Senate committee hears Padden bill to support eyewear for the poor

Mike PaddenSen. Mike Padden today told the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee that Washington should protect those charitable organizations that are working to provide much-needed eyewear to our state’s poor, homeless and uninsured from civil lawsuits.

“Organizations like the Union Gospel Mission and Lions Club International are providing an important service for our community,” said Padden. “These organizations help improve the vision of thousands of poor and uninsured people in eastern Washington by distributing donated eyeglasses to those who otherwise would go without.

“My bill would give these organizations protection against civil lawsuits, freeing them to continue their good and charitable work for some of our state’s most needy citizens.”

Padden, R-Spokane Valley, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 6216, which received a public hearing before the health care committee. The bipartisan measure would grant immunity from liability to nonprofit and charitable corporations that distribute used eyeglasses free of charge to people who are at least 14 years old.

This immunity would apply only if the eyeglasses are provided by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist who personally examined the person receiving the eyeglasses or consulted with a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist who personally examined the eyeglass recipient.

The bill is in response to a Washington Board of Optometry decision last year that interpreted federal law as preventing used glasses from being redistributed without a prescription.

“For those in need, a pair of used eyeglasses can be a God-send,” said Padden “We should make it as easy as possible for them to get the help they need from those willing to provide it.”