Joetta, an Eastern Washington University PSE member, was busy during her stint in Olympia and provided me this summary of her activities:
Having the opportunity to be in Olympia for a week as a legislative intern was interesting and very rewarding for me. I was able to speak to several of the lobbyists during the week. I enjoyed being able to sit in on the discussions at the hearings as well as the House and Senate floors. If you have the opportunity to be an intern, in the future I highly recommend it. I learned so much being able to take it in first hand. It helped me understand the legislative process better.
There were several bills that I was interested in learning about. Some of them affected me in my job working in higher education. One bill, in particular, that I was very interested in was the House Bill 2822, it proposed to change the language of the bill to include the miniature horse as a service animal. I know there will be many questions for those that work with individuals that have a service animal. Since I work with students with disabilities, it was especially interesting to me. I am sure there will be many questions and comments that come up regarding service animals in Washington State that may affect us all.
If you are interested, you can look at the bill, HB 2822: which is the substitute bill.
According to the committee materials, this is how the substitute bill compares to the original bill:
- Incorporates miniature horses into the definition of service animal;
- Provides that the definition of service animal does not apply to discrimination statutes pertaining to housing accommodations or real estate transactions;
- Repeals the statute related to food establishments as the definition of service animal will apply to all public accommodations;
Adds language establishing the parameters of what an enforcement officer and place of public accommodation may inquire based on federal law; and
- Makes other technical changes and minor substantive revisions.
This bill will change the definition of service animal in the state of Washington, and impose penalties on persons who intentionally misrepresent their pet or comfort animal as a service animal. If this bill passes, the Human Rights Commission will need to rewrite its brochures and training materials in this area of the law to reflect the new bill language. These training materials and brochures will be made available for distribution. There will also be training throughout the state for members of the public and business owners in order to educate them on the new law and in order to answer any questions they might have about the new language. The next step is for the bill to be signed by the governor. I have been watching it and I even signed up for legislative updates for the bill, it has not been signed yet. Once signed, it goes into effect on January 1, 2019.
While watching the Senate in session I was impressed to see the Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, President of the Senate and Chief Opportunity Officer for Washington State read his information in Braille. He was reading his materials in Braille and he did not miss a beat. If you are interested in reading more about the lieutenant governor, you can read more at http://www.ltgov.wa.gov/
Doug’s Update: Good news Joetta! Governor Inslee signed the bill into law on March 22.