Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Legislators discuss state holidays, data, environment-friendly products

by TIMOTHY FAIRBANKS-CLOUSER, Herald Legislative Writer
| January 17, 2022 1:00 AM

If passed, House Bill 1485 would bring a new holiday to Washington celebrating Women’s Suffrage Day and the federal 19th Amendment, and was one item on legislators’ agenda on Jan. 10.

Washington was the 35th state that needed to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. House Bill 1485 would allow the state to act as a role model for others in recognizing the history of disadvantaged Americans.

The bill, among others this session, recognizes state holidays. In last year’s legislative session, legislators passed House Bill 1016, making Juneteenth a state holiday.

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, recognizes the freedom of enslaved people in the United States with the end of the Civil War. Holes in last year’s HB 1016 left legislators scrambling to fill shortcomings in this session.

An RCW code separate from HB 1016 includes a list of school holidays to be observed in Washington, among which Juneteenth was not included. HB 1617 fixes this so Juneteenth is included, said Jason Zolle, of the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee counsel.

The history of African Americans deserves recognition, said Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Tukwila. The state should remember the fight Black Americans have persisted since and before the freedom of American slaves.

Legislators were keen not to forget minorities’ fight for equality when addressing House Bill 1485. Many people presented hesitancy in passing a bill celebrating women’s suffrage when the rights of minorities were not considered in the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Lobbyist Michael Moran testified in support of HB 1485, but called for recognition of the voting franchise, which women and minorities fought to stay a part of rather than the ratification of an amendment that left many still lacking basic rights.

“While some may view these as painful upsets of American history,” Moran said, “those things got us here today and they should be embraced as steps for us to be a stronger, more vibrant nation.”

Janie White, Washington Education Association vice president, reflected the thoughts of others in requesting the suffrage of all women be considered when picking a day for the holiday if the legislation is passed.

Another topic atop legislators’ minds is data privacy. House Bill 1552 prohibits the sale of personal data by the state to third parties. The bill also requires state agencies to inform citizens of the data being collected on them.

Several people testified in support and in opposition to HB 1552. Rep. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, said people need to train and educate individuals to ensure data is collected and stored in the right way.

Agencies and third parties should not abuse data; Boehnke said it should be disposed of after the intended use. Washington should set the example for other states regarding data protection.

Insurors noted concern over HB 1552, stating the insurance industry, among many others, relies on data through public records from third parties for a variety of services.

Law enforcement, construction bidders, the department of licensing and others all use data for a variety of services which society depends on. In the instance of insurance, without acquiring this data, companies would be unable to rate a person accurately, said Eric Ellman, of the Consumer Data Industry Association.

The state needs to draw a line, said Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen. Data privacy is a concern for many people whether or not essential industries depend upon personal data.

“If not through this bill,” Walsh said, “how do we address the concerns that consumers have for how their personal information is being protected.”

The House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee also heard testimonies for House Bill 1518, concerning the environmental standards of paper products.

Since 2009, legislation has required state agencies to purchase 100% recyclable copy paper, but with House Bill 1518, agencies have another option.

If passed, state agencies may opt to purchase paper requiring 40% less C02 to produce than conventional copy paper, Zolle said.

The state already has a contract with two companies for paper, including Officemax and a woman-owned business in the Tri-Cities, said Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver. The state needs to be flexible in allowing companies to meet new standards, she said.

North Pacific Paper Company is one of the largest paper mills in North America, with contracts across the U.S. CEO Craig Anneberg and co-president Tom Crowley testified in support of HB 1518, stating the company’s ability to produce the option proposed.

Crowley said northwest processing plants owner NORPAC is in talks with both companies regarding HB 1518 and has the resources available to meet this demand for the environmentally friendly paper.

NORPAC has already sold a natural choice paper with over $100 million in sales for the past five years. Crowley said the state could save between $1 million to $1.5 million if they switched all paper to natural choice.

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