We published 71 stories this year. The state’s new public health care option snagged our No. 1 most-read story this year — surpassing the rest by thousands of views.
Other stories that generated a lot of interest were stories around the Title X program for women’s health care coverage, more than two genders on ID cards, vaping changes, a new Native American Supreme Court judge, deadly force law and — no surprise — the announcement that Washington ranks as the best state in the nation.
Here’s a look back at the top 12 posts that interested our readers the most in 2019:
1. Public option for Washington state
Jan. 8, 2019
Gov. Jay Inslee announced that he and Democratic lawmakers will introduce legislation that would provide a public health care option in Washington through the state’s Health Benefit Exchange.
Inslee was joined by Sen. David Frockt, Rep. Eileen Cody, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and King County Executive Dow Constantine. He made the announcement at King County Public Health Center in Seattle, saying Washington has always been a leader in health care.
“Under the Obama administration and the Affordable Care Act, Washington was able to make tremendous progress in expanding coverage and start bringing down costs in our health care system,” Inslee said. “Under the Trump administration, all that progress is at risk. Because of the instability they’ve brought to the system, consumers in 14 counties have only one option for coverage and our ability to rein in costs has been stymied. But we’re going to do all we can to protect health care for Washingtonians. This public option will ensure consumers in every part of the state will have an option for high-quality, affordable coverage.”
The proposal addresses the challenges of health insurance availability as well as affordability. It directs the state’s Health Care Authority to contract with health plans across the state to offer coverage on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which guarantees coverage to anyone in the individual insurance market across the state.
2. Washington state stands up for women’s health, after Title X funding loss
August 22, 2019
The federal Department of Health and Human Services notified Washington state officials in August that unless the state agrees to new terms that violate state law and long-established medical ethics and standards, it can no longer remain in the Title X program.
Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, King County Executive Dow Constantine, legislators and other state leaders appeared with Planned Parenthood advocates and patients in Seattle. They blasted the new rule, which eliminates the ability of providers to advise, counsel and treat patients with the full range of legal and constitutionally protected reproductive care services. The rule disproportionately impacts lower-income women and families who seek medical services at local clinics and community providers. Ninety percent of Title X patients are low income.
3. Public option and long-term care bills signed into law
May 13, 2019
The 2019 legislative session wrapped up with health care legislation that includes two landmark bills. One creates a public option health care plan that works toward health care for all, and another creates a first-in-the-nation long-term care benefit program. Gov. Jay Inslee signed these bills in May.
“These two bills are models for the rest of the nation to consider,” Inslee said. “Washington state, once again, is at the head of the pack when it comes to policies that help working families and provide much-needed security when it comes to their health care.”
4. Protecting orcas and salmon
May 8, 2019
In May, Gov. Jay Inslee signed five crucial orca recovery bills into law that protect the safety and livelihood of the Southern Resident orca. These unprecedented efforts — three of them governor-requested bills — focus on protecting orcas from vessel noise and traffic, improving the safety of oil transportation through the Salish Sea, and increasing fish forage habitat and Chinook salmon for the orca’s food source.
The most recent data from March states there are 75 Southern Resident orcas left. According to the Marine Mammal Commission, the historical population may have numbered more than 200 animals before the 21st century, which is when modern impacts started to impact the orca population. Climate change, population change and more than a century of development and human activity along the Puget Sound and Columbia River have impacted orca survival rates. The Southern Resident orca was listed as endangered in the U.S. in 2005.
You can learn more about the governor’s Orca Task Force on his website.
5. More than two genders on ID cards
July 30, 2019
The latest step in the state’s efforts for inclusion rights is that residents will be able to choose from three gender options when getting a driver’s license: Male, Female and X.
The X gender designation option means a gender that is not exclusively male or female. The Department of Licensing proposed the rule change earlier this year. The change would also impact instruction permits or ID cards and would create more consistency with Washington birth certificates that now list an X.
6. The governor’s plan to address homelessness
Dec 18, 2019
Gov. Jay Inslee released his 2020 supplemental budget proposal with substantial investments that address the statewide homelessness crisis, expand early learning and strengthen the foster care system, and enhance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in government, schools and communities.
