Washington State Catholic Conference Newsletter
  April 21, 2023  
  Final Week of the Legislative Session  
  Legislative Session to End April 23  

Sunday, April 23 marks the end of the 2023 Legislative session.  Your advocacy is still needed during these final days.  See the updated Action Alert below to urge your legislators again to amend SB 5280 to protect children and the clergy-penitent privilege.  Additionally, a number of WSCC-supported bills have been passed by the Legislature and delivered to the governor.  Send Governor Jay Inslee a message to let him know which bills are priorities for Catholics and should be signed into law.  At the same time, there are bills we can urge the governor to veto.  Thank you for your advocacy!

  UPDATED ACTION ALERT: Urge Your Legislators to Protect the Clergy-Penitent Privilege  

The WSCC issued an updated Action Alert for Senate Bill 5280 (SB 5280) on Tuesday, April 18.  Please use our Action Alert to contact your legislators once again, and urge them to protect children, the clergy-penitent privilege, and the sacrament of reconciliation in SB 5280. Your voice is still needed to ensure that this bill is amended to protect the clergy-penitent privilege.  Your state senator and your representatives are likely to vote on this bill prior to the end of the legislative session Sunday, April 23.  Please reach out to your legislators again now.

On April 12, the House voted to pass SB 5280 with an amendment compelling priests to be mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect, even if information is obtained solely during the sacrament of reconciliation.  On April 17, with a bi-partisan vote, the Senate refused to concur with the amendment removing the clergy-penitent privilege.  At the same time, just one, singular vote determined this favorable outcome.  Legislators are now deliberating what the final bill should look like, so now is the time to use our new Action Alert to contact them. 

Background information on SB 5280: Caring for children and vulnerable populations is a priority of the Catholic Church.  In response to the abuse crisis, the Catholic Church has engaged in reform, implemented new policies, and is dedicated to accountability and caring for those who have been harmed.  SB 5280 would require clergy to be mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect.  Catholic priests are already mandatory reporters in our Church.  The WSCC supports this aspect of the bill with one exception – when information is obtained solely during the sacrament of reconciliation.  The seal of the confessional is sacred, and it is a violation of canon law for a priest to reveal what has been confessed during the sacrament of reconciliation.  Revealing information confessed during reconciliation results in excommunication, whereby a priest would be forbidden to celebrate or receive sacraments.  To learn more about SB 5280, the Church’s work to prevent abuse and restore victims, the bishops’ support of mandatory reporting outside the confessional, and the sacrament of reconciliation, please see our Action Alert.  Archbishop Paul Etienne wrote about this bill in his blog, Bishop Thomas Daly issued this statement related to the bill, and Bishop Frank Schuster created this video to request your help.  A closed caption option to view Spanish subtitles is available. 

  Urge the Governor to Sign These Bills into Law  
  Bills Passed by the Legislature  

Good news!  A number of bills supported by the WSCC have been delivered to the governor.  Governor Inslee may now sign these bills into law, veto them, partially veto them, or do nothing.  If he does nothing, the bills will automatically become law.  Send the governor a message, and urge him to sign these bills into law: HB 1128, HB 1181, HB 1238, HB 1260, SB 5114, SB 5225, and SB 5256.  Bill details are below.

  HB 1128: Personal Needs Allowance  

Medicaid recipients must contribute to the cost of their care.  The amount of the required co-pay is equivalent to a recipient’s income, minus deductions, including a personal needs allowance.  House Bill 1128 (HB 1128) will increase this monthly personal needs allowance from $70 to $100. Related to the bishops' economic justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1128.

  HB 1181: Growth Management Act (GMA) Updates (Care for God’s Creation)  

The Growth Management Act (GMA) is a series of laws that was passed in 1990 and requires fast-growing cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan to manage their population growth.  House Bill 1181 (HB 1181) updates the GMA by adding a climate change and resiliency goal and requiring some counties and cities to address adverse impacts of climate change on people, property, and ecological systems and identify ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled.  In line with the bishops’ legislative priority of caring for God’s creation, the WSCC supports HB 1181.

