OLYMPIA — With the 60-day Washington state legislative session more than half over, one bill related to immigration has been sent to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. Both the House and Senate have given final approval to the measure, which would expand college financial aid to include students who were brought to the state illegally as children.
But many bills tackling issues from toxic products to tanning bed usage for teens have passed through one chamber, and it remains to be seen whether they will move forward and make it to the governor’s desk.
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said he’s pleased the immigrant financial aid bill cleared both chambers.
“It gives hope that others could pass,” he said of the bills, including one that would require paid sick leave for some employees.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said larger work remains. He cited the budget, reform efforts on K-12 education and transportation as the top issues. Even with that work, he said he
thinks the session will end on time.
“There’s not too many things I can predict here, but a 60-day session is one of them,” he said.
Here’s a look at some bills that remain in play and others that appear to be dead.
• MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Measures to reconcile the state’s medical marijuana system with the new legal recreation market are considered necessary to implement the budget, and therefore are not subject to cutoff deadlines. However, the House version passed out this week, with changes including reducing the amount of marijuana and number of plants patients can possess, doing away with collective gardens and establishing a patient registry. Lawmakers have worried that the largely unregulated medical system would undercut the taxed, recreational industry. Meanwhile, U.S. Justice Department officials have warned that the state’s medical pot status quo is untenable.
A separate bill being heard by the House Finance Committee would create a sales and use tax exemption for qualified patients that purchase marijuana or marijuana-infused products for medical use from authorized retail outlets licensed by the Liquor Control Board. Because that bill is also considered a budgetary bill, it’s not subject to cutoff deadlines.
The medical marijuana overhaul bill is House Bill 2149, and the Senate Bills are 5887 and 6178. The sales tax exemption bill is House Bill 2198.
• INDUSTRIAL HEMP: Industrial hemp would be allowed to be grown in the state under a measure that passed the House. The measure authorizes the director of the Department of Agriculture to issue licenses to grow industrial hemp. The department would be designated as the sole source and supplier of seeds used for industrial-hemp production. Hemp is used to make a variety of different products, including clothing, food, beauty products and biofuels. (House Bill 1888)
• TANNING BEDS: Tanning facilities would be banned for those under age 18, under a bill passed by the Senate. Facilities that allow people under age 18 to use a tanning device could be fined up to $250 per violation. (SB 6065)
• FISHING WARS: American Indian tribal members who were arrested before 1975 could apply to the court to expunge their misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony convictions if they were exercising their treaty fishing rights, under a measure passed by the House. (HB 2080)
• DRONES, GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE: Two bills passed by the House would restrict the use of drones and government surveillance. One would limit the purchase and use of unmanned aircraft systems by state and local agencies and the other would ban the unauthorized use of drones, or other unmanned aircraft with sensing devices, above private property. (HB 2178 and 2789)
• TOXIC PRODUCTS: A House bill would ban some chemical flame retardants from household furniture and children’s products such as strollers and changing pads. (House Bill 1294)
• GAY CONVERSION: A bill intended to prevent health care providers from trying to convert gay people under age 18 passed the House and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Health Care. The measure would make it an act of unprofessional conduct to try to change the sexual orientation of a patient under 18. (House Bill 2451)
• PAID SICK LEAVE: A bill that would guarantee paid sick time away from work for some employees passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. The bill would require employers with more than four full-time employees to provide paid leave for specified medical reasons. It would also cover work absences to care for children, spouses, parents, grandparents and parents-in-law. (House Bill 1313)
• CAR DEALERS/MANUFACTURERS: Amended bills passed in the House and Senate that would allow Tesla Motors, manufacturer of electric cars, to continue and expand its system of selling cars directly from the manufacturer to the customer. (HB 2524 and SB 6272)
• OIL TRAIN SAFETY: A bill passed through the House, backed by environmental groups, would study the state’s ability to respond to oil train accidents. It also authorizes the state to come up with new rules requiring tug escorts for oil tankers entering Grays Harbor and the Columbia River. (House Bill 2347)
• TRAFFICKING VICTIMS: A bill passed through the House would allow a victim of trafficking to have prostitution convictions cleared from their records. (HB 1292)
• 24-CREDIT DIPLOMA: A bill passed by the Senate would allow Career and Technical classes to meet certain graduation requirements under the state’s new 24-credit high school diploma, scheduled to go into effect with the graduating class of 2016. (SB 6552)
• CHILD CARE DEATHS: A bill that would require formal investigations of child care centers when a death occurs, even if the child appears to have died from natural causes, has passed the House. (House Bill 2165).
