Medal of Honor recipient visits and an update on my bills

OBan_E-news-Header-leg-district.jpgHonoring an American hero

Swenson and O'Ban

 

On Tuesday, I was blessed to witness two amazing events. My son, Thomas, a U.S. Army Specialist stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, sang the national anthem in the Senate Chamber to begin the day’s activities (his musical talent is entirely from his mom). You can watch video of that below:

Thomas O'Ban

 

Immediately afterward, the Senate adopted my Senate Resolution 8686 recognizing the valiant and selfless actions of U.S. Army Capt. William Swenson in 2009 that earned him the Medal of Honor in 2013.

Often unable to express in words degree of their respect and admiration for Capt. Swenson, members of the Senate cheered and applauded the hometown hero who resides in Seattle. In fact, you can watch a KOMO News report on Captain Swenson at this link.

I invited Captain Swenson to the Legislature because he was awarded the Medal of Honor for acts of gallantry – at the risk of his life – above and beyond the call of duty. It’s important to know that the danger Captain Swenson faced that day was not some general risk of injury…it was the immediate threat of imminent death. No one ordered him to repeatedly place himself at the threshold of death to save his brethren. No one would have judged him disloyal for not going in a second, third or fourth time into mortal peril.

On Sept. 8, 2009, Capt. Swenson and others were engaged by anti-Afghan forces in the Ganjgal Valley within 100 meters of Ganjgal Village, forcing Swenson to simultaneously return fire while directing troops where to go to provide cover fire for soldiers pinned down by the insurgents’ initial volley. As the anti-Afghan forces began calling for Swenson and his group to surrender, he fought back while providing first aid to his wounded partner. It was an act of resistance that inspired the troops pinned nearby to rally; their subsequent response disrupted the attack and pushed the enemy back beyond hand-grenade range.

Capt. Swenson helped carry his wounded partner, with rocket-propelled grenades striking close by, across 200 meters of terraced open ground and got him loaded into a waiting MedEvac helicopter. Swenson then returned to the firefight to rescue more of his fallen comrades. You can read about Capt. Swenson’s amazing efforts and even watch video of them by clicking this link.

We honored Captain Swenson, not just for the offering of his life for his comrades but because we want that bravery to be passed on to the next generation. What we honor, we elevate…and we want our children to emulate. Captain Swenson represents the countless acts of heroism by men and women who can’t be here, so for their sake as well as Captain Swenson’s bravery I want to thank him for being a stalwart defender of our liberty and our freedom.

Capt. Swenson spoke briefly after a long standing ovation, saying he was proud to fight his battles for our country, but now there’s another battle ahead here at home.

You can watch video of the moving tribute by clicking below:

Medal of honor

An update on the status of my bills

Floor

GOVERNMENT REFORM

Senate Bill 6566 – Prohibiting a governor from exercising his or her powers of clemency until after receiving a recommendation from the state Clemency and Pardons Board. I introduced this bill last week after the governor inappropriately decreed that he was suspending executions in Washington without talking to victims’ families and prosecutors. It will be heard next Wednesday, February 26. You can watch my news conference on this issue here.

HEALTH CARE

Senate Bill 6464The “If you liked your insurance, you can get it back” bill. For those who lost their coverage, and can’t afford to replace it, this bill helps families and individuals by providing them affordable options. Passed the Senate 25-22 and is awaiting a hearing by the House of Representatives (see more on this bill below). Another video of my news conference can be viewed here.

Senate Bill 6050 – Encourages better communication between a woman and her doctor about mammographic breast density, a factor in identifying breast cancer. Passed the Senate 34-14 and referred to the House Committee on Health Care & Wellness.

Senate Bill 6122 – Requires long-term planning for developmental disabilities services to reduce the long wait for vital services. Passed the Senate unanimously and is awaiting a hearing by the House of Representatives.

FOSTER KIDS

Senate Bill 6126 – Gives children in foster care a voice to help accelerate the legal process and place them in a loving, permanent home. Passed the Senate unanimously and is awaiting a hearing by the House of Representatives. Watch the KING-5 story on this issue here.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Senate Bill 6022 – Increases an assault on a state hospital worker to a felony to help reduce the almost daily assaults that occur at Western and Eastern State Hospitals. Passed the Senate 36-12 and is scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Public Safety at 8:00 AM tomorrow.

Senate Bill 6025 – Criminalizes wearing body armor by a criminal engaged in violent crimes. Passed by the Senate 41-7 and scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Public Safety at 8:00 AM on tomorrow.

Senate Joint Memorial 8015Urges Congress to strengthen safety protections for tank rail cars carrying potentially hazardous liquids and gases, often in dense residential areas, as well as ask that existing tank rail cars be retrofitted with advanced safety enhancing technology or phased out of service.

MILITARY AND VETERANS

Senate Bill 5969 – Awards academic credit for military training so a veteran can get his degree faster and more affordably. Passed the Senate unanimously, and is scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Higher Education at 8:00 AM tomorrow.

Senate Bill 5970 – A similar bill, this bill counts military training and experience toward meeting professional and other license requirements so that veterans can start new careers faster and more affordably. Passed the Senate unanimously and is scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs today.

TRANSPORTATION

Senate Bill 6051 – Reforming the Washington State Department of Transportation by requiring far greater transparency and accountability and speeding up the costly permitting system. Still awaiting a hearing by the Senate Committee on Transportation.

For the full list of bills I’ve proposed, please visit my website.

My “If you liked your health insurance, we’ll get it back for you,” bill

Family bills

On Tuesday, I was proud to lead a majority of the Senate in approving Senate Bill 6464, a bill that represents hope for people who have lost their medical insurance due to Obamacare.

I have received hundreds of e-mails, letters and online messages from those who’ve had their insurance policies canceled. In other cases, people have had their deductibles and premiums double. These are real people who are now having a very difficult time finding insurance to cover their families. 230,000 Washingtonians have had their health-care insurance plans canceled after implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and they’ve been unable to replace them.

SB 6464 would allow Washington residents to buy catastrophic health-care plans in other states. Additionally, it would require the state insurance commissioner – for a period of one year – to approve plans that do not meet the requirements of Obamacare. Also, health carriers could continue offering certain individual or small-group health plans in the market outside of the health-care exchange, regardless of whether the plans meet the requirements of Obamacare.

The measure would also bar the insurance commissioner from prohibiting the continuation of these plans – reversing an action taken to prevent residents from purchasing affordable care from other states (even though President Obama allowed states to obtain exemption waivers) – and allow out-of-state carriers, regulated by other state insurance commissioners, to offer insurance products in Washington.

People are being forced to choose between health care and paying their mortgage. In our state, if you try to find a replacement catastrophic health-care insurance plan there is only one carrier in each county who offers one. That’s not choice, that’s the elimination of choice. With this bill, if you liked your health insurance, we’ll get it back for you.

Join us for a town hall meeting in Graham!

Graham Fire

Senator Randi Becker and Representatives Dick Muri, J.T. Wilcox and Graham Hunt will be joining me for an upcoming town hall meeting in Graham next Saturday, Feb. 22. I’d like to invite 2nd and 28th District residents to join us.

Citizens who attend will receive an update on the 2014 legislative session, and we are encouraging participants to bring questions, comments or concerns about bill proposals, state government and issues affecting Pierce County.

The meeting will be held at the Graham fire station, located at 23014 70th Ave. east, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Coffee and cookies will be provided. I hope to see you there!