  HB 1238: Free School Meals  

House Bill 1238 (HB 1238) would require certain public schools serving grades K-4 to provide breakfast and lunch each school day at no charge to any student who requests these meals. This program would be phased in over the next two upcoming school years. In line with the bishops’ legislative priorities of children and families, economic justice, and education, the WSCC supports HB 1238.

  HB 1260: Providing Stability for Individuals with Disabilities  

House Bill 1260 (HB 1260) would improve rules for programs assisting those with disabilities or low incomes.  Impacted programs include the Aged, Blind and Disabled Cash Assistance Program (ABD), supplemental security income (SSI) payments, Housing and Essential Needs (HEN), and the Pregnant Women Assistance (PWA) program.  For example, beginning on October 1, 2025, individuals may receive both ABD and SSI. Also, under HB 1260 eligibility for programs is improved for those participating in substance use disorder treatment.  In line with the bishops’ economic justice priority and legislative priority to care for the aging and disabled, the WSCC supports HB 1260.

  SB 5114: Support Human Trafficking Survivors  

Senate Bill 5114 would support human trafficking survivors by administering funding for healing, support, and transition services for adults who are survivors of human trafficking.  In accordance with the bishops’ legislative priority to respect the dignity of every human person and assist survivors of human trafficking, the WSCC supports SB 5114.

  SB 5225: Increasing Access to Child Care Subsidies  

Senate Bill 5225 (SB 5225) would increase access to the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) program.  The WCCC provides child care subsidies to families in need.  SB 5225 would improve the WCCC by increasing the eligibility of child care workers who have incomes up to 85% of the state median income.  Copayments would be waived to the extent allowable, too. In line with the bishops’ legislative priorities of economic justice and supporting children and families, the WSCC supports SB 5225.

  SB 5256: Housing Assistance to Help Reunite Families  

Senate Bill 5256 (SB 5256) would improve the Child Welfare Housing Assistance Program.  The Child Welfare Housing Assistance Pilot Program was established in Lewis County in 2020 and provides housing vouchers, rental assistance, navigation, and other support services to eligible families. Families are eligible for this program if they have a child that is in foster care or eligible for foster care and whose lack of appropriate housing is a remaining barrier to reunification. SB 5256 would make the Child Welfare Housing Assistance program permanent and expand it to serve one or more counties on the east and west sides of the Cascade Mountains.  In line with the bishops’ legislative priorities of affordable housing and supporting children and families, the WSCC supports SB 5256.

  Urge the Governor to Veto These Bills  
  Bills Opposed by the WSCC  

Send Governor Inslee a message, and urge him to veto the following bills: SB 5242, SB 5599, and SB 5768.  Bill details are below.

  SB 5768: State Sale and Administration of Abortion Medication  

On April 20, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5768 (SB 5768), which would allow the state to sell and administer abortion medication.  Send Governor Inslee a message and urge him to veto SB 5768 when it reaches his desk.

On April 7, a court in Texas invalidated the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of mifepristone, an abortion drug.  The decision is being appealed.  On the same day, in a separate case filed by Washington state and 16 other states, a court ruling blocked the FDA from altering the availability of mifepristone in the states filing the case.  In response to court cases involving mifepristone, earlier this month Governor Jay Inslee announced a plan to purchase a three-year supply of mifepristone and authorize the Department of Corrections to administer the stockpile of the abortion medication. SB 5768, would create this authorization and allow the department to acquire, receive, possess, sell, resell, deliver, dispense, distribute, and engage in any activity constituting the practice of pharmacy or wholesale distribution of abortion medication. On April 10, WSCC executive director, Mario Villanueva, testified against this bill in a hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  On April 18, WSCC director of policy and communications, Adrienne Corpuz Joyce, testified against this bill before the House Appropriations Committee.  In line with the bishops’ legislative priority to respect the dignity of life, including the pre-born, the WSCC opposes SB 5768.

