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Cutoff deadline: What’s alive, what stalled

by caprecord

The Washington State Legislature is nearing the end of the 105-day legislative session, and this week marked one of the last major deadlines for lawmakers. Tuesday was the cutoff for fiscal bills to pass out of committee in the opposite chamber. Here are a few bill that stalled, and a few that are still alive after the deadline.

STALLED:

Distracted driving: A proposal to update the state’s distracted driving law for the first time since 2007 — before the iPhone was released — stalled in the House Transportation committee after passing in the Senate.

Senate Bill 5656 would have made it a crime to hold a phone while driving. Holding a phone to your ear and texting while driver have been banned since 2007, but it’s still legal to update your Facebook status, check your email and plan your route behind the wheel.

Payday loans: Washington payday lenders will continue operating under the state’s current rules after a bill to overhaul the state’s lending system missed Tuesday’s deadline.

Under current law, customers can borrow up to $700 from payday lenders, no more than eight times per year. The short-term loan comes with a $95 fee. Senate Bill 5899 would have allowed lenders to offer loans with longer terms and higher interest, but it never got a vote in the House General Government committee.

Minimum wage: A push to increase the statewide minimum wage to $12-an-hour stalled this session after the Republican chair of a committee refused to put the bill up for a vote.

House Bill 1355 would increase Washington’s minimum wage by more than $2.50 in four years. It passed in the House, but Senate Commerce and Labor committee chair Sen. Michael Baumgartner did not give the bill a vote in committee.

“I’m not going to put people out of work in eastern Washington just to placate the egos of some extreme liberals in Seattle,” Baumgartner said of his decision.

Washington has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $9.47.

Boeing tax breaks: The plan to tie Boeing’s tax breaks to the size of its Washington workforce never moved out of a House committee.

House Bill 2147 responds to a decline in Boeing jobs after the legislature in 2013 approved as much as $8.7 billion in tax incentives for the aerospace giant. It would have required Boeing to employ more than 83,000 workers for the full tax break and reduce or revoke the tax break if enough jobs are lost.

Smoking age: Washington’s legal smoking age appears it will stay the same after a proposal to raise the age requirement to 21 for tobacco and vapor products missed Tuesday’s deadline.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested the bill to require Washington residents to wait to buy cigarettes until age 21, the same requirement for alcohol and marijuana. Opponents said 18-year-olds are old enough to go to war, so they should be able to buy cigarettes, too.

ALIVE:

E-cigarettes and vaping: The state House is poised to vote on regulations for Washington’s growing e-cigarette and vapor industry after a bill was voted out of committee Tuesday.

House Bill 1645 requires licenses for vapor stores, prohibit sales to minors and requires child-proof packaging and warning labels. A 95 percent excise tax on all products was part of the original bill, but that proved hard to move past some lawmakers and was not part of the bill that moved out of committee. Vapor advocates said nearly doubling the price would force smokers to stick to traditional cigarettes.

The bill passed out of the House Appropriations committee and now moves to the floor for a vote.

Uber and Lyft: Ride-share companies could be required to provide $1 million liability insurance to their drivers, under a bill headed to the House floor, but only when a customer is in the car.

Senate Bill 5550 would have created an entire framework to regulate the companies, but that proved hard to move past other lawmakers. Now the measure focus on what sponsor say is most important right now – insurance.

The proposal cleared a House committee and moves on the floor. If it passes, it will have to head back to the Senate for approval.

Oil trains: As Washington prepares for more crude oil shipments, a bill to improve railway safety standards is advancing.

Senate Bill 5057 requires rail lines to come up with oil spill response plans, and increases the per-barrel oil taxes to help pay for cleanup. The measure passed out the House Appropriations committee on Tuesday.

Mental health: A bill to require more training for police officers on how to deal with the mentally ill is headed to the House floor.

Senate Bill 5311 would provide as many as 40 hours crisis intervention training to officers. It’s one of the ways lawmakers are responding to needs within the state’s mental health system.

The measure was voted out of House Appropriations on Tuesday.

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