Public Policy

Creating lasting improvements in health equity means understanding legislation and policy. Our work on the health policy forefront has significantly advanced safe and drug-free schools, school health and fitness standards in schools, provided critical advisement to elected officials, and effectively mobilized Washington citizens in service of policies that support prevention.

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Stay informed on all thing health policy! Subscribe to our Health Policy Newsletter, bringing you weekly updates on the 2017 Legislative Session. 

Health Policy News - January 19, 2016

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Dear Friends,
Welcome to the second week of the legislative session! Generally, our lobbyist Erin Dziedzic reports that around 450 new bills were introduced this first week of session. Things are moving fast which reflects the fact that this is a short session, which will conclude on March 10th. The first policy cut off is on February 5th! If you would like to follow the Legislative Calendar so you can monitor the next cut-off deadlines, click here.
Have you been reading a bill, but aren't sure what certain things mean? Click here for a Guide to Reading a Legislative Measure.
We will be continuing to keep you updated with future status updates. If you have bill or policy questions, please feel free to direct them to Julie Peterson at or my Twitter handle. And for the bills that we're tracking so far this 2016 Legislative Session, click here for the full Health Policy News You Can Use


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Health Policy News You Can Use January 19 2016.pdf

Health Policy News - January 11, 2016

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Health Policy News for the 2016 Session of the Washington State Legislature! We will come to you each week with updates about legislative action impacting community health.

Expectations are low for many policy bills to pass this session. It is a "short session" in an election year. Legislators will want to conclude business in their scheduled time and hit the campaign trail. As they return to Olympia, lawmakers face a budget deficit caused by increased caseloads and enrollments, and the McCleary state Supreme Court case on education. In August, the state Supreme Court delivered a unanimous order and began fining the legislature $100,000 a day for failure to develop a plan to fully fund K-12 public education as directed by its 2012 McCleary decision. The McCleary case directs legislators to boost education by billions of dollars by the 2017-18 school year. Thursday, during a briefing with reporters, legislators reviewed a plan to fund McCleary, but acknowledged finding the funding will take a year.

The Legislature will also face funding of charter schools, which were ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court, the Friday before the Labor Day weekend. Initiative 1366, passed by Washington voters in November puts in the Legislature in a position where it must either send a constitutional amendment to the people requiring a two thirds vote in the legislature or a public vote for all tax increases or the state sales tax is lowered by 1% from 6.5% to 5.5% on April 15, 2016. This one percent reduction in the state sales tax would result in about a $1 billion loss in tax revenue.
Here, you can find helpful links to help you navigate during the legislative session, as well as the full text for this week's Health Policy News You Can Use!


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Health Policy News You Can Use January 11 2016.pdf

Health Policy News Special Edition: E-cigarettes

Dear Friends,
The e-cigarette epidemic has grown exponentially over the past few years and continues to present challenges to communities and public health officials. Calls to the Washington Poison Center have nearly doubled every single year since 2010 when the first e-cigarette poisonings were reported in this state. 
E-cigarettes are not subject to federal regulations, nor are the liquids used in them. The FDA is currently considering rules to regulate the fledgling industry, while the industry innovates product at an astonishing speed, while research has shown the liquids contain a wide variance in nicotine content. Consumers who wish to use the devices for cessation may actually be using higher levels of nicotine then if they were smoking combustible cigarettes. 
In the last 2 years, the Washington State Legislature has considered various policy options to deal with e-cigarettes without the passage of final legislation. The policy options on the table have included: taxation, retailer licensing, child-safe packaging, restricting the age of sale to those age 18+, requiring disclosure of nicotine content and toxic or carcinogenic chemicals in the liquids, prohibiting internet sales, etc. Meanwhile, local health departments are considering policy regulations through board of health ordinances, or are leading community conversations about the devices. However, the infancy of the health impact research complicates policy discussions. 
E-cigarettes, or vape pens, are increasingly popular products that deliver nicotine and other harmful ingredients to users and bystanders, yet no federal regulation of these products currently exist. The American Public Health Association has recommended that states and municipalities enact laws prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public areas and places of employment due to their potential as a source of pollutants. Recent researchhas suggested that contrary to some opinions, e-cigarettes may not be effective tobacco cessation aids and may even inhibit the ability to quit. In 2014 and 2015, 33 Attorneys General submitted letters urging the FDA to require warning labels and childproof packaging, as well as restricting advertising, prohibiting flavoring, and other restrictions. Although the FDA is considering warning label and childproof packaging regulations, there is still no way to verify ingredients or safety claims made by manufacturers.
Impacts on Children & Youth
The 2014 Healthy Youth Survey found that one in five high school seniors in Washington reported e-cigarette use, almost triple the amount reported in 2012. This dramatic increase indicates the growing social acceptance of e-cigarettes among teens, which threatens to undermine decades of anti-tobacco education and advocacy. This is worrisome for many reasons, including because nicotine is particularly harmful to brain development in children and adolescent smokers are more likely to continue into adulthood. There is also early evidence that teens who vape are more likely to take up traditional combustible cigarettes. Manufacturers of e-cigarettes are not subject to the same advertising rules as the tobacco industry and therefore can market their products using celebrity endorsements or cartoon characters that appeal to children. Vaping products are also available in candy-like flavors that are attractive to younger users.
E-liquid, the nicotine-containing component, presents a poisoning threat to children via ingestion, inhalation, and skin contact. Exposure to even tiny amounts of e-liquid can cause vomiting, seizures, and death. A CDC study found that the number of calls to poison centers related to e-cigarettes had increased from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014. More than half of these calls concerned children under the age of 5. In 2015, the Washington Poison Center has reported 58 e-cigarette poisoning exposures, including 40 pediatric cases. Eighty-five percent of these exposures concerned children between the ages of 1 and 3.
The use of e-cigarettes to consume marijuana and synthetic drugs is also a growing public health concern. A recent study of high school students in Connecticut found high rates of vaporizing marijuana. Because vaping can be almost completely odorless, users are able to smoke marijuana in public places without detection. Marijuana use on school property is of particular concern for this reason. E-cigarettes can also be used to vaporize highly dangerous drugs such as synthetic marijuana. 
E-cigarettes pose unique regulatory challenges to state and local authorities. In Washington, it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes or other vaping products to minors under the age of 18. However, because vaping products can be purchased online sales are difficult to monitor. Grant CountyKing County,Pierce CountyClark County, and the city of Pasco currently have ordinances in effect prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in all areas where smoking is prohibited. Clark, King, and Pierce Counties also prohibit free sampling of vaping products. Grant County prohibits possession of any vaping product or device by anyone under the age of 18. King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties are currently considering new or revised e-cigarette ordinances.
The American Academy of Pediatrics just yesterday issued this statement: "The AAP now strongly recommends the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should be increased to age 21 nationwide."
"Tobacco use continues to be a major health threat to children, adolescents and adults," said Karen M. Wilson, MD, MPH, FAAP, chair of the AAP Section on Tobacco Control and section head of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Children's Hospital Colorado. "The developing brains of children and teens are particularly vulnerable to nicotine, which is why the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among adolescents is so alarming and dangerous to their long-term health."
It seems to me, we may not know everything there is to know about e-cigarettes, but we know enough to adopt policies to protect children and adolescents.


