Providing public notices of public health, safety, and welfare in a language other than English (Santos, Pollet, Appleton)

Requires state agencies, that are required by law or rule to provide public notices to a community or area to advise or inform the public about an imminent or emergent public health, safety, or welfare risk, to provide the notices in the language that diverse residents can understand when a significant segment of the community speaks a language other than English and has limited proficiency in English.
Requires each local organization or joint local organization for emergency management to maintain updated demographic data for their jurisdictions and information on the languages represented by their respective communities.

Language is added allowing requirements to provide notifications and assistance to nonEnglish speaking residents to be fulfilled through communicating "in a manner" that persons with limited English proficiency can understand (as an alternative to communicating in the languages understood by persons with limited English proficiency). Local emergencies are included in the requirement that notices and information related to a declaration of emergency must be provided in languages represented by an affected area's demographic data.
The "significant segment" of the population threshold triggering the requirements in the bill is limited to apply only to segments of the population comprising 5 percent or more of residents. The alternative definition of 500 individual residents is removed.
The requirement that local organizations for emergency management maintain updated demographic data and information on the languages represented in their respective communities is removed, and replaced with the requirement to develop a communication plan to notify significant segments of limited English speaking persons of imminent health, safety, or welfare risks.

The Appropriations Committee recommended that a null and void clause be added, making the provisions null and void unless funded in the budget.

(1) Requires state agencies to provide life safety information, to the extent technologically feasible, in a language or manner that can be understood by significant population segments when an emergency has been proclaimed.
(2) Modifies the definition of "significant population segment" to mean each limited English proficiency (LEP) group that is 5% or 1,000 people, whichever is fewer, of those eligible to be served or likely to be affected.
(3) Specifies that OFM's LEP population estimates will be used to determine eligible language groups.
(4) Provides four criteria that local organizations should consider when developing a communication plan, including the number of LEP persons, the frequency with which LEP persons come in contact with emergency notifications, the nature of the emergency notification, and the resources available to provide emergency notifications.
(5) Requires local organizations to submit communication plans to the Military Department at the next emergency management plan update and requires the Military Department to submit a report to the Legislature every five years regarding communication plan development and implementation progress.

Hearing Date: Thursday, March 30, 2017 -- 1:30 pm

WA State Legislature Link:    (opens a new browser tab)