• QUALITY IMPROVEMENT FOR EARLY LEARNING: Two lawmakers from across the political aisle proposed a new multimillion-dollar push for high-quality preschools in a bill which passed in the House. The program would involve financial incentives, intensive mentoring and training for preschool teachers and quality improvements for the kids of parents trying to work their way off welfare. (House Bill 2377)
• STATE WATERFALL: The measure passed by the House would designate Palouse Falls in southeastern Washington as the official state waterfall. (HB 2119)
• MCCLEARY DECISION/EDUCATION BUDGET: Education leaders from both political parties are meeting with the governor to talk about how they should respond to the Supreme Court’s ordered improvement in education spending. Lawmakers and policy experts say the Legislature needs to find as much as $5 billion in new money by the end of the 2017-2018 school year. This effort could be part of the budget bill or just result in a report to the court.
• PAY IT FORWARD: A bill still in the House Appropriations Committee would let college students attending public schools to pay nothing upfront for tuition. Instead, they’d pay after leaving school in the form of a small, fixed percentage of their future income for up to 25 years. Because it could be considered a budgetary bill, it’s not subject to cutoff deadlines. (House Bill 2720)
• MINIMUM WAGE: A bill to increase what is already the highest state minimum wage in the nation to $12 an hour over the next three years passed a policy committee, but died in a House fiscal committee. (House Bill 2672.)
• ABORTION INSURANCE: For the third year in a row, Democratic state lawmakers have pushed for a measure that would require insurers offering maternity care to also cover elective abortions, but as in the past, after passing the House, it is not expected to advance in the Senate. Opponents have argued that business owners and others would be required to pay for policies that are out of line with their personal beliefs. (House Bill 2148)
• TEACHER-PRINCIPAL EVALUATIONS: None of the proposals to revise the state’s new teacher-principal evaluation system have been approved. The state’s waiver from provisions of the No Child Left Behind law appears to be in danger because Washington law suggests, but does not insist, that statewide test results be used as a factor in teacher evaluations. This issue could come back to life during budget negotiations because it would affect spending of about $44 billion in federal dollars.
• DNA PRESERVATION: A measure to impose an 18-month moratorium on destruction of DNA evidence in felony cases passed a House committee but was not brought to the floor for a vote. House Bill 2468 also would have created a work group to recommend permanent, statewide standards for preserving DNA material.
• DRUNKEN DRIVING: A measure that would have made it a felony charge to drive under the influence when the driver has three prior offenses within 10 years never came up for a vote in the Senate. Concerns had been expressed about the costs of implementing the measure. Under current law, a DUI is a felony only if there are four or more prior offenses within 10 years. (Senate Bill 6090)
• PAID VACATION: A bill would have required accrual of paid vacation leave for employees who work an average of 20 or more hours per week for employers with 25 or more employees. (House Bill 2238)
• REDUCED CLASS SIZES: A House bill that hasn’t gained traction would lower class sizes in public schools and help encourage the hiring of more teachers and other staff members. (House Bill 2589)
• GMO LABELING: Two measures would require labeling genetically engineered salmon for sale, even though federal regulators have not yet approved any genetically modified animals for food. Companion bills in the House and Senate would also prohibit genetically engineered fish with fins from being produced in state waters. Neither bill made it out of committee. (House Bill 2347 and Senate Bill 6184)
• EASIER VOTING: Two bills that would make it easier to drop off a ballot or put it in the mail failed to pass out of a House committee.
• IMMIGRATION-FINANCIAL AID: A measure to expand college financial aid to include students who were brought to the state illegally as children passed both the Senate and House with bipartisan support. The measure requires students to have received a high school diploma or equivalent in Washington state and to have lived in the state for at least three years beforehand. The bill allocates $5 million through June 30, 2015, from the general fund to pay for the financial aid payments under the state needs-grant program. Gov. Jay Inslee will sign it in the coming weeks.
LIKELY GOING TO VOTERS
• GUN INITIATIVES: The House and Senate held public hearings on two gun initiatives, but did not advance them out of their respective committees, which means that voters will weigh in on them in November. Initiative 594 would require universal background checks on all firearm sales in Washington. Initiative 591 would prevent the state from adopting background-check laws stricter than the national standard, which requires the checks for sales by licensed dealers but not for purchases from private sellers. It would also prohibit confiscation of firearms without due process.