How our lawmakers voted

  • Wednesday, February 19, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

State lawmakers introduced nearly 4,000 bills over the past two legislative sessions, but as of last this session’s cut-off deadline for voting bills out of committee in their house of origin, fewer than a thousand measures now remain under consideration.

These include 300 bills carried over from the 2019 legislative session.

The pace of legislative action quickened on Feb. 12, as members of both chambers began working through hundreds of bills in lengthy floor sessions. The fast pace will likely continue through Feb. 19 — the last day for bills to be passed in their originating chamber.

This year’s 60-day session is scheduled to end on March 12.

House Bill 2638, Authorizing sports wagering subject to the terms of tribal-state gaming compacts

Passed the House on Feb. 13 by a vote of 83-14 (one member excused)

This bill would authorize sports betting at casinos operated by federally recognized Indian tribes on their lands. “Sports betting” is defined as the business of accepting wagers on sporting or athletic events including professional sports, collegiate sports, Olympic and international competitions, and electronic sports games.

A last-minute amendment added an emergency clause to the bill, meaning it would take effect immediately and block a statewide referendum vote on the measure.

Opponents argued that expansion of gambling does not warrant an emergency clause, and that the clause would likely be challenged in court.

The bill is headed to the Senate for further consideration.

Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes

Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) Yes

Senate Bill 6313, Increasing opportunities for young voters

Passed the Senate on Feb. 13 by a vote of 28-19 (two member excused)

This bill would allow persons to vote in a primary election if they are 17 years old, but will be 18 by the general election. It would also require the Department of Licensing to provide an automated process for 16- and 17-year-olds to sign up to register to vote. Public universities, including branch campuses, would also be required to open student engagement hubs to provide ballots, if requested by student governments.

Proponents said student engagement hubs will remove barriers students face around transportation, moving frequently, and a lack of culture around voting. This will increase participation and create a voting culture, making more consistent voters, they said. They also argued that 17-year olds deserve a voice in primary elections, because they will be eligible to vote in the general election.

Opponents countered that the winners in many races are actually determined in the primary election, given the political make-up in areas around the state. They pointed to the constitutional requirement that voters must be at least 18-years old to be recognized as electors.

The bill is headed to the House for further consideration.

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

Senate Bill 6455, Requiring restaurants to offer default beverages for children’s meals

Passed the Senate on Feb. 13 by a vote of 25-22 (two members excused)

This bill would require restaurants offering a children’s meal that includes a drink to offer water, milk or a non-dairy milk alternative as the default beverage. A children’s meal is defined as a combination of food items and a beverage sold together at a single price, primarily intended for consumption by a child. The beverages listed on the menu or offered by employees must be one of the default beverages, but the restaurant may sell an alternative beverage if requested by the purchaser. Amendments to include chocolate milk and 100 percent juice, such as apple juice, in the list of default beverages were voted down.

Proponents said there is a link between sugary beverages and numerous health problems. This policy is disease prevention and will reinforce health choices.

Opponents argued that mandating choices is expensive and restaurants should be allowed to set their own menus. Parents do not need the government to help them parent, they said.

The bill is headed to the House for further consideration.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

House Bill 1551, Modernizing the control of certain communicable diseases

Passed the House on Feb. 12 by a vote of 57-40 (one member excused)

This bill would repeal statutes related to counseling for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing and requirements that agencies establish rules requiring acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) training for certain professions and employees. The bill would also allow a minor of 14 years of age or older to give consent to treatment to avoid HIV infection without a parent’s or guardian’s consent. It also changes designation of crimes related to transmission of HIV and repeals prohibitions on an individual who has a sexually transmitted disease, other than HIV, from having sexual intercourse if the partner is unaware of the disease.

Proponents of the bill said that people are now living long, healthy lives with HIV, and that current laws relating HIV and AIDS control are obsolete and need changing.

Opponents expressed concerns about lowering penalties in cases where people who transmit HIV by misrepresenting their HIV status. In those extreme cases where someone knows the dangers of transmitting HIV and intends to transmit HIV, there should be a higher penalty than a gross misdemeanor, they said.

The bill was sent to the Senate Health and Long-term Care Committee for further consideration.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

House Bill 2602, Concerning hair discrimination

Passed the House on Feb. 12 by a vote of 87-10 (one member excused)

This bill would amend the Washington Law Against Discrimination so the term “race” includes traits historically associated with or perceived to be associated with race. Specifically, the bill would prohibit discrimination on the basis of hairstyle or texture, including hairstyles such as afros, braids, locks and twists. Supporters of the bill pointed out that hair discrimination remains a source of racial injustice with serious emotional and economic consequences. Traditional African American styles have been described as unprofessional and unsanitary, they said, and this bill will help to correct these racial injustices by making hair discrimination illegal in Washington.

A proposed amendment to allow employers to require “uniform, professional grooming standards” for all employees was voted down.

The bill was sent to the Senate Law and Justice Committee for further consideration.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

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