Death penalty moratorium, Senate Majority Caucus, Columbia River Crossing in the news while lawmakers are busy passing bills.

February 14, 2014

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. 

One such bill, however, SB 6065, to prohibit persons under the age of 18 from using tanning beds, passed 40-8 in the Senate on Wednesday. The bill captured wide attention when Senator Don Benton (R-Vancouver) attempted to insert an amendment that would prevent minors from having any surgical procedure without parental consent, including abortions. The amendment was not voted upon, because Lt. Governor Brad Owen ruled that it did not conform to the scope of the bill. 

Later on Wednesday, Senator Benton, along with Senators Pam Roach (R-Auburn) and Janéa Holmquist Newbry (R-Moses Lake) announced they would remove their names from the Majority Coalition list.  They said they were still members of the caucus but would no longer vote with it simply to preserve unity.  The dissenting senators said they wanted more caucus discussion before key bills are sent to the floor.

They said coalition leaders did not hold a caucus vote or committee hearing before agreeing two weeks ago to support a version of the state “Dream Act,” the bill to give financial aid to students illegally brought to the United States as children.

On Tuesday, Governor Jay Inslee announced that he will unilaterally stop carrying out death sentences in this state as long as he is governor.  Senator Steve O’Ban (R-Tacoma) responded the next day, announcing a bill that would prohibit a governor from exercising a stay of execution until after the State Clemency and Pardons board issues a recommendation. 

Sen. O’Ban says his bill would avoid the “arbitrary or capricious use of the governor’s pardoning power, the callous disregard of the opinions of victims in the governor’s decision-making process or the potential that the governor could in effect override policy decisions made through the legislative branch.”

Although the cutoff for committee action on bills has passed, Sen. O’Ban’s bill could be considered later, if it is deemed to have an impact on state spending.

Also on Wednesday, Senator Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) missed 21 floor votes when she traveled to Salem to urge Oregon lawmakers to proceed with plans to build a new toll bridge across the Columbia River, with or without Washington’s participation. Senator Ann Rivers, (R-LaCenter) testified in the same Oregon legislative hearing by telephone, missing no votes. She said: “We are not supportive of an Oregon go-it-alone plan and think that the best things happen when we work in partnership to get them done.”