WAVotes NEWS: Busy days of floor debate and full votes ahead for state lawmakers, after deadline for committee action passes

Feb 19, 2021

The 105-day 2021 legislative session is scheduled to end on April 25, 2021. The session is in its 40th day, with action on state budget measures for 2021-23 still to come. Only one bill, SB 5061, to ease pandemic-related unemployment tax increases for the state’s employers, has been signed into law by the governor so far, but each chamber has passed dozens of bills that are currently before the opposite house for further action. The House has passed 35 bills to date, and the Senate has passed 45 bills.

Many of these bills have passed by unanimous and near-unanimous votes, but a number of bills have attracted extended debate, and passed by narrow, mostly partisan vote margins. This week, for example, Senators debated SB 5185, to clarify state laws concerning informed consent for health care decisions. The bill would affirm current law, under which adolescents are allowed to make decisions related to personal reproductive health care, including having an abortion, at any age without the knowledge of a parent or guardian.

Sen. Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley) proposed an amendment to the bill that would have removed capacity of a minor to give informed consent for an abortion. He said that adolescents “as young as 12, or whenever they may become pregnant” should not be allowed make a life-changing medical decision by themselves, without discussing it with a responsible adult. Sen. Padden added, “ I think we need to allow for the ability of parents to be involved just as they are in other health care decisions for their children.”

Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), a former prosecutor, said children who come from abusive households must be able to access reproductive services on their own accord. As a prosecutor, she said, it became clear that involving parents is not always in the best interest of the child, depending on their circumstances. The amendment was rejected by voice vote. The bill passed by a 30-17 vote.

State lawmakers are poised for an extended round of floor debates and full votes in the House and Senate, following the first cut-off deadlines for committee action on bills in the originating chamber. The cut-off for policy committees was last Monday, February 15th, which left 463 measures alive for further legislative consideration.

House and Senate committees have been working on some 200 additional bills this week, in advance of this coming Monday’s deadline for passing fiscal and transportation related measures out of committee in the house of origin.

Bills that are passed out of committee are referred to the Rules Committee of each chamber. The two Rules Committees, which are controlled by majority Democrats, then choose the bills to be placed on the calendar for consideration by each chamber as a whole.

There are  some 86 bills on current House and Senate floor calendars for consideration next week. The list will likely grow as committees pass more bills before next Monday’s cut-off deadline.

Bills of interest on the current calendars include HB 1356, to prohibit public schools from using Native American imagery as logos or mascots; HB 1016, to designate June 19, commonly known as Juneteenth, as a state legal holiday to commemorate the abolishment of slavery; and SB 5096, to weaken some penalties for defacing a public monument or pulling down a public statue from a felony to a gross misdemeanor.

WashingtonVotes.org is a free service provided by Washington Policy Center and is the go-to tracking tool to keep up with all the action in Olympia, especially during this mostly virtual session. Please check in often and follow us on Facebook and Twitter at #waleg.

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