State lawmakers face range of issues in upcoming short, 60-day session

  • Wednesday, January 15, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

Lawmakers returned to Olympia on Jan. 13 for the 2020 session of the Washington State Legislature. The session is scheduled to end in 60 days, on March 12. The Legislature meets for 105 days in odd-numbered years and for 60 days in even-numbered years.

Already before them are more than 2,200 measures that were introduced — but did not pass — in the 2019 session that ended last April. These measures will be listed in their most advanced legislative status when the session convenes.

In addition, more than 350 new bills have been pre-filed for introduction, and hundreds more are expected to be introduced in the opening days and weeks of the new session.

Lawmakers introduce more than 1,500 new measures during a typical 60-day session, for an average of more than 4,000 bills introduced over a two-year legislative cycle.

Among the first new bills to be introduced are key legislative transparency measures. SB 6042, sponsored by Sen. Lynda Wilson (R-Clark County), would ban the use of title-only bills, numbered blank bills used as last-minute vehicles to advance major policy changes with little-to-no notice to the public or even to legislators. This tactic has been used to circumvent the state constitutional prohibition against introducing surprise legislation near the end of a session.

HB 2190, sponsored by Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen), would also ban title-only bills and would mandate notification procedures and adequate public review time as bills advance through the legislative process.

Of interest too is a proposed constitutional amendment to create a two-term limit for the Office of the Governor. Senate Joint Resolution 8213 is sponsored by Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn). If passed by the Legislature, the proposed amendment would go to voters for their approval next November. The term limit would not apply to a person holding the office when the amendment goes into effect. Governor Inslee is running for a third term, but only future governors would be affected.

The spotlight is also on proposals to increase state spending and taxes to reduce homelessness, adjust education spending, provide property tax relief, and respond to the car-tab-reduction measure passed by voters in November. Voters last November also passed nine advisory ballot measures saying they want lawmakers to roll back taxes imposed during the 2019 session.

These advisory votes are not binding, but they send a strong message to lawmakers in Olympia that the public wants tax relief.

This is an election year for all members of the state House, for half the members of the Senate, and for the Governor. Lawmakers are not allowed to raise campaign funds while the Legislature is in session, which may serve as a motivation for them to end the session on time.

As it has since 2001, WashingtonVotes will track and cover every bill, amendment and recorded vote in the upcoming session. Visit WashingtonVotes.org to keep up with latest developments in Olympia,

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