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Legislative Week In Review

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Monday, Feb. 7th

February 7th was the last day for Fiscal Committees to act on bills.

Senate Democrats held a virtual press conference to give an update on the legislative session.

  • Senate Assistant Floor Leader Joe Nguyen shared the caucus’ priorities for the week ahead, addressing the improvement of our apprenticeship programs, setting insulin price caps, improving the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Program, and addressing climate change.
  • Senator Emily Randall talked about the upcoming transportation budget proposal, which they said they’ve considered to address both Republican and Democratic interests across the state.
  • Senator Nguyen shared his thoughts on the passage of gun-safety bills this session—claiming it’s a balancing act between public safety, and Washingtonians’ second amendment right to bear arms.
  • Both senators also shared their remarks on proposed efforts to combat homelessness by building supportive housing units, such as “tiny homes”, and other low-income options.

Republican Legislators also shared their views on the current legislative session.

  • House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox expressed disappointment about what he considered “common sense bills” that didn’t make the committee cutoff, such as those that concern retail theft and vocational programs, while also commenting on public safety bills, such as those that concern police reform.
  • He adds that the first half of the session has primarily been focused on amending previously passed bills.
  • Representative Chris Corry, who sponsored House Bill 1772, which concerns gubernatorial emergency powers, shared his remarks about the bill not moving forward past committee.
  • Representative Wilcox also spoke about police use of force, saying he wants to preserve the tools that police need to keep us safe while making misuse less possible.
  • Senate Minority Leader John Braun commented on the proposed transportation budget, claiming the package is partial to Democrats.

The House Appropriations Committee also met to discuss House Bill 1181, which aims to prevent suicide among veteran military members.

  • The bill would provide military and veteran outreach and services for suicide prevention, via it’s own funded account, and a community-based services grant program.
  • It would also expand the “Suicide-Safer Homes Task Force” to include federally recognized tribes as members, and create a special “Prevent Veteran Suicide” License plate.
  • The committee shared the potential fiscal impacts of the bill. They estimated it would cost the Department of Veteran Affairs $630,000 per year for 2023, and $394,000 per year ongoing.
  • The Department of Veteran Affairs and veteran support organization, “Nine Line Veterans Services”, spoke in support of the bill.

Tuesday, Feb. 8th

The Senate Law and Justice Committee reviewed House Bill 1719, which aims to allow law enforcement to acquire and use certain military equipment, which, supporters say, last year’s legislation prohibited.

  • The bill proposes to bring back the use of firearms of .50 caliber or greater, with the exception of .50 caliber rifles.
  • The use of shotguns, less-lethal equipment, and non-penetrating ammunition—such as rubber bullets—would also be allowed under the bill.
  • The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) expressed support for the bill, saying it clarifies that shotguns are permissible for law enforcement which is the primary weapon of choice for WDFW in dealing with large, injured, or dangerous wildlife. WDFW also advocates for shotgun usage due to the short travel distance and the added safety element shotguns give compared to other firearms.
  • The Seattle Community Police Commission also spoke in support of the bill, claiming that limiting non-lethal methods will increase law enforcement killings. However, they additionally recognize the use of non-lethal methods in recent protests, and believe the response of using physical force is “used far too often”, and they want to make sure that de-escalation techniques are emphasized in the bill over other options.
  • No one testified to oppose the bill.

The House of Appropriations Committee also discussed House Bill 1735, which aims to expand a peace officer’s allowable use of force. 

  • The bill would modify the requirement to use reasonable care, when using physical force to the extent necessary. These circumstances may include taking someone into treatment, taking a minor into protective custody, or carrying out a court order.
  • Under the bill, an officer may use deadly force only when there is an immediate threat of injury or death, while also requiring them to use de-escalation tactics first, before applying physical force to minimize the likelihood of using force during an incident.
  • Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers testified in favor of the bill, claiming that use of force is necessary for involuntary treatment, and that it’s important to help these individuals get to the place they need to be.
  • Other supporters of the bill said it would correct the adverse effects that they believe were caused by last year’s police reform legislation.
  • No one testified to oppose the bill.

Democratic Leaders held a press conference to release their proposed transportation package, called Move Ahead Washington.

