Deciding Whether to Support Legislation: State of Washington House Bill 1153

Seattle Washington
Pixabay image by Ally Laws.

Updated 04.27.2022; Originally published February 2021

I was recently reminded of the important role we play in informing our elected officials of what is important to us, how their decisions affect us, and what we, as their constituents, expect from them. Last week, I received a nudge prompting me to write down my thoughts when Mireya PĂ©rez, who created the Brand the Interpreter podcast, tagged me on a post about State of Washington House Bill (HB) 1153 asking me for my thoughts. 

Before I share my thoughts, I would like to clarify that my thoughts are those of a private individual who does not live in the State of Washington. All thoughts and recommendations shared are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. 

Why care about legislation?

At different points in my career, I have cared about specific legislation for different reasons. For example, as a healthcare interpreter I was particularly interested in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, when the most recent changes to Section 1557 that came into effect last year were proposed, I was also very interested in the changes and what they meant to me as a freelance healthcare interpreter. 

Another example is AB5. I was living in California when California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) was presented and passed. There was a lot of speculation related to how it impacted our work as freelance interpreters and translators. I knew that as a freelance interpreter and translator in California, I needed to pay particular attention to AB5. Honestly, even now that I no longer live in California, I am paying particular attention to anything related to AB5 because similar legislation could be proposed in my current state of residence.

Now for State of Washington HB 1153. The first thing you have to ask yourself is: Do I care? 

I cannot answer that question for anyone other than myself. The reason I care is because I also interpret in educational settings, and even if my current state of residence is not considering anything similar, looking at what is being proposed can help me decide whether it is something I would like my elected officials to also consider or to avoid at all costs. 

Now that I have decide that I do care, my next step is to dive in and read it.

Does Washington need HB 1153?

I am very curious what local interpreters and translators in the State of Washington think. According to Section 1.1d of  HB 1153, in Washington, "effective communication is not taking place" and that there may be a need for schools to assess the needs of their community and the effectiveness of their language access programs, to prioritize funding for language access, and to understand the best practices for providing language access. 

As part of the American Association of Interpreters and Translators in Education (AAITE) I have had an opportunity to take a very small glimpse at some of the interpreter/translator hiring practices in school districts throughout the country, and I think that in many, if not all, states there may be gaps in effective communication that are worth looking into. However, this is only step one in deciding whether or not HB 1153 is needed.  The next step is to read through the remainder of the Bill and deciding whether the proposed legislation is appropriate, which is outlined in Sections 2-8 of  HB 1153, which include:

  • Develop and periodically update best practices for using dual-role staff as interpreters, for using contract interpreters, for using remote interpretation, and for translating documents (HB 1153 Section 3.2c.iii)
  • "...each school district must implement a language access program for culturally responsive, systemic family engagement."  (HB 1153 Section 4)
  • School district must collect "the language in which each student and student's family prefers to communicate", feedback from each meeting participant about the effectiveness of the interpreter, whether a qualified interpreter was requested/provided for IEP, Section 504, discipline, and Truancy meetings. (HB 1153 Section 5a-c)

HB 1153 ends by repealing sections of existing legislation that this blogger has not yet reviewed, but that should be reviewed to make an informed decision about whether to support this Bill. 

Update: Today, February 12, 2021, the Committee on Education adopted Substitute HB 1153 with two amendments: one to Section 3.2 and another to Section 8.4. Watch recording HERE of the discussion and voting (Timestamp: 00:14:50 - 00:31:57).

Update: Yesterday, January 24, 2022, the House Appropriations Committee heard public comment on the Second Substitute HB 1153, which was supported by interpreters and family members alike, many noting the importance of funding. Watch recording HERE. (Timestamp: 00:00:00 - 00:36:20)

Update: Last week, January 27, 2022, the House Appropriations Committee voted to report out the 2nd Substitute HB 1153 and gave a "do pass" recommendation, 2SHB 1153 has one amendment to correct a date and add a null and void clause.  Watch the recording HERE. (Timestamp: 00:10:00-00:18:10)

Update: Last month the Governor vetoed the null and void clause (Section 15) and passed 2SHB 1153, which will become effective June 9, 2022.

What can you do?

I would like to wrap-up this blog by sharing some advice I garnered from the presentation that reminded me of the important role we play when it comes to legislative changes. Although we may sometimes feel as though our voices are too small or insignificant to make a difference, our experiences are knowledge that legislators may lack. Elected officials rely on experts to tell them what is important and how proposed legislation will affect their constituents. If we do not provide them with our perspective on how proposed legislation like HB 1153 will affect us and our communities, they will rely on the accounts of others or on their own assumptions. 

Do you live in the State of Washington? Do you support this HB 1153? Why or Why not? Please share in the comments section below.