  SB 5599 Undermines Families  

On April 19,  the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5599 (SB 5599). Currently, licensed overnight shelters and licensed organizations providing services to homeless or runaway youth must contact a youth’s parents if they know that a child is away from home without parental permission.  Exceptions may be made if notifying a parent or legal guardian will subject a minor to abuse or neglect.  SB 5599 would further expand exceptions to notifying parents or legal guardians.  Namely, if a youth is seeking an abortion or gender-affirming care, parents or legal guardians do not need to be notified.  According to Catholic Social Teaching, the family is the most central social institution, and it must be supported and strengthened.  SB 5599 undermines families and allows persons other than a minor’s parents to authorize life-changing medical procedures for underage youth.  In line with the bishops’ legislative priorities to protect children and families and respect life, the WSCC opposes SB 5599.

  SB 5242 Increases Health Coverage of Abortion  

Senate Bill 5242 (SB 5242) would prohibit health insurance plans from imposing cost sharing for abortion.  Health insurers impose cost sharing for many medically necessary and life-saving procedures; abortion procedures need not be exempted from this practice. In line with the bishops’ legislative priority to respect life, the WSCC opposes SB 5242.

  Good News! Bills Signed Into Law  
  Bills Supported by the WSCC  

A number of bills supported by the WSCC have already been signed into law: HB 1047, HB 1048, HB 1177, HB 1265, HB 1329, HB 1784, SB 5087, and SB 5453.  Bill details are below.

  HB 1047: Toxics Free Cosmetics Act  

The Toxics Free Cosmetics Act, House Bill 1047 (HB 1047), addresses the fact that many personal care items and cosmetics contain chemicals that are unregulated, and are linked to cancer and developmental and reproductive harm.  In addition to harming individuals, unregulated chemicals also pollute the environment during manufacturing and after disposal. The Toxics Free Cosmetics Act would ban certain hazardous chemicals in cosmetics, include hazard assessments of substitute chemicals, and provide incentives for small businesses to make safer cosmetics.  In line with the bishops’ legislative priority of caring for God’s creation, the WSCC supports the Toxics Free Cosmetics Act.

  HB 1048: Voting Rights Act  

On April 13, House Bill 1048 (HB 1048) was signed into law.  HB 1048 will enhance the Washington Voting Rights Act (WVRA).  The WVRA was passed in 2018 to expand access to fair and effective representation for historically marginalized and underrepresented communities.  HB 1048 would improve the WVRA by refining language of who may recover costs incurred conducting research on alleged violations of the WVRA, allowing organizations and coalitions to file WVRA violations, permitting tribes to file WVRA claims, allowing the number of county commissioners to be increased to remedy violations related to tribal status, and establishing that state and local laws be construed in favor of protecting the right to vote. In line with the bishops’ racial justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1048.

  HB 1177: Solving Crimes of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People  

House Bill 1177 (HB 1177) was signed into law on April 20. Indigenous women experience violence at higher rates than other individuals and are murdered at rates greater than ten times the national average.  These crimes are often unsolved or unreported.  HB 1177 will create a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Cold Case Investigation Assistance Unit within the Office of the Attorney General to increase capacity to help indigenous women and people and solve related crimes.  In line with the bishops’ legislative priority to respect the dignity of all, the WSCC supports HB 1177.

  HB 1265: Tax Exemption for Housing for Individuals with Disabilities  

On April 14, House Bill 1265 (HB 1265) was signed into law.  HB 1265 expands the property tax exemption for housing for individuals with disabilities.  In line with the bishops’ legislative priorities of caring for the aging and disabled and increasing affordable housing, the WSCC supports HB 1265.

  HB 1329: Prevent Utility Shutoffs During Extreme Heat  

House Bill 1329 (HB 1329) was signed into law on April 20. HB 1329 will help individuals with low incomes by preventing utilities from shutting off their water or electricity due to nonpayment during periods of extreme heat. In line with the bishops’ economic justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1329

  HB 1784: Hunger Relief  

On April 13 House Bill 1784 (HB 1784), a hunger relief bill, was signed into law. HB 1784 addresses food insecurity and provides funding for hunger relief organizations and senior nutrition services programs. In line with the bishops’ economic justice priority and legislative priority to care for the aging, the WSCC supports HB 1784.

