to other members and impugning them, which isn't allowed under Senate rules. Owen said he didn't hear any impugning of motives

The goal of the maneuvering is to create a situation in which two members of the Majority Coalition, Rodney Tom and Steve Litzhow, who support abortion rights will break with the caucus that opposes abortion.

“We were told there's always a way to bring a bill to the floor. We have found a way,” Keiser said.

This wasn't it. The motion failed 23-25, with Tom and Litzhow voting against placing the omnibus insurance bill on the calendar as the last legislation to be debated before the deadline passes.

But the maneuver does signal a possible path for Democrats to get the RPA through the Senate. If the omnibus insurance bill comes up anytime before 5 p.m., they can move to add the parity act with an amendment, forcing an up or down vote on the substance of the bill that isn't tied to a fight over procedure.

Becker: No vote on abortion coverage bill

OLYMPIA —  Supporters of the controversial Reproductive Parity Act say they have enough votes to pass it in the Senate, but they may not get the chance.

The chairwoman of the committee that held a two-hour hearing on the bill said Monady afternoon she will not schedule a vote on it, meaning the bill will die without further parliamentary maneuvering.

Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville and the chairwoman of the Senate Health Care Committee, said some four hours after the hearing she will not schedule a vote on the bill. Becker, who refused to hear a Senate version of the bill earlier in the year, said she fulfilled a pledge to hold a hearing on the House version after the bill passed the other chamber.

Some people consider the bill unnecessary because all health insurance companies offer abortion coverage, Becker said. Others, including U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, say it could jeopardize federal health care funds by violating a law that protects some groups from being forced to buy insurance that violates their religious principles.

The bill mentions exemptions for what's known as the conscience clause in three different places, but opponents said it contradicts those exemptions with other language that says an employee cannot be denied abortion coverage. 

“The fact is that at this point, House Bill 1044 is a solution in search of a problem,” Becker said in a prepared statement to announce she wouldn't schedule a committee vote on the bill. Wednesday is a deadline for the bill to get voted out of the committee to continue moving through the regular process.  

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and a sponsor of the bill, told the committee Monday he had 25 signatures on a letter saying they would vote for it if it came to the Senate floor. That would be enough to pass it and send it to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has said he would sign it.

 To do that, however, they'd have to hold together and try bringing the bill to the floor through a parliamentary procedure. Among the 25 signers to the letter is Sen. Rodney Tom, of Medina, the Democrat who leads the mostly Republican majority coalition that controls the chamber and opposes the bill.

Abortion coverage bill faces deadline

OLYMPIA — As abortion-rights groups and their legislative allies try to force a vote on a bill that would expand requirements for insurance companies to cover the procedure, a Washington congresswoman is warning President Obama the proposal violates federal laws.

The Senate Health Care Committee held a two-hour hearing Monday morning on the House version of the Reproductive Parity Act, with regular supporters and foes of abortion lining up on the expected side of the bill that would require most insurance plans that offer maternity benefits to cover abortion, too.

There were dueling religious leaders. Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain argued the bill, if passed, would make insurance coverage of abortion mandatory in Washington, even for employers with religious objections to abortion. Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Olympia said the bill should be passed to provide “freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

There were dueling leaders from women's groups. Elaine Rose of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest acknowledged that nearly every insurance plan offered in Washington covers insurance, and the bill was designed to “keep it that way” as federal health care reform proceeds. Angela Connolly of tlhe Washington Women's Network called the bill “anti-woman” because it forces them to accept a health care plan that forces them to “participate in what they see as violence against women.”

Health Care Committee Chairwoman Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, sometimes had to remind speakers to stick to the bill rather than veering into some of the bigger controversies over abortion, such as when one abortion foe started discussing policies of Nazi Germany.

In the hearing room, Sen. Mike Padden released a copy of a letter, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent Monday to Obama saying the bill has “far-reaching and alarming conseqluences for the citizens of Washington state who embrace life.”

McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Eastern Washington's 5th District, said the bill does not satisfy federal restrictions on “conscience rights”, or the protection to allow people who have religions objections to abortion to opt out of insurance plans. That could  jeoparize federal funds for welfare, jobs and education, she said, adding she “looks forward to working with you as both Congress and Administration fullfill our constitutional rols to uphold and enforce…conscience protections.”

