Lawmakers step up pace to move bills; Governor Inslee heads for climate change conference in Switzerland.

Jan 24, 2018

This year’s 60-day legislative session, which is scheduled to end March 8th, is off to a fast start. After two weeks, lawmakers have passed 59 bills so far, including a $4.2 billion capital budget for 2017-19 (SB 6090), bonding authorization (HB 11080), and a bill to fix the 2016 state supreme court “Hirst” ruling (SB 6091).

Governor Inslee signed the capital budget and Hirst-fix bills on Friday, then left Tuesday for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. According to the Governor’s office, he is the only U.S. governor scheduled to attend the event. Governor Inslee will participate in a climate change panel hosted by former Vice President Al Gore later this week and is expected to fly home on Friday.

Democrats narrowly control both houses of the Washington State legislature, but according to some observers, Governor Inslee’s presence in Olympia is not needed for developing his climate change agenda, including his proposal for a tax on carbon emissions.

In an article published yesterday, the Seattle P.I.’s Joel Connelly quoted Alex Hays, former executive director of Mainstream Republicans of Washington: “Normally, a governor leaving mid-session would be devastating for their agenda -- not so for Inslee.”

Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle chairs the Senate Energy, Environment, and Technology Committee through which the Governor’s climate agenda must pass. He said: "This week our committee is in the midst of the nuts and bolts of crafting the next steps of the carbon legislation and the Governor and his staff are fully engaged.” He's made clear that he's on call if I need any specific help as we explore options and prepare amendments.”

The bills lawmakers have passed so far include SB 6002, creating a state voting rights act to protect the equal opportunity for minority groups to participate in local elections and elect candidates of choice. It would establish a cause of legal action and authorize courts to order redistricting within a political subdivision. It passed the Senate Friday by a vote of 29-19 and is currently before the House. A public hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in the House Committee on State Government, Elections, and Information Technology.

The Senate also passed a bill to allow same-day voter registration in Washington. SB 6021 passed on a 29-20 vote last Wednesday and is now before the House Committee on State Government, Elections, and Information Technology for consideration. It would allow in-person voter registration up to 8 p.m. on the day of an election and electronic or mail registration up to eight days before an election.

Bills concerning transgender bullying in schools and banning so-called “conversion therapy” passed the Senate on Friday. SB 5722 which would deem it unprofessional conduct for any health care provider to perform therapies that aim to  change the sexual orientation of a patient under the age of 18, passed on a 32-16 vote and moved to the House for consideration.

Under Senate Bill 5766, which passed on a 30-18 vote, school districts would have to adopt or amend policies to prevent harassment, intimidation, or  bullying of transgender students. The bill is now before the House Education Committee.

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