Serving Franklin County, WA

Four Rep. Volz bills pass committee

Two aimed at wildfire recovery

SPOKANE – The House Appropriations Committee recently approved three bills from Rep. Mike Volz, including two aimed at helping wildfire and disaster recovery. Additionally, a fourth bill from Volz has also been approved by its committee.

House Bill 1952, which passed Appropriations on Saturday, would require the Military Department to administer a program for long-term community recovery from an emergency or disaster. The program would support counties and tribes by assisting with recovery planning, developing a recovery manual, issuing grants to create recovery groups, providing recovery training, and creating a resource directory.

"Our rural communities need this legislation," said Volz, R-Spokane. "This bill would go a long way in helping people quickly and effectively when disasters strike. Each wildfire season seems to be getting worse, so we need to prepare the best we can to help people recover. This policy would facilitate the planning and process for our emergency and disaster relief efforts, and get victims the help they need, when they need it."

If the legislation were to become law, the program would also help county and tribal governments with planning, creating, and maintaining a manual to facilitate long-term community recovery. County governments would also provide long-term community recovery training in cooperation with local organizations for emergency services.

"Anything we can do that will help the victims of wildfires and other disasters to recover, we need to make that happen," Volz said.

Additionally, the State Government and Tribal Relations Committee passed House Bill 2283, last week. It would allow employees to take shared leave when living in an area affected by an emergency or disaster.

"This commonsense bill is simple, yet invaluable to people going through a crisis," Volz said. "This legislation would not cost the state any additional funding or affect anyone's current vacation or leave in any way. However, it could make a huge difference for someone in the middle of a disaster."

The bill would allow public employees to use their shared leave bank to help their colleagues in a time of crisis.

On Friday, the Appropriations Committee also approved House Bill 2481 and House Bill 2014.

House Bill 2481 calls for the Health Care Authority to waive the payment of health benefit premiums during the month of death for retired participants in the Public Employees' Benefits Board health coverage programs. The HCA would also enroll any eligible surviving dependents in the same plan effective on the first day of the month in which the death occurred and require those survivors to pay the applicable premiums.

"Obviously, this is an important piece of legislation for the surviving family members when their loved one dies," Volz said. "They need time to grieve and recover. Worrying about whether they have to pay unnecessary health insurance premiums should be the last thing on their minds."

Lastly, House Bill 2014 would standardize the requirements relating to "qualifying discharges" to establish eligibility for various benefit programs for veterans.

"I want to be clear this does not change anyone's level of service," Volz said. "An honorable discharge is still an honorable discharge. This legislation is simply trying to define where that line is on what and when you qualify for benefits and under what circumstances."

Under current law, to establish eligibility for various benefits and programs, veteran status is generally recognized for a service member who received an honorable discharge or other excusable discharge. House Bill 2014 would add the term "qualifying discharge" to several provisions establishing various benefit programs for veterans, generally replacing references to "honorable discharge."

The next step for all four bills would be a vote on the House floor.

 

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