Following the April 9 deadline for bills to gain approval from the opposite chamber’s fiscal and transportation committees, the focus in Olympia is now on consideration of bills by the full House and Senate.
State lawmakers have until April 17 to act on measures passed by the opposite chamber. Only budget and budget-related bills can be considered thereafter, along with initiatives to the Legislature.
This year’s session is scheduled to adjourn on April 28.
Highlighting last week’s roll call votes are bills considered to be key agenda items for Gov. Jay Inslee and his fellow Democrats, who control both chambers of the Legislature. These include a “clean energy future” measure, SB 5116, and a “public option” subsidized health insurance bill, SB 5526.
A bill to help public sector union membership retention in the wake of the US. Supreme Court’s “Janus” ruling, HB 1575, was heavily debated on the floor of the Senate last week, but a final vote on the measure — which earlier passed the House on a party-line 57-41 vote — has been postponed.
Senate Bill 5116, Supporting Washington’s clean energy economy and transitioning to a clean, affordable and reliable energy future
Passed the House on April 11 by a vote of 56-42
This bill is Gov. Inslee’s sweeping proposal to move the state to what he and supporters of the bill say is a “clean-energy” economy. Under the bill, Washington’s electric utilities would have to eliminate all coal-fired energy sources by 2025 and meet 100 percent of its retail electric load using non-emitting and renewable resources by Jan. 1, 2045. The bill passed the Senate on March 1 on a party-line 28-19 vote. Republican senators argued that Washington utilities already rely heavily on clean hydroelectric power and that the bill’s provisions would really only result in additional costs and rate increases to be borne by consumers. House Republicans offered similar arguments, along with more than a dozen amendments that were rejected by majority Democrats. The bill now goes back to the Senate for approval of changes to the bill made in the House, before it is sent to the governor for his signature.
Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes
Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) Yes
Senate Bill 5526, Increasing the availability of quality, affordable health coverage in the individual market
Passed the House on April 10 by a vote of 54-38 (six members excused)
Also 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. 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 passed the Senate last month by a 36-13 vote, after a House version of the proposal, HB 1523, passed the House on a 57-41 party-line vote. The final version of the bill was incorporated in SB 5526 and also passed by a party-line vote. Six members were excused when the vote was taken this week. Changes to the bill made by the House will have to be approved by the Senate, before it goes to the governor for his signature.
Rep. Chapman Yes
Rep. Tharinger Yes
House Bill 1101, Concerning state general obligation bonds and related accounts
Failed to pass in the Senate on April 8 by a vote of 26-21 (60-percent majority vote required for passage; two members excused)
This is a bill to authorize more than $3.08 billion in general obligation bonds to help finance the proposed state capital budget that would provide for $5.26 billion in construction and infrastructure projects statewide for the 2019-2021 biennium. The House unanimously passed a $4.4 billion capital budget (HB 1102) along with a $3.1 bond authorization bill (HB 1101). Notice to reconsider the vote by which HB 1101 failed in the Senate was given, meaning that members agreed to bring the bill back up to vote, so the bill is scheduled for a re-vote in the coming days.
Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) Yes
House Bill 1742, Concerning juvenile offenses that involve depictions of minors
Passed the Senate on April 10 by a vote of 25-19 (five members excused)
This bill would exclude minors from felony crimes involving dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and creates a new class of crimes that apply exclusively to minors. It would limit the crime of a minor dealing in depictions of another minor 13 years of age or older engaged in sexually explicit conduct to a gross misdemeanor. It also would exempt minors from being charged with a crime for depictions of themselves engaged in sexually explicit conduct unless they sell the depiction.
Supporters of the bill say that teenagers use smartphones every day and experience shows that many of them are using phones to send sexually explicit pictures of themselves. They say adults struggle to intervene because they know that any juvenile engaging in this conduct is guilty of a Class B sex offense under current law and would have to register as a sex offender. Juvenile conduct is very different from that of an adult and the statutory response needs to differentiate between the two.
Opponents of the bill as proposed say that while it is important to decriminalize possession because we want juveniles to report behavior and ask for help without getting in trouble, the bill is overly broad in exempting distribution of juvenile depictions of sexually explicit behavior from criminal prosecution. Proposed amendments to narrow such exemptions were rejected and the bill passed by a majority Democratic vote, with no Republican support. The bill passed the House last month on a 57-39 vote and it now goes back to the House to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.
Sen. Van De Wege Yes
House Bill 1817, Ensuring for a skilled and trained workforce in high hazard facilities
Passed the Senate on April 10 by a vote of 29-16 (four members excused)
The bill would require owners and operators of oil refineries to require their contractors and subcontractors to use a skilled and trained workforce to perform onsite work. It defines skilled and trained workers as registered apprentices or skilled journeymen who meet certain apprenticeship graduation requirements. Supporters of this bill say it is key to long-term safety at these facilities. They say that after California passed a similar bill, there was an increase in safety. They also say that some contractors cut costs by hiring low-cost unskilled labor from other areas. Opponents say these facilities are already safe and there is no data to support the bill. Contractors are already selected based on their safety record and are frequently audited. Their main concern, they say is that the bill will eliminate competition between the union and non-union contractors. They say it establishes a prevailing wage for the private sector for the first time, which may be preempted by federal law, adding that that discriminates against out-of-state workers who may be from federal apprenticeship programs but not state apprenticeship programs. The bill passed the House last month on a 64-32 vote and now goes back to the House for reconciliation of amendments passed by the Senate.
Sen. Van De Wege Yes.