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Legislative Week In Review

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Monday, Feb 28th

Feb 28th was the deadline for fiscal committees to consider bills from opposite chambers. Republicans held a press conference to share their remarks on the legislative session so far.

  • House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox expressed his views on the supplemental operating budget, which totals $63.7 billion in state funding, and passed both chambers last week.
  • Representative Chris Corry, Assistant Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee, echoed Representative Wilcox’s stance on tax relief.
  • Senate Minority Leader John Braun mentioned bipartisan efforts to include an additional $20 million to fund potential Ukrainian refugees in the operating budget.
  • With a little over a week left in session, Senator Braun said they will continue to focus on bills that concern housing and higher education, among others.

In a separate press conference hosted by Senate Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig expressed strong support for this year’s proposed supplemental budgets.

  • He also shared his thoughts after House Democrats proposed to remove the six-cent gas export tax from the transportation package saying middle income families would still benefit from other components of the budget.
  • In response to Republican criticism of Democrats not providing much tax relief in the budget, Senator Billig said the state needs to continue funding priority investments.
  • Senator Manka Dhingra also spoke on the additional funding appropriated for potential Ukrainian refugees, saying it was a critical move.

Governor Jay Inslee announced updates to the state’s indoor mask policy.

  • In a press conference, the Governor announces that effective March 12th, masks will no longer be required inside schools, childcare facilities, libraries, gyms, stores, restaurants, and places of worship.
  • Masks will still be required, however, inside healthcare and long-term care facilities, public transit and rideshares, and correctional facilities.
  • Under the new policy—which follows similar guidance to neighboring states California and Oregon—local governments and private businesses may still be able to require employees or clients to wear a mask.

State Representatives convened for a floor debate to discuss Senate Bill 5974—which concerns funding for the democrat-proposed transportation package, Move Ahead Washington.

  • The $16.8 billion package invests in statewide transportation projects such as high-speed rail, ferries, culverts, and active transportation, among others.
  • In its original form, Senate Bill 5974’s proposed revenue sources for the package included funds from the Carbon Emissions Reduction Account, (which taxes the state’s largest polluters); alternative fuel use, a one-time transfer from the operating budget, and the controversial export fuel tax, which applies to gas exported to Alaska, Idaho, and Oregon.
  • Last week, Democrats removed the six-cent Washington export fuel tax provision that received pushback from neighboring states. The bill now reflects that—by replacing the export tax revenue with an annual transfer from the state’s public works assistance account.
  • The export fuel tax was expected to generate about $2 billion over 16 years. The transfer from the public works assistance account would shift a total revenue of $1.5 billion into the Move Ahead Washington account in a span of 15 years.
  • During the floor debate, House Transportation Committee Chair Jake Fey spoke in support of the bill.
  • Democrats came under scrutiny this session for allegedly excluding Republican input in their budget-writing process. A point, which House Transportation ranking member Andrew Barkis, alluded to, saying the legislature needs to work together in a bipartisan manner for the people of Washington State.
  • The bill passed on a 54-43 vote and awaits further action in the Senate.

Tuesday, March 1st

State Senators convened for a floor debate on House Bill 1122, concerning the Washington State Guard.

  • The bill aims to eliminate the age restriction for individuals to enlist with the Washington State Guard (WSG) and extend the retirement age for active members of the guard under specific conditions.
  • WSG members serve under the state’s military department and are called to serve the governor in place of the national guard if members of the national guard are called upon for federal service.
  • The House passed the bill with bipartisan support in January, and Senator John Lovick urged it’s support in Tuesday’s hearing, saying WSG needs all the support they can get.
  • The bill passed unanimously.

The Senate held a floor debate on House Bill 1834, which aims to allow schools to excuse student absences due to mental health reasons.

  • The bill directs OSPI to consider mental health as a reason for absence under illness, health condition, or a medical appointment. It also requires the agency to work with a s student advisory group and create rules and guidelines for public schools in implementing student absences.
  • The House passed the bill with bipartisan support in early February. If enacted, it would take effect in the next school year.
  • The Senate voted on the bill’s passage, and with a unanimous vote, it is headed to the Governor’s desk for signing.

State Representatives held a floor debate on Senate Bill 5763, which aims to strike down current regulation that pays workers with disabilities below the state’s minimum wage, through subprevailing wage certificates.

  • The bill passed in the Senate last month with 42 in favor, and 5 opposed.
  • The bill passed on an 86-9 vote, and is headed to the Governor’s office.

State Senators held a floor debate on House Bill 1851, which gives specific authority to certain licensed professionals and providers to be able to perform abortions.

  • This allowance includes physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practioners, and health care providers who are qualified to perform abortions within their scope of practice.
  • The bill also aims to protect a healthcare worker from being penalized or prosecuted based on outcomes of a pregnancy or for assisting someone who exercises their right to reproductive freedom.
  • Republican Senators Shelly Short and Phil Fortunato opposed the bill, saying that as it expands the authority of practitioners, it reduces accountability.
  • While Senate Democrats argued that it safely upholds an individual’s reproductive rights.
  • The bill passed on a 28-21 vote, and awaits further action in the House of Representatives.

Wednesday, March 2nd

State Senators convened on the floor to discuss a resolution that recognizes and supports Ukrainian Americans.

  • Senate Resolution 8662 acknowledges the shared democracy between Washingtonians and Ukrainians, supports peace efforts, and condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Senators from across the aisle offered their bipartisan support for the Resolution.

