Only three bills have made it to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk to be signed into law. The work that remains to be done includes the budget and expensive transportation and education proposals.
OLYMPIA — Halfway through the state Legislature’s 105-day session, only three bills have made it to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk to be signed into law, with the state’s Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-led House each passing a series of bills seemingly at odds with the policy goals of the opposite chamber.
The bills Inslee has signed passed with little controversy: a supplemental budget to cover expenses related to wildfires, the Oso mudslide, and lost lawsuits over home-health workers and mental-health patients; permission to give the state Medal of Valor to several communities simultaneously for their work helping Oso; and a new 14-day deadline to conduct mental-health assessments in jails and hospitals.
The work that remains to reconcile the two chambers’ visions for Washington is thornier, and that’s even before the budget-related debates begin over competing visions for expensive transportation and education proposals. Some bills could be brought to life, if they are deemed to be connected to the budget.
Bills still alive
• Minimum wage: House Bill 1355, which would raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour over the next four years, has passed the House and heads to the Senate, where it is certain to have an unfriendly reception. Starting in 2020, further yearly increases would be adjusted for inflation.
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• Sick time: A bill that would require some employers to offer paid sick time has passed the House and is heading to the Senate. House Bill 1356 also would allow employees time off to seek legal or law-enforcement assistance if their safety, or that of a family member, was at risk.
• Police body cameras: A House bill to govern how police officers are outfitted with body cameras, and what happens to the footage, did not receive a floor vote but is likely still alive, because lawmakers consider the bill, which includes a framework for public-records requests and fees, relevant to budgetary discussions.
• Industrial hemp: Senate Bill 5012, which authorizes the growing of industrial hemp, passed the Senate unanimously and awaits action in the House.
• Initiative costs: A measure to note the potential financial impact of initiatives has passed the Senate and heads to the House. Senate Bill 5715 seeks to include the fiscal impact of the measure on the ballot if it costs or reduces spending by more than $25 million over two years. The wording on the ballot would tell voters that “other state spending may need to be reduced or taxes increased to implement the proposal.”
• Property crime: A proposal targeted at reducing Washington’s property-crime rate has passed the Senate. Senate Bill 5755 would reinstate community supervision for a year for convicts who finish their time behind bars. It moves to the House, where a companion bill did not receive a floor vote.
• Drone aircraft: Several bills to govern unmanned “drone” aircraft are still alive. Senate Bill 5499 creates a one-year sentencing enhancer for use of a drone during certain crimes. House Bill 1093, headed for the Senate, prohibits voyeurism by drone and requires all drone aircraft to be labeled with the owner’s name and contact information. House Bill 1639, which requires government agencies to get the Legislature’s permission to buy drones and conceals government drone footage from public records, moves to the Senate.
• Distracted driving: A bill to expand the state’s ban on texting and handheld cellphone conversations while driving passed the Senate and is headed to the House. Senate Bill 5656 would make it an initial $124 ticket for a driver caught using a cellphone by hand for any purpose except turning on voice operation while the car is on the road, even immobile at a stop sign or red light.
• Payday loans: A bill backed by Seattle-based Moneytree to reshape the state’s payday-loan regulations and allow longer-term borrowing survived a contentious Senate debate. Senate Bill 5899 is headed to the House for consideration.
• Oil-train safety: Competing House and Senate bills are still in play. Both measures try to improve safety as increasing numbers of oil trains move through the state. House Bill 1449 requires advance notice of oil transfers and requires railroads and others to show they can pay for oil-spill cleanup. Senate Bill 5057, meanwhile, calls for reviews of oil-spill-response plans.
• Electric vehicles: A pair of bills in the House and Senate would extend the sales-tax exemption on electric vehicles for another 10 years. House Bill 1925 and Senate Bill 5445 extends a sales tax exemption that is set to expire in July to July 2025. It also would limit the tax break to the first $60,000 in purchase price.
• College tuition: A bill that would decrease tuition at Washington’s colleges and universities has passed the Senate. Senate Bill 5954 would link tuition at state schools to a percentage of the average wage for Washington workers.
