Washington lawmakers are now more than halfway through a 105-day legislative session that has so far included debate over a public health insurance option, raising the smoking age, tightening rules on school vaccination exemptions and a plastic bag ban, among other proposals.
A key deadline also passed Wednesday, by which time lawmakers had to get bills not related to the budget passed out their original chambers.
Here’s a look at where things stand:
SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR:
POLICE DEADLY FORCE: Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill amending Initiative 940, the measure voters passed in November making it easier to prosecute police officers for negligent shootings. The bill updates the standard for prosecution, alters requirements for police to render first aid, and requires the state to reimburse an officer’s legal fees if they are acquitted. The changes were supported by both backers of the initiative and police groups. Due to an emergency clause, the changes take effect immediately.
PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY: A measure that would move the state’s presidential primary from May to March passed the Legislature days after Inslee kicked off his presidential campaign; he signed it Thursday.
NATIVE AMERICAN VOTING: A proposal requiring county officials to establish at least one voting drop box on any tribal reservation if requested by the tribe has been signed by the governor. The proposal also allows tribal members to register to vote using tribal identification cards and non-traditional addresses, including a narrative description of the location of a voter’s residence.
BUMP STOCK BUYBACK: A bill funding a bump stock buyback program was signed by Inslee Thursday. Washington legislators banned the rapid-fire devices in 2018 and established a buyback program at the same time, following the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, but neglected to allocate money for the buybacks in the budget that year. An emergency clause makes the funding immediate.
PUBLIC HEALTH CARE: A proposal from Inslee to create a limited public option has advanced in the Legislature, with separate House and Senate versions clearing floor votes in both chambers. Dubbed “Cascade Care,” it would require the state to contract with a private insurer to offer plans with capped doctor’s fees, which backers hope would translate to competitive premiums.
SMOKING AGE: A proposal to raise the smoking and vaping age in Washington to 21 awaits action in the state Senate after passing the House. The bill would target traditional tobacco and so-called “vape” products, including e-cigarettes and other vapor devices, as well as vape products that don’t contain nicotine.
PRESIDENTIAL TAX RETURNS: A proposal to require presidential candidates to surrender five years of tax returns to appear on the state ballot cleared the Senate. The state attorney general has said the proposal is probably Constitutional, but would definitely face a court challenge.
PLASTIC BAG BAN: A proposed ban on plastic bags has passed the Senate and awaits action in the House. The proposal would ban single-use plastic carryout bags and require retailers to charge for recycled or reusable bags in an effort to fight plastic pollution. Bags given out inside stores for things like loose parts, bulk foods, and fruits and vegetables would be exempt.
YOUTH RISK ORDERS: A proposal to expand extreme risk protection orders to include minors was approved by the Senate. The bill, which was proposed as a way to reduce mass shootings in schools and received bipartisan support, would allow courts to assign minors orders banning access to weapons.
LONG-TERM CARE: A proposal for a new employee-funded program that would create a benefit to help offset long-term care costs was approved by the House and awaits consideration by the Senate. Under the proposal, premiums of 0.58 percent of wages would start being collected from employees on Jan. 1, 2022. Starting Jan. 1, 2025, people who need assistance with at least three “activities of daily living” such as bathing, dressing or administration of medication, could tap into the fun.
CLEAN ENERGY: The centerpiece of Inslee’s climate agenda passed the Senate the same day Inslee kicked off his presidential campaign. The measure would require utilities to eliminate coal as an energy source by the end of 2025 as the first step toward the goal for utilities to provide carbon-free electricity by 2045.
VACCINE EXEMPTIONS: The House has advanced a measure seeking to remove parents’ ability to claim a personal or philosophical exemption for the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The Senate — which had introduced a broader bill for any required school vaccinations — has said it will take up the House bill and likely amend it. A measles outbreak has sickened at least 73 people in the state — all but one in Clark County.
TRANSPORTATION FUELS: Another bill supported by Inslee requires fuel producers and importers to reduce the carbon emissions associated with transportation fuels. That measure has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.
DEATH PENALTY: A measure to remove the death penalty from state law has passed the Senate and awaits action in the House. The move comes after the state’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down capital punishment as arbitrary and racially biased. The legislation would make that court ruling permanent by removing capital punishment as a sentencing option for aggravated murder.
HANFORD HEALTH: A bill to amend a 2018 law regarding Hanford workers who contract cancer has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate. The bill passed last year said workers can claim compensation for cancer if a medical exam when they started work at Hanford showed no evidence of cancer. This year’s proposal waives the proof of no cancer at the start of employment if a medical exam was not given at the time of hiring.
MENTAL HEALTH NETWORK: A plan from Inslee for a statewide network of regional mental health facilities has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate. The proposal would begin the process of shifting civil mental health treatment capacity from the state’s two central facilities to smaller, community-level facilities.
DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME: A pair of proposals that would put the state on permanent daylight savings time have both advanced in the Legislature, with House and Senate versions of the idea gaining approval in their respective chambers. Even if the idea clears the legislature, however, it wouldn’t take immediate effect: Both proposals would require federal approval.
INVOLUNTARY TREATMENT ACT: A proposal to extend the length of time a person can be initially held under the Involuntary Treatment Act has passed the Senate and awaits action in the House. The bill would extend the length of time from three working days to five, not counting weekends and holidays, effectively extending the total time to seven days in many cases. The bill would also expand the ability of hospitals to treat substance abuse patients.
DATA PRIVACY: A bill that would let consumers find out what data businesses have on them — and get it deleted it on request — passed the Senate. Affecting businesses that hold data on more than 100,000 people, the proposal would to allow consumers to find out what data is stored about them and request corrections or erasure, and also set rules for facial recognition technology.
NONCOMPETE CONTRACTS: A proposal to ban noncompete contracts for workers making less than $100,000 per year cleared the state Senate. A push by Seattle-based internet giant Amazon was partly behind the lowering of the threshold, which started out around $180,000; the lower threshold exempts many of Amazon’s Seattle employees, along with other high-paid tech workers.
PUBLIC RECORDS: A Senate bill that sought to set limits on what the legislative branch needs to release under public disclosure laws stalled in committee. Two House bills that would limit the timeframe of records that could be released never received a public hearing.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT DATA: A measure that would have required all three branches of state government to track and submit data regarding sexual harassment of employees never came up for a vote in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill would have required annual reports to include a variety of data, including the number of sexual harassment complaints made, how many were investigated, and what kind of corrective action was taken. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, four Washington lawmakers have either lost an election or resigned in the past year amid sexual misconduct allegations.
ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN: For at least the seventh year in a row a proposal to ban assault weapons, including semi-automatic rifles, appears to have stalled. Democratic committee chairs declined to schedule either of a pair of bills advancing the measure for preliminary hearings or votes.
HIGH CAPACITY MAGAZINES: Twinned proposals to ban high-capacity gun magazines were voted out of their policy committees but didn’t reach full votes in either the Senate or House after Democrats who control the floor voting schedules left both off.
PSYCHIATRIC RELEASE SITING: A proposal requiring violent felons previously committed to the state’s psychiatric hospitals to be released back into their own communities never made it out of its policy committee in the Senate. The proposal came from a Pierce County Senator whose district is home to one of the state’s two main psychiatric hospitals, and who claimed a disproportionate number of offenders were released there.
DWARF TOSSING: A proposal aimed at prohibiting dwarf tossing events in bars and nightclubs failed to reach a floor vote in the Senate.