How our lawmakers voted

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

After a key deadline on March 13, the last day to pass policy bills out of their original chamber, only 681 measures out of some 2,150 introduced this session are still alive. The cut-off does not apply to budget-related matters, nor to initiatives by the people before the Legislature.

Just prior to the cut-off, state lawmakers passed a number of bills considered by many to be key agenda items for the Democratic-controlled Legislature and governor’s office this session, which is scheduled to adjourn by April 28.

Among the notable bills passed this week are:

House Bill 1523, Increasing the availability of quality, affordable health coverage in the individual market

Passed the House on March 8 by a vote of 57-41

Proposed by Gov. Inslee, this bill would create a subsidized state-funded public health plan. It would require the State Insurance Commissioner and the Health Care Authority to set up plans by 2021 with insurance companies that offer qualified plans in this state. These plans would be available through the state’s health care exchange to all residents, but the state would pay subsidies to individuals with incomes of up to five times the poverty level. That annual income threshold level would currently be about $62,000 for an individual. Premiums would be limited to no more than 10 percent of adjusted gross income, and payments to doctors and other health care providers would be restricted to Medicare-level limits. The bill was referred to the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee for further consideration.

Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes

Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) Yes

Senate Bill 5526, Senate Bill 5526: Increasing the availability of quality, affordable health coverage in the individual market

Passed the Senate on March 13 by a vote of 36-13

This is the companion bill to HB 1523, with essentially the same provisions. The bill was sent to the House Health Care and Wellness Committee for further consideration. It is likely that the two bills will be at some point be combined and a single version would then be considered for final passage.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) Yes

Senate Bill 5822, Providing a pathway to establish a universal health care system for the residents of Washington

Passed the Senate on March 13 by a vote of 28-21

This bill would set up a work group to design a government-run, “socialized” health care system available to all residents. If approved by the House and signed by the governor, the group would draft an outline for such a system by Nov. 15, 2019 and reveal full recommendations for the plan a year later. During lengthy debate on the floor, Republican senators offered a number of amendments, including a provision that the work group’s recommendations include preservation of the private insurance market. The amendments failed and the bill passed 28-21 with all Republicans and Democratic Sen. Sheldon, who regularly votes with Republicans, voting against it. The bill was referred to the House Health Care and Wellness Committee for further consideration.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

House Bill 1110, Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation fuels

Passed the House on March 12 by a vote of 53-43

This bill would direct the state Department of Ecology to impose low-carbon fuel limits on gasoline and other transportation related fuels with a “clean fuels” program. Under the bill, carbon emissions of transportation fuels would have to be reduced to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. The mandatory program would begin Jan. 1, 2021. During floor debate, opponents argued that the bill would harm Washington residents by raising gas prices, which are already among the highest in the nation, and raising other costs, including food prices. A Republican amendment to allow a public vote at the next general election was defeated, and the bill passed along party lines by a 53-43 vote. Bi-partisan opposition to the bill included all Republicans and three Democrats. The bill was referred to the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee for further consideration

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

House Bill 1575, Strengthening the rights of workers through collective bargaining by addressing authorizations and revocations, certifications, and the authority to deduct and accept union dues and fees

Passed the House on March 11 by a vote of 57-41

This bill would bar public employees from seeking refunds of fees they were wrongly forced to pay to government unions. In the ”Janus” case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require public employees who are not members to pay fees to the union. The court ruled an employee’s clear consent is required before dues may be deducted from the employee’s pay. Since that ruling in 2018, public employees across the country have instituted class action lawsuits to recover the past fees they have paid. This bill says workers cannot get their money back by providing that public employers and public employee unions are not required to return union fees that were deducted prior to the Court’s ruling. The bill was referred to the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee for further consideration.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

Senate Joint Resolution 8201, Amending the Constitution to allow a simple majority of voters voting to authorize school district bonds

Failed in the Senate on March 12 by a vote of 28-21 (two-thirds vote required)

This is a proposed amendment the Washington State Constitution to lower the standard for passing school bond measures. It would allow school districts to issue general obligation bonds for capital purposes, levy taxes to make payments on those bonds, and exceed the constitutional debt limit with a simple majority voter approval, instead of the two-thirds vote currently required under the state constitution. The measure failed because it did not garner the two-thirds vote required to pass constitutional amendments. SJR 8201 did not survive the cut-off deadline and is now considered dead for the session.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

Senate Bill 5078, Requiring disclosure of federal income tax returns of presidential and vice presidential candidates prior to appearing on the ballot

Passed the Senate on March 12 by a vote of 28-21

This bill would require that presidential and vice-presidential candidates release copies of their federal income tax returns for the last five years to appear on the state presidential primary ballot. If approved by the House and signed by the governor, SB 5078 would apply to the March 2020 presidential primary, the first election to be held under the new law signed by Gov. Inslee last week, which moves up the date of the Washington’s presidential primary from May to March. The bill was referred to the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee for further consideration.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

WashingtonVotes.org is a project of the Washington Policy Center. Visit www.WashingtonVotes.org.

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