• Washington State University medical school: The Senate and the House have passed identical bills to pave the way for a new WSU medical school in Spokane. Now they have to decide whether Senate Bill 5487 or House Bill 1559 moves forward for a final vote.
• Involuntary treatment act: A measure that would change the timeline for holding a person under the Involuntary Treatment Act has passed the House and goes to the Senate. House Bill 1536 states that once a person’s medical issues are treated, only then would the clock start ticking for them to receive a mental-health evaluation.
• Psychiatric boarding: A Senate bill that establishes rules for people held under single-bed certifications under the Involuntary Treatment Act was approved and is in the House. Senate Bill 5649 addresses the need to find beds for mentally ill people held in hospitals after a Supreme Court ruling that said they must get treatment.
• Presidential primary: A bill to move up the state’s presidential primary from May to March, beginning in 2016, and give clout to the primary vote instead of party caucuses has passed the Senate. Senate Bill 5978 also says that if either party declines to commit at least one delegate to the winner of the closed primary, then all candidates would go onto a single, wide-open ballot open to any voter.
• Pot-market overhaul: The Senate passed a measure, Senate Bill 5052, to reconcile the state’s unregulated medical-marijuana stores with its heavily taxed recreational-marijuana market.
• Ride-service regulations: Regulation of Uber, Lyft and other companies would be statewide under Senate Bill 5550 that passed the Senate. The bill would boost insurance requirements for the companies and standardize permitting processes, among other new rules.
• Hockey-league labor exemptions: The Senate has approved Senate Bill 5893 to exempt Western Hockey League athletes from being classified as employees so the league can avoid labor laws like minimum wage and child-labor work limits. The House Labor Committee earlier passed a companion bill.
• Prisoner ID cards: If House Bill 1320 becomes law, newly released prisoners in Washington would get free or cheap temporary paper identification cards intended to ease barriers to successful re-entry into society. Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, didn’t give a Senate companion bill a hearing in the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee — the likely landing spot for the House bill. The House version passed 97-0.
• Patent trolls: SB 5059 is intended to prevent companies from frivolously accusing other businesses of violating patent law solely in hopes of getting money. It passed the Senate and now is in the House.
• Child restraints: The House has passed HB 1240 to end the use of forced isolation and restraints as part of an individualized education plan for special-education students.
• Tenant protections: SHB 1257 would create a tenant screening report good for up to 30 days, so a potential tenant would only have to pay once instead of paying for a separate time with different landlord
Bills likely dead
• Death penalty: House Bill 1739 to abolish the death penalty received a public hearing but never came up for a vote in committee.
• Vaccines: House Bill 2009, which would remove personal or philosophical opposition to vaccines as an authorized exemption from childhood school immunizations, died in the House.
• Lawmaker lobbying: A measure to bar state elected officials and their top aides from lobbying state government for a year after leaving their jobs died in the House. House Bill 1136 would have applied the one-year cooling-off period to all statewide elected officials, legislators and directors of Cabinet-level agencies.
• Simple majority for school bonds: A proposed amendment to the state Constitution to allow school districts to pass construction bonds with a simple majority, instead of requiring 60 percent of the vote, is likely dead. House Joint Resolution 4210 was heard in a House committee but didn’t come up for a vote.
• Cetacean captivity: Bills in the House and Senate that would have made it a crime to capture, breed, import or export whales, dolphins or porpoises failed. Senate Bill 5666 and House Bill 2115 were both opposed by lobbyists funded by Sea World and other aquarium interests.
• Fantasy sports: Senate Bill 5284 and House Bill 1301, which would have legalized playing fantasy sports for cash and prizes by calling them contests of skill, failed to get out of committee.
• Cigar bars: House Bill 1296, a third attempt in the Legislature to bring back cigar bars shuttered by a voter-approved smoking ban, died.
• Hunting in state parks: House Bill 1346 to allow hunting in certain state parks died in committee.