Tuesday’s public hearing on HB 1314 before the House Environment Committee, Governor Inslee’ sweeping cap-and-trade tax proposal, drew overflow crowds as hundreds of supporters and opponents packed the main hearing room and three overflow rooms, where the crowd could follow the proceedings on TV.
After taking testimony from about three dozen people, the hearing was adjourned. The meeting will be continued on Thursday, January 29 starting at 8:00 am in House Hearing Room B, John L O’Brien Building, Olympia.
With session entering its 12th day, lawmakers continue to introduce bills, proposing over 1,200 to date, while spending much of their working days in committee meetings and hearings. So far, the House has passed 14 bills out of committee, dealing with topics ranging from anti-freeze products to locksmith services.
Among the nearly 1,000 bills and resolutions introduced by lawmakers so far are a number of proposed amendments to the state constitution. These are introduced as House or Senate Joint Resolutions, which, if passed by a two-thirds vote of both houses, would be submitted to a vote of the people in the coming November election. If a majority of voters approve, the proposed amendment becomes part of the state constitution.
With the pomp and circumstance of opening ceremonies behind it, the 64th Legislature has settled in for the long haul, with lawmakers introducing bills and working through daily rounds of committee meetings.
Governor Inslee, in his State of the State address before the legislature Tuesday, doubled down on his sweeping proposals for a 15% increase in state spending and new taxes, including a capital gains tax on state residents.
He also welcomed new lawmaker Rep. Carol Gregory (D-Federal Way) who was appointed to replace Rep. Roger Freeman (D-30th District) who died while in office.
Court-mandated basic education funding will occupy center stage when the 64th Legislature convenes at noon Monday for what many observers see as one of the most important sessions in memory.
Top priorities include a voter-approved class size reduction measure and a comprehensive transportation package. Above all, a new two-year budget will dominate the 105-day regular session, with possibly special sessions to follow.
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.