“I want everyone in Washington to benefit from our state’s shared prosperity, but we know our state’s successes are not shared by everyone,” Inslee said. “I am proposing investments that will require partnerships with local governments and community partners, and will bring people inside with dignity and compassion. This is a statewide problem and we need a statewide solution. It is morally and ethically wrong to have so many Washingtonians living outside. We can, and must do better.”
7. Washington ranked best state
May 14, 2019
Washington is the best state in the country, according to the third annual 2019 Best States rankings from U.S. News & World Report from this spring. The publication evaluated all 50 states across a range of criteria, including education, health care, infrastructure and the economy. The report emphasized Washington’s thriving technology sector as well as the state’s aggressive efforts to promote clean, affordable energy.
“Washington state is an example of how climate action and a strong economy go hand in hand,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “We are as confident as ever about our efforts to speed up the transition to clean energy.”
To obtain the top ranking, Washington ranked high in a number of areas including infrastructure, the economy and education. In previous years, Washington has consistently placed in the top 10 in state rankings. Washington ranked sixth in 2018, and fifth in 2017.
8. Vaping executive order
Sept. 27, 2019
Gov. Jay Inslee announced an executive order at a Seattle press conference in September that changes how agencies will regulate, monitor, and communicate about a variety of vaping products. Other state leaders, including Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Washington State Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman, spoke at the event.
“We aren’t waiting for Big Tobacco to tell us what is in their products,” Inslee said. “We aren’t going to take health guidance from them, because we know that their goals are to make money and create new customers. That is what they are interested in. We are interested in ensuring that adults and young people have known and regulated ingredients in vaping products. Everyone deserves to know what is in the vaping liquid they are inhaling into their lungs.”
The announcement comes after medical professionals reported seven cases of severe lung illness in Washington from vaping devices or e-cigarette products. The Center for Disease Control has reported at least 12 deaths nationwide, as well as more than 800 cases of lung injury possibly related to these products
9. 2019 Legislative successes
April 29, 2019
Inslee and legislators pass nation-leading legislation on climate change and prioritize historic funding for K-12 schools and behavioral health.
The 105-day legislative session ended on time in April with the governor and legislative leaders celebrating significant victories related to climate change and conservation, education, healthcare, jobs and safe communities.
During the final hours of the session, lawmakers approved new, two-year state operating, capital and transportation budgets.
The operating budget, which includes about $850 million in new tax revenue, would leave a projected $2.8 billion in total reserves at the end of the biennium. The two-year operating budget totals about $52.4 billion. The bulk of new spending goes to K-12 education, primarily to cover the ongoing costs to meet the state’s obligations to fully fund public schools.
10. Higher education bills help more students afford college
May 21, 2019
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a major education bill May 21 that establishes one of the most progressive higher education investments in the country. The Workforce Education Investment Act is a comprehensive package of major proposals that include two governor-priority policies.
The act guarantees financial aid for more than 110,000 qualified students in Washington to attend college for free or at a discounted rate. The law also expands the governor’s Career Connect Washington Initiative. It establishes a study-and-work approach so students can get real life work experience and high school or college credit at the same time.
11. Statewide free college
Jan. 11, 2019
Following a roundtable with a small group of college students, Gov. Jay Inslee detailed his plan today to transform the State Need Grant into Washington’s College Promise grant, a guaranteed source of financial aid for more than 93,000 eligible students.
The State Need Grant is currently the foundation of Washington’s financial aid system. But the Legislature has chronically underfunded the program, and over the last decade about one out of four eligible students who applied have not received the grant. This leaves tens of thousands of students on a waitlist for financial aid. In changing the program to Washington College Promise, the state will fully fund the program and restructure the legal framework behind it to guarantee that it stays fully funded.
12. First Native American Supreme Court judge
Dec. 4, 2019
Gov. Jay Inslee helped usher in a historic day for the Washington State Supreme Court when he appointed Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis as the first Native American justice in Olympia during December.
Montoya-Lewis has more than 20 years of judicial experience, including five on the Whatcom County Superior Court. She spent years working with tribal communities in Washington and elsewhere, and is uniquely familiar with the challenges that tribal and rural communities face. She also worked on issues to protect children from exploitation, and received the Children’s Advocacy Center Community Leadership Award in 2018.