OLYMPIA -- The state House of Representatives on Monday unanimously approved a bill to allow doctors to buy eyeglasses made by prison inmates for their Medicaid patients.
Medicaid patients have been unable to have new eyeglasses covered by the government health benefits program since January because of budget cuts in the wake of revenue shortfalls.
Rep. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, introduced House Bill 1613 to allow inmates in the Correctional Industries program to make the glasses, which doctors could purchase and then sell to patients at cost.
Warnick said the bill addressed an important need for patients while also allowing inmates to learn a useful skill.
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"This would allow someone learning a trade to provide eyeglasses to people who wouldn't receive them otherwise," she said.
Warnick serves on the Correctional Industries board, and said the program can help inmates become productive members of society after serving their time.
"This legislation is a win for everyone because these two groups are helping each other," she said. "These are the kinds of ideas we must have to stretch tax dollars and continue to help those who are less fortunate."
Also Monday, the House unanimously passed House Bill 1506 intended to help with firefighting in rural, unprotected "no man's lands" outside of organized fire districts.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, who said it is an important step in addressing areas with no fire protection.
"We need to respond to wild fires sooner when they're smaller, allowing people to put out fires at less expense, and this proposal promotes that," he said. "In addition, firefighters can aid in putting out a fire before it grows without fear of excessive liability. This legislation is about protecting people and property."
The bill as adopted by the House:
-- Requires seller's disclosure forms to include a statement whether property is located within a fire protection district.
-- Allows a fire protection agency to initiate fire protection on unprotected land when services are requested by a landowner or another fire agency, service could prevent fire from spreading to protected lands or service could minimize the risk of harm to people or property by preventing the spread of fire to other unprotected lands.
-- Requires property owners in unprotected lands to reimburse fire agencies for the cost of firefighting on their land.
-- Exempts firefighters and fire agencies from civil lawsuits for actions taken when fighting fires on unprotected lands unless gross negligence is involved.
Both bills now go to the Senate for consideration.
In the Senate on Monday, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5747, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, which requires the state Horse Racing Commission to provide some funding for nonprofit meets.
"This bill will help a number of communities in Eastern Washington whose nonprofit horse-racing events depend on this bill passing," said Hewitt, R-Walla Walla. "The goal is to raise private dollars and support these events that have a real economic impact in our communities."
The bill passed 46-2, and now goes to the House for consideration. Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, was one of two "no" votes.
* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org