*** 2016 Olympic Legislative Accomplishments ***
Although this year's legislative session went into overtime, the results for veterans are clear victories and some clearly enhance mental health, CHAMPVA insurance availability, historic veteran cemeteries and county veterans benefits.
HB 2793 was a bill all of us in the veteran community were advocating for its passage. It was our most important bill of the session. This is the first bill in the country to address gun control in a smart way. Here is a summary of this landmark legislation:
"Creates the safe homes task force to raise public awareness and increase suicide prevention education among new partners who are in key positions to help reduce suicide. Requires the University of Washington School of social work to administer and staff the task force and convene the initial meeting of the task force. Requires the department of health to develop and administer a safe homes project for firearms dealers and firearms ranges to encourage voluntary participation in a program to implement suicide awareness and prevention strategies. Requires the department of fish and wildlife to update the pamphlet on firearms safety and the legal limits of the use of firearms to incorporate information on suicide awareness and prevention. Requires a licensed pharmacist, a person holding a retired active pharmacist license, or certain other professionals holding a retired active license to complete a one-time training in suicide assessment, treatment, and management. Requires the schools of pharmacy at the University of Washington and Washington State University to convene a work group to jointly develop a curriculum on suicide assessment, treatment, and management for pharmacy students. Requires the department of health and the pharmacy quality assurance commission to jointly develop written materials on suicide awareness and prevention that pharmacies can post or distribute to customers."
HB 2637 is a new law that can provide capital funding for historic veteran cemetery preservation. Here is what this new law establishes:
"Creates the Washington state historic cemetery preservation capital grant program to benefit the public by preserving outstanding examples of the state's historical heritage, enabling historic cemeteries to continue to serve their communities, and honoring the military veterans buried within them. Requires applications for the capital grant program to be submitted to the department of archaeology and historic preservation in a form and manner prescribed by the department. Requires the director of the department to establish a committee to review applications."
HB 1213 enhanced county veteran benefits by expanding the definition of veteran to include our National Guard and Reserves; it:
"...revises the definition of 'family' and 'veteran' for purposes of the county veterans' assistance fund."
SB 6405 enabled electronic insurance companies to sell supplemental CHAMPVA policies without having a physical office in our state.
This could potentially reduce the price by 20%. There is only one state left in the country that still requires an insurance company to establish a brick and mortar facility to do business in the Internet age.
SB 6254 added additional license plate availability for recipients of the Purple Heart.
Our National Director, Michael Partridge, and member of the Veterans Legislative Coalition, is a Vietnam veteran Marine who at 19 was wounded in combat and represented our Chapter at the bill signing on March 25, a Good Friday in Olympia.
Finally, SB 6177 was passed as the Governor's veto of the original bill was overwritten by the Legislature on the final day of the special session along with 26 other bills that were vetoed and overwritten to become law.
This bill established the first medical cannabis research production license to begin the initial clinical trials on cannabis. With the anticipated re-scheduling of cannabis later this year Washington State is position to become a leader in this new pharmaceutical industry. This bill was modeled after the Department of Veterans Affairs Institutional Review Board's guidelines to enable peer-reviewed research to be conducted through qualified medical professionals.
We thank the sponsors of these bills, the Legislators that co-sponsored and voted for these measures and to Governor Inslee who advocated for the passage of these pieces of legislation that will make our veteran community a better place to be.
We also thank the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs and the Washington State Veterans Legislative Coalition for their leadership in making these dreams become reality. Without them, these bills would never see the light of day.