  • They discussed projects funded by the Climate Commitment Act, as well as transit, construction, and decarbonization projects.
  • House Transportation Committee Chair Jake Fey said the package is focused on preserving every community’s needs from roads, bridges, ferries, and pedestrian infrastructure while combating climate change and providing options that are affordable to many.
  • The package allots $1.2 billion for active transportation (including bike and pedestrian projects), $3 billion for transit, $488 million for electrification projects, and $435 million for ferries. It also estimates funding for new projects to be at $2.6 billion, which includes the I-5 Columbia River project, the I-405 corridor construction, and the SR-520 project, among others.
  • The package will also allocate $2.4 billion for culvert removals, including those subject to a 2013 federal court injunction. Representative Fey said the cost will be less than last  year, and the bill will cover unforeseen costs specific to culvert locations.
  • Senate Transportation Committee Chair Marko Liias also expressed support for the bill.
  • In the drafting of the package, Democrats received much criticism about leaving out Republican input. To that, Sen. Liias offered an explanation, saying he reached out to the caucus about transportation investments, and that the package was designed to address both Democratic and Republican interests by including both parties’ priorities. He also said the package has a huge concentration on the Climate Commitment Act, which does not have bipartisan support.
  • Representative Bill Ramos said their plan is to equitably invest into communities, especially those of color.
  • In closing, Senator Liias said they are open to discussion from both critics and supporters, and that the spending timeline is not yet set in stone.

State Representatives gathered for a floor debate on House Bill 1901, which aims to update protection order laws to make them more efficient and accessible.

  • The bill would:
    • modify standards and procedure for filing, hearing and granting protective orders;
    • Require court appearances following criminal charges;
    • Revise court jurisdiction provisions and classify “coercive control” under domestic violence; and
    • Prohibit the possession of firearms for certain cases of protection orders.
  • The bill would also direct the Gender and Justice Commision to consider the impacts of coercive control where protection order laws are concerned.
  • Representative Roger Goodman—one of the bill’s sponsors—spoke on behalf of the bill, saying it would allow courts to issue protection orders not just for physical violence, but when it also involves coercive control.
  • Representative Lauren Davis testified in favor of the bill, citing her own experience of domestic abuse under her abuser, claiming that domestic violence resources could not help her, as the state does not have the power to file a protection order over coercive control, and those suffering from coercive control are not “victims” under the law. She also said that coercive control is a common marker for domestic homicides, and it is crucial for people to have these protections.
  • Representative Jim Walsh testified to oppose the bill, claiming that the language impacts the right to bear arms, and saying a bill cannot take away a foundational right.
  • The House took a vote on the bill, and the substitute bill passed with 71 yes votes and 25 opposed.
  • The bill will be deliberated in the Senate.

State Representatives gathered for a floor debate on Senate Bill 5631, which concerns human trafficking.

  • The bill aims to ban anyone convicted of a human trafficking offense from holding a commercial driver’s license for life.
  • The bill would bring the state into compliance with a federal motor law that currently requires Washington to do this before the year ends.
  • Democratic Senator Patty Kuderer sponsored the bill, saying human trafficking affects some of Washington’s most vulnerable populations, and these victims are oftenly transported via commercial trucks.
  • Republican Senator Jeff Wilson also testified in support of the bill, saying this would take away the transportation mechanism that is needed to commit human trafficking.
  • The Senate voted unanimously for the bill’s passage. It heads to the House of Representatives for further deliberation.

Wednesday, Feb. 9th

The Senate State Government and Elections Committee heard House Bill 1453, which proposes to restrict candidate statements on ballot measures, and to limit the reports to their legislative jurisdictions.

  • Under the bill, candidate and ballot measure statements must be limited to a candidate’s future plans or goals for the district, and must not contain obscene or inappropriate comments. It also requires that the persons appointed to write arguments for and against ballot measures in local pamphlets must reside within the jurisdictional boundaries that the election is being held in.
  • Ballot measure statements would no longer be allowed to include graphs or charts, and candidate photos may not show clothing or accessories with words or symbols.
  • The bill would also increase the maximum fine for distributing deceptive campaign material that mimics a voter’s pamphlet. The fine could be up to $5 per copy, or $10,000, whichever is greater.
  • Jim Stoffer of the Sequim School District testified in support of the bill, believing that keeping reports within a jurisdiction district will help maintain accuracy.
  • The Washington State Association of County Auditors also shared their support of the bill, claiming it could help smaller counties.
  • Buckley resident Laurie Layne shared her concerns about the bill’s language prohibiting hate speech, and the censorship of a candidate’s speech.
  • Republican senator Jeff Wilson shared Buckley’s stance, questioning the bill’s oversight element on “hate speech” and “inappropriate comments”, and saying that much clarification is needed to define who administers that. 
  • Committee staff member Samuel Brown responded to Wilson’s comment, saying that is up to election officials to consider through their administrative rules.   

State Senators gathered for a floor debate on Senate Bill 5078, which aims to ban the making, sale, import, and transfer of high-capacity magazines that can hold ten rounds of ammunition or more. The bill does not ban the possession of these weapons.

