As this year’s scheduled 105-day legislative session nears the halfway point, state lawmakers worked long hours last week to meet the March 1 deadline for passing bills out of transportation and finance committees in their originating chamber.
The full Senate a passed more than two dozen non-controversial bills on its consent calendar by unanimous votes, along with more contentious measures that passed with close votes along party lines.
As Gov. Inslee announced his climate change-focused presidential campaign on March 1, the state Senate took up a sweeping proposal to move the state to a “clean energy” economy as early as 2025:
Senate Bill 5116, Supporting Washington’s clean energy economy and transitioning to a clean, affordable, and reliable energy future
Passed the Senate on March 1 by a vote of 28-19 (two members excused)
Under this 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 January 1, 2045. ?In support of the bill, Democrats said the state has an entrepreneurial economy that can move toward a clean energy economy. Solar and wind are the future, and this bill provides a common sense framework for bold actions toward a carbon-free electricity, they said. Republican senators offered nearly two dozen amendments to the bill, pointing out 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. Most of the amendments failed, and the bill passed along strictly partisan lines, with one Republican and one Democrat member excused. The bill was sent to the House Committee on Environment and Energy, which has scheduled a public hearing for March 5.
Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) Yes
Senate Bill 5395, Concerning comprehensive sexual health education
Passed the Senate on Feb. 27 by a vote of 28-21
This is an all-grades sex education proposal that would require schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education as an integral part of the curriculum. The curriculum would be “evidence-based and inclusive,” and would encourage healthy relationships based on mutual respect and affection, free from violence, coercion and intimidation. It would also teach how to identify and respond to attitudes and behaviors contributing to sexual violence and emphasize the importance of affirmative consent. Republicans opposed to the measure proposed more than a dozen amendments including proposals to block the classes from being taught to the youngest students. The amendments failed and the bill passed with a partisan 28-21 vote. Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Mason County), who has joined Republicans in the past, was the only Democrat to vote against the bill. The bill was sent to the House Education Committee for further consideration.
Sen. Van De Wege Yes
Senate Bill 5689, Concerning harassment, intimidation, bullying and discrimination in public schools
Passed the Senate on Feb. 27 by a vote of 29-20
Each school district is required to have a policy and procedures that prohibits harassment, intimidation or bullying (HIB). School districts must designate a primary contact regarding the policy with certain responsibilities. Under this bill, school districts would have to adopt or amend such policies to specifically include transgender students. They would also have to designate a primary contact to oversee transgender policies and procedures. Debate on the bill went back and forth between Democrats, who said it was needed to protect certain students. Republicans called it state government interference in local school districts’ decisions and pointed out that rules against bullying already exist. They said the legislature should not keep adding new groups of protected students. The bill passed along close party lines, with one Democrat against, and one Republican in favor. It was sent to the House Education Committee for further consideration.
Sen. Van De Wege Yes
Note: WashingtonVotes.org is a project of the Washington Policy Center.See www.WashingtonVotes.org.