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who sponsored a Senate version of the proposal that did not get a hearing in the committee, also had a letter, one signed by 25 senators enough promising to vote for the bill it if it comes to the floor.  That would be enough to pass it and send it to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has promised to sign it.

But the easy way to a floor vote comes if the bill passes out of the Health Care Committee by Wednesday, a deadline for bills from one chamber to pass the panel holding the hearing in the other chamber. Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, wanted the committee to vote on the bill after Monday morning's hearing. But as testimony finished, with Keiser saying “Madam chairwoman, madam chairwoman,” Becker gavelled the panel to adjournament without a vote. 

The committee has a meeting on Tuesday morning, however, to consider votes on any of  the House bills it has heard over the last month.

WA Lege Day 78: Abortion coverage hearing today

OLYMPIA — The Reproductive Parity Act, which would require any insurance plan that overs maternity benefits to also cover abortion, gets a hearing this morning in the Senate Health Care Committee.

The bill is controversial, as has been its scheduling.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who supports the bill, originally a Senate version of the bill would get a hearing in the Senate Law and Justice Committee in January. That panel held a two-hour hearing on a bill on the other side of the abortion debate, which required adult notification when a minor was seeking an abortion.

But Law and Justice Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, cancelled the parity bill hearing, and both he and Health Care Committee Chairwoman Randy Becker, R-Eatonville, refused to schedule one. Tom said chairmen have full discretion at what they hear, and he wouldn't override them, even though Senate Democrats introduced a third version of the bill in an attempt to get it sent to a friendlier panel.

When the House passed its version, Becker said she would hear that bill in Health Care. It's the only bill on that committee's  10 a.m. meeting.

To see the day's full committee hearing schedule, or to comment, continue inside the blog. 

Reproductive Parity bill passes

OLYMPIA — On a mostly party-line vote, the House passed the Reproductive Parity Act, sending it to the Senate on a 53-43 vote.

Both sides argued that they were defending “choice.” Supporters said women should have medical insurance that allows them to choose abortion, regardless of their employer's religious believes.

Opponents said women who oppose abortion should be able to choose a medical plan that does not pay for abortions.

Reproductive Parity bill debate: whose choice being taken away?

OLYMPIA The Reproductive Parity Act is a “simple, technical fix”, its sponsor said in introducing the debate. It doesn't change anything right now, but it would protect the right to choose abortion if that becomes a problem under the federal Health Care Act changes.

Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, the chairwoman of the House Health Care Committee, downplayed the significance of the bill, while Republicans blasted it as “anti-choice.

Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said it takes away her right to choose a medical plan without abortion coverage: “Under Obamacare, there is a requirement that one plan be offered that not cover abortion. Medicaid right now covers abortion…Voluntarily, insurance companies provide that coverage. Organizations provide that cover… “We have very few options in my district…That (Obamacare) plan would not be available.”

Washington doesn't force doctors to perform abortion or prescribe lethal drugs if it goes against their conscience, and shouldn't force businesses to cut maternity care because they oppose abortion, other Republicans said. Choosing an abortion may be a constitutional right, but other people shouldn't be forced to pay for exercising that right any more than they should be required to buy someone a gun to exercise Second Amendment rights.

Women want to be able to make their own decision about their lives and their bodies…They do not want some bureaucrat in an insurance company telling them how to make their decisions, Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, said. We are empowering women to follow their conscience.”

If women have the intelligence and capablity to determine whether to abort a pregnancy…why would we choose to take away my choice not to,” Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, said.

Reproductive Parity debate starts

OLYMPIA — Debate over the Reproductive Parity bill starts after a pair of caucus meetings. First up, a call for a Republican amendment with a “conscience clause” to be inserted into the bill.

That allows an organization to keep from offering abortion as part of its medical coverage if it has a religious objection to it. It passes unanimously.  

Democrats then offered an even broader amendment with a more encompassing conscience clause. It passes 52-44.

“We are not changing anything in the conscience clause,” Rep Eileen Cody says. 

Some opponents of the bill are sporting white, looped ribbons on their lapels or jackets. Supporters have lapel buttons that say “Privacy, Justice, Freedom.”

WA Lege Day 40: Abortion debate on tap, and it’s cut-off day

OLYMPIA — The House is expected to debate the Reproductive Parity Act this morning, likely passing a bill over to the Senate that Republicans in that chamber have worked very hard to ignore.

