October 23, 2017
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Bipartisan bill co-negotiated by Sen. Murray aims to stabilize Affordable Care Act

Last week opened with rare bipartisanship, as a deal negotiated between Washington's senior senator, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, and Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander offered stability to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Their bill would restore billions of dollars in federal cost-sharing payments to health insurers to keep costs down for consumers, payments canceled the week before by the Trump administration.

The president seemed to endorse the deal as a short-term measure, but later in the week the message was mixed from his administration.

By Friday, 24 senators -- a dozen Republican and a dozen Democrats -- had signed on to the plan, but its prospects in the House are uncertain.

"We have reached an agreement on bipartisan legislation that will extend cost-sharing reduction payments during 2018 and 2019," said Alexander and Murray.

The pair also said their bill will "protect consumers facing higher premiums this year, and give states meaningful flexibility to create greater choices among health insurance policies in the individual health insurance market."

Gov. Jay Inslee praised the bipartisan agreement.

"I commend and thank my fellow Washingtonian, Sen. Patty Murray, for her leadership in developing a bipartisan plan to stabilize and improve our nation's health care system. Her proposal with Sen. Lamar Alexander reflects precisely the kind of bipartisan cooperation that has been sorely lacking in Congress this year, and would result in lower health care costs and more choices for middle-class families across America."

Without congressional action to replace the subsidies, Washington ratepayers on the ACA exchange would see insurance plan increases of 9 to 27 percent, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said last week. That would be on top of an already announced 24 percent increase in plan costs, the largest since the ACA came online in 2013.

Contact Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for federal issues, to learn more.

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Rail Keeps Our Economy Rolling

We must keep trains rolling safely and fairly

By Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom

As a state representative, I've spent quite a bit of time studying and learning about rail safety. It's a subject I take seriously. I live in the Town of Steilacoom, where trains are a way of life.

In fact, the Puget Sound coastline in my district is defined by the rail line. And, it's not just about moving freight. Amtrak will soon transport passengers at a very high speed through Lakewood and DuPont. Rail safety is a big deal for our communities.

In 2014, more than 119 million tons of freight traveled by rail over more than 3,000 miles of rail tracks across the state. This activity supports Washington businesses across a variety of important industries, from lumber to agriculture to oil.

Freight rail is also directly responsible for nearly 4,000 jobs and supports tens of thousands more throughout the state...

Read the full column in The News Tribune
Regulatory Overreach

Ecology's decision harming state's future

By Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen

The Washington Department of Ecology seems determined to oppose any industrial development in Cowlitz County. And the rest of the 19th Legislative District.

About three weeks ago, Ecology issued an opinion denying a water-quality permit sought by Millennium Bulk Terminals (MBT) to complete its coal export facility. Ecology bureaucrats claimed that the project would cause "significant and unavoidable harm" to nine environmental areas: global air quality, vehicle traffic, vessel traffic, rail capacity, rail safety, noise pollution, social and community resources, cultural resources and tribal access to traditional fishing locations near Bonneville Dam.

A few of these factors -- particularly "global air quality" -- are not described in any relevant federal or state law. Rationalizing the unprecedented opinion, Ecology Director Maia Bellon relied on some broad rhetorical strokes...

The Department of Ecology's focus on "global impacts" is a luxury paid for by limiting the prospects for the working people of Cowlitz County. Director Bellon and the other Department of Ecology bureaucrats need to return their focus from global ambitions to local concerns.

Read the full column in The Daily News
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