  Death Penalty Eliminated  

Legislators and advocates gathered to witness the signing of SB 5087 to eliminate the death penalty. WSCC lobbyist Donna Christensen has been working on this bill for 24 years and was amongst those witnessing Governor Inslee’s signature.

Senate Bill 5087 (SB 5087) was signed into law on April 20. SB 5087 eliminates the death penalty and removes it from Washington statute.  In 2009, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously determined that Washington’s death penalty is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner and therefore violates the state constitution. Additionally, in 2014 Governor Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on the death penalty.  However, these actions did not completely repeal the death penalty statute, leaving open the door that it could be applied in the future.  SB 5087 removes language from state laws identified as defects and omissions as reported by the supreme court pursuant to the state constitution.  Amongst numerous measures, repealing the death penalty is included in the bill. The WSCC has been advocating for the repeal of the death penalty for several years.  In line with the bishops’ racial justice and respect life legislative priorities, the WSCC supports SB 5087.

  SB 5453 Helps Survivors of Female Genital Mutilation  

Senate Bill 5453 (SB 5453) was signed into law on April 20. SB 5453 is designed to help survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM).  SB 5453 creates a civil cause of action for survivors of FGM, defines FGM as unprofessional conduct under the Uniform Disciplinary Act for health care providers, creates education programs, and establishes FGM as a crime. In line with the bishops’ priority to respect the dignity of every human person, the WSCC supports SB 5453.

  Additional Updates  
  Assisted Suicide Bill Signed Into Law  

Thank you to advocates who used our Action Alert to urge their legislators to oppose the expansion of assisted suicide.  Over 950 messages were sent to legislators during the session. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 5179 (SB 5179) passed out of both the Senate and House and was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on April 6.  It goes into effect on July 23.  In 2008 Washington voters approved Initiative 1000, the Physician-Assisted Death Initiative, but only after being assured that certain "safeguards" would be in place. HB 1281 loosens safeguards, increasing access to physician-assisted suicide and accelerating the process. The bill broadens the definition of a "qualified medical provider" who can make a diagnosis and prescribe lethal medication. Two physicians are no longer required to diagnose a patient.  HB 1281 also loosens the definition of those who can provide counseling; in lieu of a psychiatrist or psychologist, a social worker, mental health counselor, or psychiatric advanced nurse practitioner may determine if a patient is suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgement. Additionally, this bill shortens the minimum amount of time from 15 days to seven days that a patient is required to wait between making a request and receiving a prescription to terminate his or her life. SB 5179 also permits assisted suicide prescriptions to be delivered via the mail. In accordance with the bishops' legislative priority to respect life from its beginning to natural end, the WSCC opposed SB 5179.

  HB 1151, Mishandling of Human Embryos, Fails to Pass Out of Ways and Means  

House Bill 1151 (HB 1151) would have mandated health coverage of fertility services. The bill failed to pass out of Ways and Means, and is now dead for the session. The WSCC specifically opposed the promotion of in vitro fertilization (IVF), which creates human embryos that are not properly cared for. Our Catholic faith teaches us to respect all life and that life begins at conception. However, IVF often results in unused embryos that are frozen indefinitely, destroyed, or abandoned. Life is not properly cared for nor respected.  Additionally, IVF can treat children as commodities that are manufactured outside of the construct of the expression of love of a married couple.  A more thorough explanation of the complexity of the Church’s opposition to IVF may be found here. In line with the legislative priority to respect life, the WSCC opposes HB 1151.

  Useful Links for the Legislative Session  

Washington State Legislature - Information on bills, hearings, legislators, and more

Identify your district and legislators

WSCC Legislative Priorities  

Find bill information

WSCC website

  2023 Catholic Earth Day Summit  


  Iron Sharpens Iron Conference  


  Important Dates  

April 22           Earth Day

April 23           Last day of the legislative session

May 8             Mothers Day

WSCC Staff

  We invite you to contact us at any time.

  Mario Villanueva, Executive Director


  Adrienne Corpuz Joyce, Director of Policy & Communications   


  Tracey Wilson Yackley, Operations Manager 


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