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News / Northwest

Washington special session to-do list long

Here's rundown on what has, hasn't been done so far

The Columbian
Published: April 28, 2015, 5:00pm
2 Photos
A duck walks on the grass near the legislative building Friday at the Capitol in Olympia.
A duck walks on the grass near the legislative building Friday at the Capitol in Olympia. Photo Gallery

OLYMPIA — Washington’s 64th Legislature sent 298 bills to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk during its 103-day 2015 session, but enough remains unaddressed that lawmakers are coming back to the Capitol today to continue work in a special session.

How long they might remain in session this year is yet to be determined. By law, a special session can run up to 30 days, though Inslee can call another one if the state’s business needs still more time.

Legislators’ to-do list for the coming days is weighty. The Democratic-held House and Republican-led Senate must work out their differences on the state budget, education spending and a transportation package or risk, respectively, a government shutdown, contempt penalties from the state Supreme Court, and still more decay and burdens for state transit and roads systems.

Those are all multibillion-dollar debates, and how they’re resolved will do much to determine whether this legislative year is viewed as a success or failure.

Here’s how other key bills have fared:

Signed into law

Inslee has put his signature to 128 bills that survived the Legislature this term, including three in which he struck language from the bills in partial vetoes. Inslee has issued no outright vetoes so far in 2015.

• Medical marijuana: Inslee signed Senate Bill 5052 to reconcile the state’s unregulated medical marijuana stores with its heavily taxed recreational marijuana market after vetoing minor sections. The new law creates a new voluntary registry for medical marijuana patients and eliminates the large collective gardens that provide cannabis to thousands under legally questionable setups. Patients will now be able to purchase medical-grade marijuana at legal recreational marijuana stores or participate in cooperative grows with membership capped at four patients. Collective gardens can go legal with licenses via a priority system that rewards businesses that previously paid business taxes.

• WSU medical school: A new law paves the way for a Washington State University medical school in Spokane. With Inslee’s signature, House Bill 1559 eliminated a restriction dating from 1917 that gives the University of Washington in Seattle the exclusive right to operate a public medical school in the state.

• Speed limits: Speed limits on state highways can now go up to 75 miles per hour after safety studies are conducted. Inslee vetoed a section of House Bill 2181 in which the Legislature found a section of Interstate 90 already safe enough for a higher limit.

• Returned weapons: Inslee signed a bill Tuesday to allow family members to request notification when police return confiscated weapons. The “Sheena Henderson Act,” Senate Bill 5381, is named for a woman killed by her husband in a Spokane murder-suicide in 2014. It passed the House and Senate unanimously.

Passed Legislature, awaiting Inslee’s signature

• Oil train safety: Late on the last day of the regular legislative session, the House and Senate each passed a compromise version of House Bill 1449, which requires companies shipping oil by train to notify authorities. It also extends a barrel tax on oil shipped by water to the trains, with the proceeds to go toward accident preparedness and cleanup. The bill doesn’t cover oil shipped via pipeline or the Puget Sound, and makes no minimum staffing requirements for oil trains, as some environmental advocates wanted.

• Involuntary detention: “Joel’s Law,” a measure to set up a system for families to petition for court review if a mental health professional refuses to detain a person under the Involuntary Treatment Act, has passed the House and Senate. Senate Bill 5269 is named for Joel Reuter, who was killed in a confrontation with Seattle police his parents say was brought on by a psychotic episode.

• Psychiatric boarding: A bill that establishes rules for people held under single-bed certifications under the Involuntary Treatment Act has passed both the House and Senate. Senate Bill 5649 addresses the need to find beds for mentally ill people held in hospitals following a Supreme Court ruling that said they must get treatment. The bill also says regional support networks must provide services to ensure treatment for people held under the Involuntary Treatment Act.

• Junior hockey: A bill to exempt Washington’s four Western Hockey League teams from the state’s child labor laws cleared the Legislature by wide margins after team owners said they might have to otherwise close down or move. Senate Bill 5893 says the league’s 16- to 20-year-old players, who receive cash stipends and college scholarships, are not considered employees.

• Cellphone surveillance: The Legislature unanimously passed House Bill 1440, which requires a warrant for a “Stingray” device that electronically simulates a cellphone tower to collect information from nearby devices.

Not passed

• Recreational marijuana: House-Senate negotiations broke down as the session drew to a close over House Bill 2136, which would revise the form and amount of taxes on the state’s recreational marijuana market. Senate Republicans and House Democrats differ over how they want to spend marijuana revenues. Joint negotiations are to resume this week.

• College tuition: A bill that would decrease tuition at Washington’s colleges and universities passed the Senate but did not advance in the House. Senate Bill 5954 would link tuition at state schools to a percentage of the average wage for Washington workers.

• Electric vehicles: Two Inslee-requested bills in the House and Senate to extend the sales tax exemption on electric vehicles for another 10 years did not advance out of committee after public hearings. House Bill 1925 and Senate Bill 5445 extend a sales tax exemption that is set to expire in July to July 2025. It would also limit the tax break to the first $60,000 in purchase price. The idea could see new life in transportation-package negotiations.

• Minimum wage: A measure to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour over the next four years passed the House but did not make it out of committee in the Senate. Absent a minimum-wage boost by the Legislature, billionaire Nick Hanauer has said he plans to put a ballot initiative for a $16 minimum wage before state voters in 2016.

• Paid sick time: A bill that would require some employers to offer paid sick time away from work met the same fate as the minimum-wage increase: passed the Democratic-led House, did not advance after a public hearing in the Republican-held Senate. House Bill 1356 also would have allowed employees time off to seek legal or law enforcement assistance if their safety, or that of a family member, was at risk.

• Property crime: A proposal backed by Inslee targeted at reducing Washington’s worst-in-the-nation property crime rate passed the Senate but did not get a floor vote in the House. Senate Bill 5755 would reinstate community supervision for a year for convicts who finish their time behind bars.

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• Payday loans: A bill backed by Seattle-based Moneytree to reshape the state’s payday loan regulations and allow longer-term borrowing survived a contentious Senate debate but was not taken up by the House. Senate Bill 5899 would replace traditional two-week, high-interest consumer loans with “installment loans” that could extend — and accrue interest and monthly fees — over several months.

• Distracted driving: A bill to expand the state’s ban on texting and hand-held cellphone conversations while driving passed the Senate but stalled before it reached the House floor. Senate Bill 5656 would have created a $209 ticket for a driver caught using a cellphone by hand for any purpose except turning on voice operation, including dealing with map programs, while the car is on the road.

• Involuntary Treatment Act: House Bill 1536, which would change the timeline for holding a person under the Involuntary Treatment Act, passed the House but did not get a committee hearing in the Senate. The bill says that only after a person’s medical issues are treated would a three-hour deadline to receive a mental health evaluation begin.

• Campaign finance: A bill to require disclosure of donors to politically active nonprofits passed both the Senate and House in slightly different forms but hit a dead end when the Senate declined to bring it back up to resolve technical differences. Senate Bill 5153 would require the groups to identify their top 10 donors over $10,000 and all donors of $100,000 or more.

• Initiative costs: A measure to note the potential financial impact of initiatives under a measure passed the Senate but did not get a floor vote in the House. Senate Bill 5715 seeks to include the fiscal impact of the measure on the actual ballot if it costs or reduces spending by more than $25 million over two years.

• E-cigarettes: Inslee-backed bills in the House and Senate to increase taxes and impose new restrictions on electronic cigarettes, or “vaping,” did not receive floor votes in either chamber.