Washington state lawmakers are more than halfway through this year’s 105-day legislative session. Here’s a look at some of the bills that are still alive, and some that appear dead.
OLYMPIA — Washington state lawmakers are more than halfway through this year’s 105-day legislative session, and fully funding education has been the top issue at the Capitol. Senate Republicans and House Democrats have each passed their own education-funding proposals but are still working on a final plan.
Meanwhile, both chambers had passed hundreds of bills before the Wednesday deadline this week for many bills to be voted out of their house of origin in order to advance. Two bills so far have made it to the governor’s desk.
Gov. Jay Inslee last month signed a bill that allows tribes to use federal funding for dental therapists. Another, delaying a deadline for a reduction in the amount of money school districts can collect through local property tax levies, passed the Legislature on Thursday. Inslee said he’d sign that bill soon.
Here’s a look at some other bills:
Bills still alive
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REAL ID: A measure that seeks to bring the state into compliance with federal identification requirements has passed the Senate and awaits action in the House. For years, lawmakers have struggled on how to best comply with the REAL ID Act, a 2005 federal law that requires state driver’s licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and be issued to people who can prove they are legally in the United States. Senate Bill 5008 would create a two-tiered licensing system, keeping the current enhanced license that is compliant with REAL ID, while marking standard state licenses as not valid for federal purposes.
SEXUAL ASSAULT: House Bill 1384 aims to protect victims of sexual assault in Washington state by allowing courts to issue permanent protection orders. Currently, victims can only be granted a protection order for up to two years. The measure was voted through the Democratic-controlled House last month and a similar bill passed the Senate.
DISTRACTED DRIVING: Bills that attempt to reduce distracted driving in Washington state are still alive. House Bill 1371 and Senate Bill 5289 would rewrite current law to make it illegal for a driver to hold a handheld device while driving on a public roadway, including while stopped in traffic. Currently, it is illegal to text or hold a phone to the ear while driving and it is a $136 infraction. Under the new measure the penalty for being caught holding a cellphone, tablet or other electronic device would double for second and subsequent offenses within five years. The initial infraction would remain $136. Exceptions to the new measure would include when a phone is needed to contact emergency services.
STUDENT FREE SPEECH: The Senate approved a measure that would protect high school and college students’ freedom of speech rights in school-sponsored media. Senate Bill 5064 passed the Senate chamber on a strong bipartisan vote and is now awaiting action in the House. Under the bill, student editors would be fully responsible for determining what goes into their publication, broadcast or other media. School administrators would not be allowed to censor or review any content before publishing unless it contains libelous or slanderous material, or incites students to commit unlawful acts on school grounds. School officials would be exempt from any civil or criminal liability resulting from school-sponsored media.
WATER RIGHTS: A bill that seeks to reverse a recent state Supreme Court decision involving water rights and the use of domestic wells has passed the state Senate and is awaiting consideration by the House. Senate Bill 5239 would allow so-called permit-exempt wells to be used for development. Supporters say a legislative fix was needed after a ruling known as the Hirst decision prompted some counties to temporarily halt certain rural development and left hundreds of property owners who wanted to build homes in limbo. Opponents say the bill undercuts current state water law and allows development with little to no review of its impact on those with senior water rights.
SEX-TRAFFICKING: Victims of sex trafficking would be allowed to vacate prostitution convictions in Washington state under a new measure passed in the Senate. A similar bill was also proposed in the House but didn’t make it onto the floor for a vote. Senate Bill 5272 passed unanimously in the Republican-controlled chamber, and now awaits action in the Democratic-controlled House. Under the bill, a victim would be able to vacate a prostitution conviction if he or she can prove it was a result of being trafficked, even if they have been convicted of other crimes since the date of the prostitution conviction, which current law does not allow.
USE OF DEADLY FORCE: Bills that would have lowered the bar for prosecuting police who use deadly force didn’t make it out of key committees this session, but the sponsor of one of the House measures insists the issue is still alive this session. The original measures would have changed the existing statute that makes it almost impossible for prosecutors to criminally charge law-enforcement officers who wrongfully use deadly force. Current law states that an officer can’t be charged if he or she acted in good faith and without malice, or “evil intent,” when using deadly force. Under the measure, the word “malice” would have been removed and a clearer definition of what “good faith” means would have been added. The bill also would have included a dedicated state account to fund officer training, among other things.
Bills likely dead
DEATH PENALTY: An effort to abolish the death penalty in Washington state got a new push this year with strong backing from the governor and attorney general, but House Bill 1935 stalled in the Democratic-controlled House, receiving a public hearing but not getting a vote out of committee. Gov. Jay Inslee imposed a moratorium on capital punishment in Washington state in 2014.
PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL OVERSIGHT: A bipartisan bill that would move oversight of the state’s two psychiatric hospitals from the Department of Social and Health Services to the Department of Health has stalled and will only likely survive if it’s brought back during budget negotiations, according to Sen. Randi Becker’s office.