Our legislative session has now officially wound down and has come to a close for the year. This being the case and on behalf of our Washington Bishops, I want to take a moment to thank all you members of our advocacy network for your efforts, prayers, passion and commitment to advocate on policy and legislation in our state that reflect the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our Catholic Church. I have been impressed with getting to know a number of you – tireless advocates, stakeholders and citizens who have advocated around the life and justice issues that were relevant to the 2020 legislative session in Washington state.
As Catholics we can, and often do, hold differing views on various matters of public policy. That likely will not change. However, our Catholic tradition and the holy scriptures note that we are the body of Christ and that the body is one. Our Bishops have called us to practice civility as this election year plays out. So as we move ahead, our challenge is to do just that – and I believe we can. In closing, I want to acknowledge and thank our legislators who seek to carry out their elected duty by promoting policies that benefit not just one segment of our population, but for the common good. May we all seek to support that goal with our faith in God guiding our way. Thank you all for your involvement in seeking to make peace, justice and life important elements of our public life and discourse.
May God bless you abundantly,
Washington State Catholic Conference
Please be aware that the WSCC office will be closed for at least the next two weeks in conjunction with the closure of the Chancery in Seattle. The WSCC staff will be working remotely and will strive to respond to your inquiries as best we can. Archbishop Paul Etienne has also suspended all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Seattle until further notice. You can view his video message on the website of the Archdiocese of Seattle. Take note that these measures only apply to Western Washington and not to the Diocese of Spokane and the Diocese of Yakima. As requested by Archbishop Etienne, let us continue to hold everyone in prayer at this time, especially those who have fallen ill. Pope Francis has also offered a prayer for Catholics around the world to use.
Bill to Repeal Death Penalty Dies in Rules Committee
Even though the Washington State Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 2018, it remains part of state law. The Court noted that this is the fourth time Washington’s death penalty laws have been declared unconstitutional since 1972. SB 5339 would have removed the statute from Washington’s law books. The bill failed in the House Rules Committee and therefore was not brought to a floor vote before the March 6 cutoff. The WSCC supported SB 5339.
UW Study of Barriers to Assisted Suicide
The full Senate passed HB 2419 by a 36-13 margin last week. The Legislature has delivered the bill to the Governor for his signature. The bill proposes a study of the barriers to people accessing lethal medication to commit assisted suicide. The bill directs the University of Washington to “conduct a study of the ability of Washington residents to access the Washington ‘death with dignity act.'” The study could lay the groundwork for the expansion of assisted suicide in the state. The WSCC opposes HB 2419.
Justice, Peace & Environment
Clean Fuel Standard Failed
The Clean Fuel Standard, HB 1110, would have guaranteed a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector while allowing market forces to determine which fuels best achieve results. Washington is the only state on the West Coast without a Clean Fuel Standard. The bill died in the Senate Transportation Committee. The WSCC supported HB 1110.
Bill to Improve Access to TANF Passes Senate
The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program is a crucial part of the social safety net. The full Senate passed HB 2441 last week by a 32-17 margin. The bill gives case managers more flexibility in applying certain provisions to prevent homelessness, address racial disparities, and consider individual factors when assessing each client’s compliance with the program’s requirements. The WSCC supports HB 2441.
Human Trafficking Bill Wins Unanimous Senate Approval
On March 6, the Senate amended HB 2320 and passed it unanimously (48-0). On March 10, the House refused to concur in the Senate amendments and asked the Senate to recede from its amendments. On March 12, the Senate refused. We will provide an update in the next Bulletin. The legislation requires all hotel and motel employees to undergo human trafficking awareness training each year. The government would enforce the training requirement by not renewing or issuing a license to a hotel or motel without first receiving written certification that the human trafficking training requirements have been met. The WSCC supports HB 2320.
Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) Passes
As reported last week, the full House of Representatives passed SB 5395 on March 4 by a 56-40 margin. Since the House had amended the Senate’s bill, the Senate had to consider the version that passed the House. On March 7, the Senate concurred with the House amendments by a vote of 27-21. The bill sets a statewide standard for Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) for all students in K-12 public schools. This will prevent locally elected school boards from self-determining their own policy in this sensitive area rather than enabling them to protect the values of their community. SB 5395 also fails to address adequately complex moral issues tied to human sexuality. WSCC opposed SB 5395. Please urge the Governor to veto SB 5395.
25th Anniversary of Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) – March 25