As the state Legislature enters the second half of its session, here is a look at which bills remain alive and which appear to be dead.
Five days before lawmakers convened this year’s legislative session, Gov. Chris Gregoire laid down a gauntlet. Now, she said, was the time to bring gay marriage to Washington state.
With enthusiastic allies in the Legislature, a cause that once seemed a generation away was within reach. Now, with the session more than halfway gone, gay marriage has been signed into law — and is likely on its way to the November ballot.
“Historically, this will be viewed as a significant moment of accepting and recognizing a group of citizens in this state,” said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, who sponsored the gay-marriage bill.
Sen. Mike Hewitt, Republican majority leader, said the fight over gay marriage was “a huge distraction. I’m glad we have that bill behind us and we can move on now to the very pressing and important matters.”
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The biggest skirmish ahead promises to be over how to close a several-hundred-million-dollar hole in the state budget. Democrats say they will present their proposed spending plan soon. Beyond the budget, a wide range of measures, from expanding abortion coverage to banning plastic bags to increasing teacher accountability, have sparked fierce debate between — and at times within — the parties. As the Legislature enters the second half of its session, here is a look at which bills remain alive and which appear to be dead.
Teacher evaluations: A measure to include teacher evaluations as a component in the hiring, firing and promotion of teachers has passed the Senate. The bill is a compromise between those who want more performance-based measures for teachers and those who prefer that seniority continue to be the overriding factor in a teacher’s hiring and firing. (SB 5895)
Abortion coverage: Insurers who cover maternity care will also be required to pay for abortion coverage under a measure that has passed the House. Supporters say it ensures that women have access to abortions when the federal Affordable Care Act comes into effect in 2014. Opponents say it will expand abortion coverage and will prove expensive. (HB 2330)
Underage online sex ads: The Senate has passed a measure to clamp down on sellers of online classified sex ads who don’t verify the ages of those depicted. Lawmakers are targeting Backpage.com, which operates the largest sex-ad clearinghouse in the country. (SB 6251)
Discover Pass: The Washington State Parks parking pass could be used on two cars instead of just one under a measure that has been approved by the Senate. People who visit state parks and recreational lands must purchase a Discover Pass, either a $30 annual vehicle pass or a $10 single-day pass. (SB 5977)
Clean energy: In 2006, voters passed an initiative requiring large Washington state utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. A bill to allow power from biomass facilities built before March 1999 to count toward the clean-energy goals has passed the Senate. Most environmentalists oppose the measure, saying the initiative was intended to generate new energy sources. (SB 5575)
Tax breaks: A bill to put five-year sunsets on all new and extended tax breaks unless otherwise specified has passed the Senate. The measure would also require the Legislature to explain what the tax break is intended to achieve. A separate, more-ambitious effort in the House to phase out 251 existing tax breaks amounting to nearly $2 billion died in committee. (SB 6088)
Gun safety: A bill that has passed the Senate would require gun locks or safes provided by law-enforcement agencies to their officers for home use to be on a list of devices approved by the California Attorney General’s office. Proponents say many gun locks are of poor quality and can be easily compromised. (SB 5697)
Initiative reform: Under a bill that passed the House, advertising for initiative campaigns would have to list the top five campaign donors. Supporters say it would clarify who is behind a ballot initiative. Opponents counter that voters are smart enough to figure that out on their own. (HB 2499)
Tip credit: Washington is one of a handful of states requiring that waiters be paid a minimum wage. Under a House bill that died in committee, employers would have been able to factor in waiters’ tips and so lower their pay. (HB 2497)
Plastic bags: Bills in the House and Senate to ban single-use plastic bags from retail stores both appear dead. With four Washington cities having enacted plastic-bag bans, such measures appear to be gaining momentum.(HB 1877, SB 5780)
Charter schools: A proposal to allow public charter schools in Washington state had hearings in both House and Senate education committees but never came up for a vote. (HB 2428 and SB 6202)
E-Verify: A bill blocking additional localities or the state from adopting a federal program that checks an individual’s eligibility to work in the country appears to have died. Known as E-Verify, the free and voluntary program has been adopted by 11 jurisdictions and hundreds of private businesses in Washington. (HB 2568)
Attorney-general authority: A measure that would keep the state attorney general from unilaterally taking legal action against the wishes of the governor or other agency heads appears to be dead. Attorney General Rob McKenna angered state Democrats by signing on to a multistate challenge to the national health-care overhaul law. (SB 6286)
Death penalty: A bill to abolish the death penalty received a public hearing but never made it out of committee. It’s an effort that has failed in Washington state in recent years but which supporters had hoped would gain traction. (HB 2468)
Public records: A plan to limit how governments respond to requests for public documents appears to have failed. A Senate committee approved the measure, which would have allowed agencies to adopt policies limiting the amount of time devoted to responding to records requests, but it never got a vote on the Senate floor (SB 6351)
Voting-rights act: A House bill to make it easier for minorities to get elected to local government posts passed out of committee but didn’t come up for a floor vote. Modeled on the decade-old California Voting Rights Act, it would have encouraged court challenges to cities, counties and school districts to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are present. (HB 2612)
Medical marijuana: An effort to allow local governments to regulate medical-marijuana dispensaries never got a Senate floor vote. Senators had been exploring more ways to handle the system after Gregoire vetoed a plan to provide statewide regulation last year. (SB 6265)
Going to the voters
Marijuana legalization: Lawmakers didn’t act on an initiative submitted to them that would legalize and regulate marijuana, instead sending it to voters for their consideration. The measure would treat marijuana similarly to alcohol, with high taxes and an age limit of 21. With no legislative action taken, the initiative will appear on the November ballot. (I-502)
AP Writers Mike Baker, Donna Blankinship, Rachel La Corte and Phuong Le contributed to this report.