The Senate held a floor debate on House Bill 1876, concerning fiscal disclosures on ballot measures.

  • The bill would require certain ballot measures on public state investments, to have disclosures on their fiscal impacts. These include ballot measures that may repeal, levy, or modify taxes or fees.
  • Under the bill, the disclosure should appear in the middle of the ballot title, and the fiscal impact statement should show how the measure would affect a net change in state revenue—if adopted.
  • The Senate amended the bill to allow disclosures to be subject to an appeals process.
  • The bill passed in the Senate with a 26-22 majority vote.

Thursday, March 3rd

State Senators gathered for a floor session and debated a bill concerning the investigation of missing indigenous persons.

  • House Bill 1725 would require the Washington State Patrol to establish a missing indigenous person alert, or EMPA. 
  • Much like Amber and Silver alerts, EMPAs will be broadcast in local agencies, radio and TV stations, satellite systems, and on social media.
  • The alert will also be seen on highways, as an emergency advisory to assist in the recovery of a missing indigenous person.
  • The bill passed in the House unanimously in January. 
  • During Thursday’s floor debate, Democratic Senator Manka Dhingra said it will address the growing crisis of missing indigenous individuals, whose families need more help than what is available.
  • Republican Senator Mike Padden also spoke to support the bill, hopeful that it will make an impact.
  • The bill, which was was amended to include “women” under the definition of “missing endangered persons”, passed the Senate in its current form, and heads back to the House for further action.

The Senate also held a floor session on House Bill 1751, which aims to ban hazing.

  • The bill would prohibit hazing in all higher education institutions and would require colleges, fraternities, and sororities to publicly report hazing violations, alcohol-related offenses, and sexual or physical assaults.
  • It would establish hazing prevention committees in colleges, and would also require them to provide educational programs to both students and employees in the Fall.
  • The bill passed unanimously in the House last month.
  • During Thursday’s debate, the Senate amended the bill to rename it, “Sam’s Law,” in memory of Sam Martinez who died of alcohol poisoning after attending a fraternity party at WSU in 2019.
  • Senator Lisa Wellman spoke in support of the bill, saying she was inspired by Martinez’s family and that this legislation may save lives.
  • Democratic Senator Emily Randall shared her remarks during the final passage, citing statistics of hazing in higher education institutions.
  • Republican Senator Perry Dozier also spoke in favor of the bill, citing its educational importance and guidance for college students who may be away from their families during their time in school.
  • The bill passed unanimously, and heads back to the House for concurrence on the Senate amendment.

The Senate held a floor debate on House Bill 1901, which aims to update civil protection order laws to make them more efficient and accessible.

  • The heart of the bill is a legislative push for courts to classify “coercive control” under domestic violence.
  • Coercive control may include physiological aggression, controlling an individual’s movements and finances, depriving them of basic necessities, causing them fear, humiliation, or isolation, financial exploitation, or brandishing a firearm in an intimidating manner, among others.
  • The bill modifies the standards and procedures for filing, hearing, and granting protection orders—and requires court appearances for criminal charges.
  • If enacted, it would also prohibit the possession of firearms in certain protection orders.
  • House Bill 1901 would also direct the Gender and Justice Commission to consider the impacts of coercive control where protection order laws are concerned.
  • Supporters say it would extend protections to domestic violence victims who suffer from psychological abuse, and are not currently protected under the law as victims of physical abuse.
  • Critics claim its language is vague, and that the bill violates the right to bear arms.
  • The House passed the bill last month on a 71-25 vote.
  • During Thursday’s debate, Democratic Senator Manka Dhingra shared her remarks, and said it will protect victims of domestic abuse who have the potential to be homicide victims.
  • Republican Senator Lynda Wilson opposed the bill, citing her experience with domestic abuse–she said that although she wants to support the intent of the bill, she thinks its language is too broad and may have the opposite effect for abusers.
  • Republican Senator Mike Padden said the bill will only increase court hearings and domestic violence rates, and that it will affect how parents raise their children according to their religious beliefs.
  • Democratic Senator Marko Liias offered his support of the bill, and countered Senator Padden’s stance. He said in domestic abuse rates are lower in other governments that have passed similar laws.
  • The bill passed on a 30-17 vote, and awaits further action in the House of Representatives.

The Senate held a debate on Senate Bill 5722, which aims to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings.

  • At the request of the Governor, the bill would require the Department of Commerce to adopt state energy management standards for buildings between 20,000 and 50,000 square feet, and residential buildings over 50,000 square feet.
  • The bill includes an incentive program for qualifying buildings that comply with the energy standards before the end of 2030.
  • The bill’s early adoption incentive would pay building owners 85 cents per square foot of their building’s living space, which is capped at $75 million.
  • Supporters of the bill say buildings are the second largest contributor to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, while those opposed say it will hurt small businesses, non-profit organizations, and places of worship.
  • Democratic Representative Joe Fitzgibbon spoke in favor of the bill, saying that while cost seems to be a major criticism to the bill, there are other costs that the bill will reduce, such as those that come with climate change and wildfires.
  • Republican Representative Larry Hoff countered Fitzgibbon’s statement, and raised the question of the cost of housing and displacement.
  • Democratic Representative David Hackney said the bill will provide technical and financial assistance to building owners.
  • Republican Representative Mark Klicker argued that the bill’s incentive program is disproportionate and could cost more for smaller buildings than it would for larger ones.
  • The bill passed on a 53-45 vote, and awaits further action in the Senate. 

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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