Just prior to the April 5th deadline for the governor to act on bills passed by the legislature in 2014, Governor Inslee vetoed HB 2789, which would have placed limits on the use of drones for law enforcement purposes, and HB 1260, which would have cut the number of public works projects subject to prevailing wage regulations in half.
The House and Senate gavels came down simultaneously at seven minutes to Midnight on Thursday, as the legislature adjourned “sine die” (Latin for “no more meeting days”) to the cheers of lawmakers and staff who had been working at a fast pace to finalize and pass legislation.
State senate lawmakers put in some overtime on Saturday to clear their concurrence calendar—actions on bills that were passed with changes by the opposite chamber. They also passed SB 5887 to merge the state’s medical marijuana system with the use of recreational marijuana as approved by voters in Initiative 502. The bill would reduce the amount of marijuana and the number of plants patients can possess, does away with collective gardens and establishes a patient registry.
The state House of Representatives on Tuesday passed its version of the 2014 supplemental operating budget, seeking to spend an additional $236 million over the $33.6 billion 2013-15 budget approved last year. The vote was 53-44, along party lines, with one Democrat and all Republicans voting against the bill.
House Democrats in Olympia released a 2014 supplemental budget proposal Wednesday that would restore cost-of-living (COLA) increases for teachers and would spend additional money on school programs, while ending some tax exemptions, including imposing a state sales tax on bottled water. The bottled water tax would narrow the state’s general sales tax exemption on food items.
In a press conference Monday afternoon, state Senate leaders from both parties released the Senate’s proposed 2014 supplemental to the 2013-15 budget. The legislature generally writes a supplemental budget in the second year of a budget cycle to make adjustments for changing conditions, such as fluctuations in state services and revenue projections.
When the state House of Representatives adjourned Monday night—actually at 12:32 a.m. Tuesday, February 18th, lawmakers had passed over a hundred bills that day. The Senate, which adjourned at 11:38 p.m. Monday evening, passed thirty-nine measures. The fast pace continued until Tuesday’s 5:00 p.m. deadline for acting on non-budget related bills in the house of origin.
State lawmakers are passing dozens of bills in their respective chambers before the deadline for acting on policy bills in the house of origin arrives on Tuesday, February 18h. Most of these are non-contentious issues and are passing by large majorities.
Today, February 11th is the 30th day or halfway point in this year’s 60-day legislative session. The deadline for committee action on policy bills in the house of origin hit Friday, February 7th, and the next deadline is Tuesday, February 18th, the last day each house can act on its own policy bills.
In floor action on Wednesday, the House passed HB 2148, to require insurers who offer maternity coverage to also cover elective abortions, by a mostly party-line vote of 54-44, with one Republican voting for it, and two Democrats voting against. To see who voted “Yes” and who voted “No,” go to www.washingtonvotes.org and type in the bill number. The bill next goes to the Senate, but observers say chances for further action on the bill are slim.
Governor Jay Inslee last week proposed to spend an additional $600 million on K-12 education over the next three years by ending a number of tax breaks that are currently in effect. The targeted tax exemptions include a use-tax break on waste fuels from refineries; sales taxes on bottled water; a sales-tax break for out of state shoppers; a tax break on used-car trade-ins worth over $10,000; a sales-tax break for janitorial services; and a preferential business tax rate for resellers of prescription drugs.
Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, drew heavy media attention when they spoke briefly before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday on competing gun-related measures, proposed initiatives 594 and 591.
Hundreds more lined up to be heard, and the overflow crowd was moved to the hallways and eventually to the House chamber where the hearing was broadcast on large video screens. The Senate Law and Justice Committee held a hearing on the two initiatives on Wednesday.
The minimum wage bill unveiled by House Democrats late last week received extensive news coverage, but no hearing on the bill is scheduled for this week. On Tuesday, January 28th, the Senate Ways and Means Committee will consider SJR 8213, a proposal to amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature, or simple majority support from voters, to raise taxes.
Thursday’s agenda of the House Labor and Workforce Committee calls for possible executive action on a package of bills that proponents say would deal with workplace fairness issues such as misclassifying employees as independent contractors, underpaying wages, or retaliating against workers who file complaints. The bills are:
• HB 2331, which would require employers to submit certified payroll records to prove they met prevailing wage requirements for public works projects before they are paid by the state.
In the Senate Monday, the Commerce and Labor Committee considered a bill, SB 6053, to protect state workers who choose to pay their union a representation fee rather than full union dues. Currently, workers must renew this choice every year, or their option automatically expires. SB 6053 would keep the worker’s choice in place year after year, until the worker initiates a change. The bill also protects workers who have a religious objection to forced union membership.