  • The bill was sponsored by Senator Marko Liias at the request of Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
  • The bill follows data claiming that states with magazine capacity restrictions tend to have lower gun violence rates. 
  • Senator Marko Liias, who sponsored the bill, said it will save lives.
  • According to Liias, high capacity magazines allow more shots to be fired without needing to pause to reload–making them favored by mass shooters.” He also cited statistics claiming that twice as many people have been killed in mass shootings that involved the use of high-capacity magazines compared to those that involved a smaller capacity firearm.
  • Republican senator Phil Fortunato opposed the bill, claiming it was unconstitutional, and that it would jeopardize the safety of women, who he said reserve the right to defend themselves with their weapon of choice, and who are more likely in need of self defense compared to men.
  • In a counterargument, Democratic senator Patty Kuderer disagreed, saying that “guns are not a women’s issue,” and that the bill addresses everyone who could be victimized in a mass shooting 
  • Republican senator Keith Wagoner expressed an opposite stance, saying it does not matter what weapon is used in a shooting, but the manner by which it is used. He pointed out that a criminal may still get ahold of their weapon of choice, regardless of whether or not it is banned.
  • Democratic senator David Frockt also expressed his support for the bill during Final Passage, where he said that there is no way to predict the probability of needing a specific number of rounds of ammunition in incidents of self-defense, and that high-capacity weapons should not be sold in Washington State.
  • The bill passed the Senate with 28 yes votes and 20 opposed. It will be reviewed in the House of Representatives.

Thursday, Feb 10th

The Senate Transportation Committee Convened to discuss their proposed transportation package called, “Move Ahead Washington”.

  • This finance plan totals $16.8 billion, and pulls from a number of sources.
  • $5.4 billion would come from the state’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Account (which taxes the state’s largest polluters); $80 million from certain tax credits related to zero-emission vehicles and alternative fuel use; $2 billion from a one-time transfer from the operating budget; and around $2 billion from the exported fuel tax (which is 6 cents per gallon on gas exported to Alaska, Idaho, and Oregon).
  • Funding will also come from existing bonding authority, which is estimated at $956 million.
  • The package is poised to fund active transportation, (including pedestrian projects), ferries, transit, culvert removals, and high-speed rail. 
  • It would also support new and existing projects, such as the I-5 Columbia River Bridge project, and the I-4 and 0-5 corridor construction projects. 
  • The Transportation Choices Coalition spoke in favor of the proposed  package, saying public transit makes things more accessible while also creating a number of family wage jobs, while also meeting climate change goals.
  • The Western States Petroleum Association expressed opposition to the implementation of the export fuel tax, saying the state would be violating the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution.

Senators held a debate on Senate Bill 5803, which concerns wildfires caused by electric utility equipment.

  • The bill aims to mitigate the risk of wildfires involving electric utilities by establishing a presumption of liability.
  • The state’s Department of Natural Resources will be directed to hire a consultant to come up with recommendations for an electric utility mitigation plan which will be made public by next year.
  • Senator Christine Rolfes sponsored the bill, saying it ties together loose ends in the state, and the organized mitigation will keep Washington all safer while saving money for both consumers and utility companies.
  • The bill passed unanimously, and will be passed on to the House of Representatives for further deliberation.

State Senators also debated on Senate Bill 5942, also known as the “Uniform College Athlete Name, Image, or Likeness Act.

  • Under the bill, athletes would be able to receive compensation for their name, image, or likeness (NIL), such as endorsements, ads, etc. Colleges will no longer be able to prohibit any NIL activities, and engaging in NIL services cannot affect a student’s college scholarship.
  • The senate adopted an amendment to the bill which proposes to give universities more flexibility to also include student athletes who play less-lucrative sports (such as softball and swimming) to have the same opportunities as student athletes who play income-generating sports. 
  • Violations of the act would be met with civil penalties.
  • During final passage, Senator David Frockt and Senator Mike Padden expressed their support for the bill.
  • The bill passed with 44 yes votes, and 5 no votes, and will move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

The Senate held a discussion on Senate Bill 5597, which aims to reinforce the Washington Voting Rights Act (WVRA) by expanding access to fair representation for Washington’s marginalized and underrepresented populations.

  • The bill will require jurisdictions to get preclearance before changing voting practices. Some of these changes may include redistricting, adding seats to a government, or changing its plans.
  • It would ease the financial burden for WVRA claimants who may recover up to $50,000 if a jurisdiction takes action without a lawsuit.
  • Supporters say the bill will help communities to prevent changes that would impact voting rights for minorities which could take years of litigation.
  • The bill was sponsored by Democratic senator Rebecca Saldaña, who believes updating the state’s Voting Rights Act will help avoid costly lawsuits and empower local communities.
  • Republican senator Jeff Wilson opposed the bill, saying he’s concerned about the bill’s potential economic harm. 
  • Senate Bill 5597 passed strictly along party lines It moves forward to the House of Representatives for deliberation.

Legislative Review airs nightly at 8 and 11pm, with a weekly recap of legislative action airing every Friday, on Legislative Week In Review. To watch the full coverage of all the hearings covered on the show, log on to tvw.org

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