Thursday, January 29, 2009

Even rock stars can have embarrassing accidents...

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready has played concerts before tens of thousands of people. But sometimes, his Crohn's Disease gets in the way.

Today, McCready traveled to Olympia with his wife, Ashley O'Connor, to tesify before the House Judiciary Committee in support of HB 1138. The bill would allow people with certain medical conditions - like Crohn's Disease - access to employee restrooms in retail establishments that otherwise have no public restroom. Rep. Marko Liias (Mukilteo) is the legislation's prime sponsor.

McCready has suffered from Crohn's disease for over 20 years. He told the committee how the disease affects his life, particularly when he is in public and can't get to a restroom quickly enough to avoid an accident.

"I have had many of those accidents around Seattle and on stage," he said.

Also testifying was Lois Fink, another Crohn's sufferer who lives in Edmonds. She had contacted Rep. Liias last year through the Legislative Hotline. Ms. Fink was inspired by the story of Ally Bain of Illinois, who at age 14 helped spur legislation similar to HB 1138 in her state when she was denied access to a restroom while suffering a colitis attack in a retail store. In her email to Rep. Liias, Ms. Fink described the challenges her medical condition presents when she is out shopping or in other public places. She was surprised when Rep. Liias called her personally and said he was willing to sponsor a bill.

Members of various business associations praised the manner in which the bill was drafted during today's testimony.

Kris Teft, of the Association of Washington Business, said the bill is "a model for lawmaking in this kind of situation."

HB 1138 has been scheduled for an executive session in the House Judiciary Committee on February 5th, and Rep. Liias feels confident that it will be moved out of Judiciary and to the House Rules committee, where it will then be considered for placement on the floor calendar.

Mr. McCready has indicated if HB 1138 passes the House, he is willing to return to Olympia to testify in the Senate in favor of it.

Rep. Liias is grateful that Mr. McCready, Ms. O'Connor, and Ms. Fink, as well as Rob Menaul of the Northwest chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, all came to Olympia today.

"It puts a human face on the legislation," he said.