The RPA, as some folks call it, would require any insurance plan that offers maternity care to also cover abortion. Supporters say it's an issue of fairness for women's health options; opponents say it forces people who oppose abortion to pay for others who have one through their health plan.

Both sides are sporting lapel decorations to signal their support, and it could be the most contentious House debate of the session thus far. The galleries are filling up in anticipation; and since everyone drove through pretty nasty weather to get here, one can only hope they aren't disappointed.

Three identical bills were introduced in the Senate, but none got a hearing as the leaders of the Law and Justice and Health Care committees both refused to hear the bills. That put Coalition Health Care Chairwoman Randi Becker has said, however, if the House passes its version, she will hold a hearing.

Elsewhere, there will be a scramble to get”policy” bills out of their first committee today, which is a cut-off day. Translation: Those that don't get out may as well get Last Rites, because they are all but dead.

For a list of today's hearings, go inside the blog.

WA Lege Day 26: Parity Bill hearing canceled

OLYMPIA — A hearing on a proposal to require insurance companies to cover abortion services if they cover live births was cancelled this morning, a few days after the committee chairman said he would hear the bill even though he didn't support it.

The Reproductive Parity bill was among several proposals on the schedule for the Senate Law and Justice Committee, which earlier this week held a two-hour hearing on a bill on the other side of the abortion issue which would require parental notification for any minor seeking an abortion.

Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, announced on Monday he was scheduling the Friday morning  hearing, adding that didn't mean he supported it. Padden is a longtime opponent of abortion and a co-sponsor of the parental notification bill. At the time he said the Reproductive Parity bill had problems that would become clear in the hearing.

The committee did meet, discussing bills on boating safety, adding judges in the Tri-Cities and defining subpoena power for the state auditor.

Abortion bills have the potential for splitting the coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats who form the majority in the Senate. Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who supports abortion rights, said earlier this week that he didn't support the parental notification bill, but the hearing was the first on the oft-proposed measure in 10 years. Holding a hearing on that measure showed the coaltion was willing to debate issues that had been “bottled up” by the previous Democratic majority, he said. 

At the time, Tom also noted that the Reproductive Parity bill had been scheduled for today's hearing, and said the hearings would “get us away from demonization” of the two sides on the issue.

“Let's have that debate,” he said.

Padden said this morning he decided to cancel the Reproductive Parity bill because he believes it would jeopardize federal funding and invite lawsuits if it became law. An identical bill has been referred to the Health Care Committee 

“I never was a fan of the bill to begin with and I worked hard to defeat it last year,” Padden said of a similar measure that died when time ran out for a deadline to pass bills. 

After the bill was abruptly pulled from the Law and Justice hearing calendar, Tom reportedly told the Associated Press it was not determined when or where the bill might be heard. An identical bill is before the Senate Health Committee, but is not expected to get a hearing there, either. A similar bill has been heard in the House and is expected to pass that chamber.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, the sponsor of the Reproductive Parity bill that was pulled from Friday's hearing schedule, said he was frustrated by Padden's refusal to hear the bill.

But Hobbs said Tom has “given me his word that we're going to hear it. I'm going to give him the opportunity to get it right.” 

One Democratic source said an option could be for Senate leaders to reassign the bill to the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, because it involves a regulation for insurance companies.

The chairman of that committee is Hobbs.

Sunday Spin: Cameras part of campaign trail, candidates should act accordingly

 

OLYMPIA – Cameras are everywhere.
That’s the lesson of a 30-second exchange between Rob McKenna, the state attorney general who would-be governor, and a young woman on a Seattle sidewalk that went from pointed conversation to Youtube video overnight, and resuscitated an issue Republicans were probably glad to have killed during the Legislative session.
McKenna was coming out of the Red Lion Conference Center last week when Kendra Obom, tape recorder in hand, approached and asked what his stance is on the Reproductive Parity Act. His response, McKenna said as he continued walking, was that he’s a lawyer for the state, suggested Obom turn her recorder off and accused her of “trying to bushwhack me,” as well as not being very polite and possibly not honest.
Obom, following along, protested that she was just wondering. McKenna, still walking, continued to ask if she thought she was being honest, until she said “forget it” and he countered with a suggestion that she was trying to gain a political advantage, then closed off the exchange with “Why don’t you get a job?”

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.
  

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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