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Health Policy News You Can Use - E-cig Special Edition.pdf

Health Policy News - 2015 Session Wrap-up

The 2015 Washington State Legislature adjourned on Friday, July 10th. This was officially the longest legislative session in history at a record 176 days and three special sessions to reach agreement on a two-year $38.2 billion operating budget. The 2015-2017 operating budget includes $180 million in new revenue after closing and extending some tax preferences and increases spending by $4.4 billion from the current 2013-2015 biennium operating budget. Details are shared here in this article from Crosscut.
A $3.925 billion Capital budget and a $16.08 billion transportation package was passed before the legislature adjourned Sine Die. For details about all three budgets, including links to bills and project maps, click here.
And for more Health Policy News You Can Use, and what we were tracking this legislative session, read on here

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Health Policy News You Can Use_ 2015 Session Wrap-up.pdf

Health Policy News - Thank you Governor Inslee

Dear Friends,


Please join us in thanking Governor Inslee for protecting the historic transportation investments our members worked so hard on this session. Please find details in the action alert from the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition attached. To thank Governor Inslee, use the link here from Washington Bikes.


I finally feel like it really is Sine Die to the 2015 Washington State Legislative Session 
- at long last!


Thank you for all of your active engagement the last week! 





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Health Policy News_Thank you Governor Inslee.pdf

Health Policy News - Urgent Federal Item & State Update Special Edition

We are bringing you a special edition of Health Policy News because of events happening at the federal and state levels of government.   Last Monday, the Trust for America's Health alerted partners to an amendment in the U.S. House Rules Committee, offered by Congressman Joe Pitts (R‐PA), to use $8.85 billion of the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) to offset the costs of H.R. 1190. The PPHF represents approximately 16% of the Center for Disease Control's total budget and 38% of the chronic disease budget. In Washington, we receive funding from the PPHF for programs such as; 
  • The Preventive Health and Health Service Block Grant
  • Childhood Immunization Program (317 Grant)
  • Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
  • Cancer Programs 

What should you do?

  • E-mail or phone Congressman McDermott to thank him for his remarks in support of the PPHF today.
  • Send an e-mail or call your member (or the entire Washington State Congressional Delegation if you are a statewide organization) and let them know you/or your organization are opposed to using the PPHF to offset H.R. 1190.
  • Click here for a list of the Washington State Congressional District Directors, Health LAs, and numbers to the DC offices to contact your local representative.


Meanwhile, here in Washington State there is still no agreement on an operating budget for 2015-2017. Without an operating budget by June 30, the Washington State government will begin a potential partial shutdown.

For more Federal and State updates, see the full Health Policy News You Can Use


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Health Policy News You Can Use_ URGENT Federal Item & State Update Special Edition.pdf

Special Edition Health Policy News You Can Use, June 3rd 2015

Since the Washington State Legislature concluded their first special session without action on a 2015‐2017 operating budget, capital budget or transportation revenue package they are now in a second 30 day special session.   On May 28th, the final day of the first 30‐day special session, Senate Republicans released their latest operating budget. The Senate Republicans' budget proposal increases spending on higher education, state parks, drought relief and wages for caregivers in assisted living facilities. It adds $66 million to pay for collectively bargained state employee pay raises,  contingent on a new bill requiring contract negotiations to be open to the public. The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted their Republican budget bill out of committee on Thursday. See this link for the budget details.  For more special session and budget info, click on the link for the full Health Policy News You Can Use

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Health Policy News You Can Use_ Special Edition June 3, 2015.pdf

Health Policy News - Final 2015 Regular Session Edition

Dear Friends,

With operating budget negotiations stalled, the legislature adjourned Sine Die on Friday. This was two days earlier than Sunday April 26th the scheduled 105th day of the regular legislative session. Governor Inslee will call the legislature back into special session on Wednesday, April 29th. Budget negotiators have been invited to meet with Governor Inslee on Monday, April 27th in advance of the start of special session.  

More in the full version of this final, regular edition of Health Policy News You Can Use!

Thanks for joining us this 2015 Legislative Session!

- Your Healthy Policy News Team (Erin, Julie, Whitney and Friends) 

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Health Policy News You Can Use_ Final 2015 Regular Session Edition.pdf
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