How our lawmakers voted

  • Tuesday, February 25, 2020 4:30pm
  • Opinion

In marathon floor sessions lasting late into the evening, including a rare Sunday session in the House, lawmakers approved more than 500 bills this week to meet the Feb. 19 cut-off deadline for passing legislation out of its originating chamber.

In all, more than 600 bills have now passed and been sent to the opposite house for further consideration as this year’s 60-day legislative session heads into the home stretch.

Bills that did not survive the cut-off are likely dead for the 2019-20 legislative cycle, barring a special session or extraordinary parliamentary maneuvers to revive them.

House and Senate committees now have until Friday, Feb. 28 to consider policy bills that have been sent to them by the opposite house, and until Monday, March 2nd to act on budget and transportation measures.

The deadline for action by the full House and Senate on all but budget-related matters is Friday, March 6. The session is scheduled to adjourn on March 12.

Among important bills passed this week are:

House Bill 2311, Amending state greenhouse gas emission limits for consistency with the most recent assessment of climate change science

Passed the House on Feb. 16 by a vote of 55-41 (two members excused)

This bill would, among other provisions, require state agencies to set a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. Current law sets greenhouse gas emission limits for state agencies by 2050 at 57.5 percent below 2005 levels, or 70 percent below emissions expected for that year. Greenhouse gas emissions from state agencies represent about one percent of total carbon emissions statewide.

Supporters of the bill said that the state greenhouse gas emission limits established in 2008 have never been updated and that, according to the latest research, quicker and deeper emission cuts are critical.

Opponents said that the 95 percent emission reduction goals proposed by the bill are unrealistic and much more stringent than the regulatory limits in surrounding states. This, they said, would place Washington businesses at a “monumental competitive disadvantage.”

The bill is currently before the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee for further consideration.

Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes

Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) Yes

Senate Bill 6113, Creating a central insulin purchasing program

Passed the Senate on Feb. 18 by a vote of 28-20 (one member excused)

Current law provides that state-purchased health care programs must purchase prescription drugs through the Northwest Prescription Drug Consortium established by the state Health Care Authority. Under this bill, a work group would be established to design a purchasing strategy that would allow the state to act as the single purchaser of insulin. The work group must submit a detailed plan to the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2020. The consortium would then be authorized to implement the plan without further legislative direction.

Proponents said this bill is part of a national effort to reduce drug prices by leveraging the buying power of all insulin purchases in the state.

Opponents expressed concerns about implementing a state single-purchaser plan, and pointed to other legislative efforts to lower the total cost of insulin for patients. For example, HB 2662, to cap the out-of pocket cost of insulin for patients at $100 for a 30-day supply, passed the House on February 19th by a 97-1 vote.

SB 6113 is now before the House Health and Wellness Committee for further consideration.

HB 2662 is before the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee.

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

House Bill 1694, Allowing tenants to pay certain sums in installments

Passed the House on Feb. 17 by a vote of 54-44

This bill would restrict landlord-tenant arrangements by requiring landlords to allow tenants to pay customary first- and last-month rental deposits and other fees in installments.

Proponents of the bill said that the amounts required of tenants for up-front deposits and fees can be prohibitive, contributing to the state’s affordable housing crisis.

Opponents said that while tenants should be assisted, putting the burden on landlords is not the way. When landlords have tried installment plans, they said, it has not worked, because tenants were unable to continue to pay the installments.

The bill is now before the Senate Financial Institutions, Economic Development and Trade Committee for further consideration.

Rep. Chapman No

Rep. Tharinger Yes

Senate Bill 6288, Creating the Washington office of firearm violence prevention

Passed the Senate on Feb. 18 by a vote of 25-23 (one member excused)

This bill would create an Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention within the state Department of Commerce. The bill would authorize the new office to contract for and fund a variety of programs, including a statewide helpline and referral service for gun violence victims and their professional services providers, and for a best practices guide for therapy to gun violence victims.

Proponents of the bill said that gun violence is a public health crisis, but there is currently no direct budget allocation to fund gun violence prevention. This bill would fund such programs, they said.

Opponents argued that there is no real accountability in the bill, providing for open-ended programs that will likely be funded by raising taxes and fees on law-abiding gun owners.

The bill was sent to the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

Sen. Van De Wege No

House Bill 1590, Allowing the local sales and use tax for affordable housing to be imposed by a councilmanic authority

Passed the House on Feb. 19 by a vote of 52-46

This bill would authorize county or city legislative authorities to impose the local sales and use tax for housing and related services and eliminates the requirement that the imposition of the tax be subject to the approval of a majority of county or city voters at a general or special election.

Proponents of the bill said that there is currently a housing and homelessness crisis, and local council members need as many tools as possible to deal with the crisis.

Opponents said that if the state wants to provide funding for affordable housing, a tax should be imposed statewide rather than requiring a councilmanic vote. This type of tax would lead to inequitable access to affordable housing, because certain counties would be able to generate much more revenue than others, they said.

The bill was sent to the Senate Local Government Committee of further consideration.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Steve Tharinger Yes

Senate Bill 6212, Concerning the authority of counties, cities, and towns to exceed statutory property tax limitations (to fund affordable housing programs)

Passed the Senate on Feb. 19 by a vote of 35-13 (one member excused)

This bill would expand the use of the affordable housing property tax levy to include affordable homeownership, owner-occupied home repair, and foreclosure prevention programs for low-income households with income at or below 80 percent of median income.

Proponents of the bill said that local governments need more tools to help low-income families in their community, and the changes in the bill would allow for assistance with home repair and foreclosure prevention.

There was no opposing testimony on the proposed bill in committee hearings.

The bill is now before the House Finance Committee for further consideration.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

House Bill 2567, Concerning open courts (banning civil arrests in and around court houses)

Passed the House on Feb. 17 by a vote of 55-43

This bill would essentially prohibit arrests by immigration enforcement authorities, which are defined as “civil” or warrantless arrests, inside or near state court facilities. It would also prohibit judges, court staff, court security personnel and prosecutor’s office staff from inquiring into or collecting immigration or citizenship status information.

Proponents said the bill is necessary to protect the rights and dignity of Washington residents. They said that plainclothes immigration enforcement agents are making civil arrests in and around courthouse grounds, creating an environment of fear and deterring people from coming to court.

Opponents said that the bill would constrain judicial officers, personnel staff, and operations. They also pointed out that the bill’s definition of and ban on civil arrest in the one-mile range surrounding a courthouse may prevent a simple traffic stop.

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

Rep. Chapman No

Rep. Tharinger Yes

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