Fast Moves in Olympia – the Legislature’s first week

January 20, 2014

The 2014 session of the legislature convened on Monday, January 13th, and the House moved swiftly to take a rare first-day vote on HB 1817, the Washington State Dream Act. The bill passed by a vote of 71-23. It would provide access to financial aid to college students who were brought to the United States illegally as children. On Friday, the House passed HB 1043 by a vote of 90-1.This bill would prohibit state colleges from charging more tuition for certain programs, such as science, technology and math courses, than they do for less popular courses. 

Six newly appointed members took their seats on Monday, along with five new members in the Senate. Two vacant House seats and one open Senate seat still remain to be filled.

Governor Inslee highlighted his legislative priorities Tuesday in the annual State of the State Address. He pushed for increasing Washington’s highest-in-the-nation minimum wage, additional education spending, and passage of a 2013-15 transportation package that may include raising the gas tax by up to 11.5 cents per gallon.

After the formal introduction of 179 pre-filed bills on Monday, legislators introduced another 218 measures, bringing the total number of new introductions for the 2014 session to 397. To date, 3, 205 measures have been introduced during the 2013-14 legislative cycle, and another 145 bills are slated for introduction on Monday, January 20th.

Although the volume of bills is large, only a small percentage becomes law. For the 2013-14 Legislature, 401 measures (12.5%) have passed both houses so far and just 373 (11.6%) were signed into law.

Both chambers held a full round of committee hearings during the first week. House Committees acted on 14 bills; Senate Committees on 11. Most of these bills covered relatively obscure topics, such as statutory changes to the state insurance code, or the compensation for flood control district supervisors.

The Senate Ways & Means Committee passed a campaign finance bill on Friday, SB 5988, which imposes additional limitations on fundraising during legislative sessions. The bill would prohibit campaign fundraising by any state official in an odd-numbered session year, if the Legislature has not passed a two-year budget bill.

Senator Andy Hill (R-Redmond), the Ways & Means chairman, spoke in favor of the bill, pointing out that, in 2013, the break between the regular and special legislative sessions resulted in substantial campaign fundraising although the Legislature had not yet enacted a state budget. He said that barring campaign fundraising during this period would provide an incentive for the Governor to call a prompt special session to complete work on the state budget. News and will continue to report the latest on what is happening in Olympia.