How our lawmakers voted

  • Wednesday, March 11, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion


As this year’s legislative session heads into its final week, lawmakers were considering hundreds of bills in marathon floor sessions ahead of the Friday, March 6, deadline for approving legislation passed by the opposite house.

Lawmakers now only work on budget-related bills and resolving differences between House- and Senate-passed bill versions.

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

Lawmakers introduced some 1,500 new bills this year in addition to the more than 2,000 measures left over from the 2019 session.

Leading up to the deadline, about 600 bills were still under consideration and more than 250 bills have been approved by both houses.

Senate Bill 6168, Making 2019-2021 fiscal biennium supplemental operating appropriations

Passed by the House on Feb. 28 by a vote of 55-39 (four members excused)

The version of the supplemental state spending plan for the 2019-21 biennium passed by the House on Feb. 28. Like the Senate version, it would add more than a billion dollars to the already record high $52.5 billion two-year operating budget approved last year.

It also relies on higher than expected tax collections projected by state economic forecasters last month, and would not impose major tax increases beyond the new taxes on businesses lawmakers already imposed earlier this year.

The bill was sent back to the Senate this week for approval of House amendments.

The Senate refused to agree to various changes made by the House, and lead budget writers from both chambers will now work out the differences behind closed doors before submitting the final plan for a vote before the session adjourns.

Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes

Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) Yes

Senate Bill 5395, Concerning comprehensive sexual health education

Passed the House on March 4 by a vote of 56-40 (two member excused)

This is a controversial measure requiring public schools to teach expanded sexual health education to students in grades K-12, beginning with grades 6-12 in the 2021-22 school year and all grades the following year.

The bill passed on a party-line vote, with all Democrats voting for and all Republicans voting against it.

The vote followed nearly six hours of debate in a late-night session during which Republicans proposed a series of amendments that, among other issues of concern, would have allowed teachers to opt out of teaching the curriculum; required written parental permission for children K-4; included teaching abstinence; and provided for greater parental involvement in curriculum development.

Proponents said the bill is not trying to replace family values, but is intended to teach facts and provide children with the tools to protect themselves.

Opponents said the curriculum is too explicit, pointing out that the state’s cable TVW service put up a “Mature Subject Matter, Viewer Discretion Advised” warning prior to broadcasting the debate.

The Senate approved the bill earlier this session, but it was changed by adoption of a House Education Committee amendment prior to passage of the bill by the full House that changed the phase-in of the new requirement and more closely defined comprehensive sex health education.

The measure must now go back to the Senate for approval of the changes, before it can be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

House Bill 1551, Modernizing the control of certain communicable diseases

Passed the Senate on March 3 by a vote of 26-23

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. It would also lower penalties by changing the designation of crimes related to the intentional transmission of HIV and would allow minors 14 years or older to be treated for HIV without a parent’s or guardian’s consent.

Amendments proposed by Republicans to make intentional transmission of HIV a felony rather than a misdemeanor were voted down and the bill passed along mostly partisan lines, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting against it.

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 is now headed to the Governor for his signature.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) No

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

Passed the Senate on March 5 by a 28-21 vote

This is a bill requested by Governor Inslee that 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 passed the House last month and is now on its way to the Governor, who is expected to sign it.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

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

Passed the Senate on March 5 by a vote of 34-15

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, Olympics and international competitions, and electronic sports games. Owners of non-tribal casinos would be barred from participating, and all revenues from sports betting activities would go exclusively to the Indian tribes conducting them.

The bill passed the House last month with an emergency clause that would make it effective immediately and prevent any effort to submit it to a referendum vote by the people. Senate amendments to remove the emergency clause and to extend sports betting to non-tribal businesses were voted down and the bill passed with a bi-partisan vote after a lengthy, late-night debate. Gambling legislation requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

The Senate did adopt various non-substantive changes to the bill, and it must now go back to the House for final approval before it is sent to the Governor for his signature.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

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

Passed the House on March 5 by a vote of 53-44 (one member excused)

This bill would create an Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention within the state Department of Commerce and 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 passed the Senate last month, but the House adopted various changed to the bill, and it must now go back to the Senate for final approval before it is sent to the Governor for his signature.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

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

Passed the Senate on March 4 by a vote of 28-20 (one member excused)

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 passed the House last month and is now headed to the Governor for his signature.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

Senate Bill 6313, Increasing opportunities for young voters

Passed the House on March 5 by a vote of 56-41 (one member excused)

As passed by the House, this bill would permit 17-year olds who will be 18-years old at the next general election to vote in primary elections. It would require the Department of Licensing to allow 16- and 17-year olds to sign up to register to vote by an automated process when receiving or renewing an enhanced driver’s license or identicard.

Also under the bill, Student Engagement Hubs must be established on college campuses, and resources must be made available for high school civics courses.

Proponents 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 also pointed to the constitutional requirement that voters must be at least 18-years old to be recognized as electors.

The bill passed the Senate last month, but the version passed by the House must now go back to the Senate for final approval before it is sent to the Governor for his signature.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes.

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