Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Feb. 1, 2023

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At session’s midpoint, it’s life or death for bills backed by Clark County legislators

By , Columbian staff reporter

With the 2020 Legislature past it midpoint, it’s becoming clearer which bills sponsored by Clark County lawmakers will make it to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk and which will fade to an unceremonious death.

Wednesday was the latest cutoff date for the House and Senate to approve legislation that originated in each chamber.

Democrats hold strong majorities in the Legislature, 28-21 in the Senate and 57-41 in the House. That makes it easier for three Democratic legislators from the 49th Legislative District to push their bills through and more difficult for six Republican lawmakers from the 17th and 18th districts to get the same traction.

Here is a look at a some of the bills backed by county legislators, grouped by issue, plus a little information about bills that appear to be dead:

Sex education

During the session’s second week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 5395 by a 28-21 vote. The bill requires every public school to provide comprehensive sex education by September 2021.

Another sex ed, House Bill 2184, sponsored by Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, cleared the House Education Committee but did not make it onto the House floor prior to last week’s cutoff.

The House Education Committee held a Thursday public hearing on the SB 5395, with the potential for some of Stonier’s bill to be folded into Senate bill.

Tiffany Hill

A bill to provide electronic monitoring and real-time victim notification, sponsored by Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, appears to be heading toward approval following November’s killing of Hill by her estranged husband.

The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 5149 on Jan. 31. The House Public Safety Committee heard testimony Thursday and took the unusual step of forwarding the bill out of committee with a unanimous “do pass” recommendation immediately afterward.

Rep Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, sponsored another bill in response to Hill’s death, House Joint Resolution 4210. The legislation would ask voters to amend the state Constitution so judges could deny bail to a defendant who violates a court order by obtaining or attempting to obtain a gun.

The bill received a Feb. 4 public hearing before the House Public Safety Committee but failed to advance.

Wylie said she knew all along that “a constitutional amendment in a short session is a heavy lift,” but she intends to continue working on the issue during the interim before the 2021 Legislature.

Nikki Kuhnhausen

Wylie had more success with limiting so-called panic defenses after Kuhnhausen, a Vancouver transgender teen, was killed last year.

House Bill 1687, which has been named “the Nikki Kuhnhausen Act,” would block a defendant from using a panic defense based on discovery or disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender or sexual orientation. More specifically, the bill would prevent a claim of “diminished capacity” because the defendant did not fully comprehend the nature and gravity of the alleged crime.

Wylie isn’t even listed as a co-sponsor on the bill, which had been introduced during the 2019 session. She delivered passionate comments on the House floor before it passed by a 90-5 vote on Feb. 12. The Senate Law and Justice Committee held a public hearing on the bill Wednesday and voted it out of committee with a “do pass” recommendation.


Although much of the legislative attention has been on proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, local lawmakers are sponsoring other firearms legislation.

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, proposed Senate Bill 6402, to create a new crime for unlawful use of a stolen gun, which would be a Class B felony.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee sent her bill out of committee with a “do pass” recommendation, but the bill never made it to the Senate floor for a vote.

Wilson sponsored Senate Bill 6406, which would create a specific offense for stealing a gun from a home, store or vehicle and make it a Class B felony.

Wilson’s legislation suffered the same fate as Rivers’ bill: passed out of the committee, but never made it to the Senate floor.

In-state manufacturing

Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, sponsored House Bill 2879, which directs Washington Commerce Department, in consultation with the Legislature, to complete a study of public policies to boost manufacturing in all of Washington’s 39 counties.

The department will need to regularly with an advisory group of manufacturing stakeholders and consult with other state agencies to complete the study and issue recommendations by the end of 2020.

The House unanimously approved the legislation Wednesday.

“The time is right to help the manufacturing industry be as successful as (it) possibly can,” Vick said in a statement. “This bill will help us determine what’s working and what isn’t, and how to fix it.”

According to Vick, manufacturers are responsible for more than 287,000 jobs and add more than $58 billion to the state’s economy. More than 80 percent of all products exported from Washington are manufactured goods.

Caregiver protection

Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, sponsored Senate Bill 6205 to better protect in-home caregivers following October’s shooting at Smith Tower Apartments in Vancouver.

The bill, which the Senate approved 37-11 Monday, directs state agencies to work with caregivers to develop protocols for reporting and addressing harassment, abuse and discrimination.

Cleveland proposed the legislation after Robert Breck killed one man and wounded two women in a shooting and standoff that received national media attention. One of the women shot was his former in-home care provider who rejected his offer to pay her to be his mistress.

“Sadly, it took the tragic shootings of a caregiver and a patient and a resident to bring attention to this need,” Cleveland said in a statement. “The truth is that caregivers have been facing harassment and discrimination in private home settings for some time.”

Occupational licenses

Vick has pursued a series of bills to streamline the process for obtaining state professional licenses for hairdressers, cosmetologists, engineers and other occupations.

According to Vick, Washington currently has 26 regulatory agencies that add hundreds, or even thousands, of new rules, policies and penalties every year.

Two of Vick’s bills unanimously passed the House on Wednesday.

One proposal, House Bill 2477, requires any professional license created after July 31 be for the exclusive purpose of protecting the public interest and establishes criteria for determining the best method of regulation.

Another proposal, House Bill 2356, would reduce barriers to professional licenses for people with criminal convictions. The bill would create a preliminary application process to determine if criminal history would disqualify the person from receiving a license.

“Anyone who has fulfilled the terms of their sentence should be able to work again,” Vick said in a statement. “Obviously, someone who has committed a financial crime would not be able to get a license in the financial sector. But if someone wanted to become a plumber, for example, a past, nonrelated conviction shouldn’t prevent him or her from getting licensed in Washington.”

Domestic workers

Stonier sponsored House Bill 2511 to protect nannies, housekeepers, cooks, gardeners and other workers from sexual harassment and discrimination and retaliation.

The House approved the legislation, which was requested by Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, by a 59-39 vote Tuesday.

Washington’s current laws exclude domestic workers from many key protections. Under current law, most domestic workers have no recourse against sexual harassment other than to quit their job.

“Domestic workers care for some of our most vulnerable neighbors, including children, the elderly and people with disabilities,” Stonier said in a statement. “They deserve to be treated fairly and to be protected from harassment and abuse while providing this invaluable service to our community.”

Forest landowners

Rep. Larry Hoff, R-Vancouver, sponsored House Bill 2714 to assist small-forest landowners.

The Forestry Riparian Easement Program allows the Washington Department of Natural Resources to purchase 50-year easements from small-forest landowners for up to 50 percent of the value of unharvested timber left standing along the banks of rivers and other sensitive aquatic areas.

If the state develops methods, protocols and markets for valuing carbon, HB 2714 would provide an opportunity for small-forest landowners to receive compensation for the value of the carbon stored in forest riparian easements.

“The Forestry Riparian Easement Program impacts the lives of many small-forest landowners in Clark County and around the state,” Hoff said in a statement. “My bill would support these individuals by providing a way for them to receive compensation for the value of the carbon they’re sequestering in unharvested timber.”

The House approved HB 2714 unanimously on Feb. 16.

Reporting child abuse

Cleveland sponsored Senate Bill 6556, which the Senate approved unanimously on Feb. 14, to improve Washington’s dysfunctional hotline for reporting child abuse.

The hotline, operated by Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families, has struggled with long hold times when mandatory child abuse reporters, such as teachers and nurses, call in. Those wait times have led to high rates of abandoned calls, prompting concerns that child abuse is going unreported.

SB 6556 directs the state to create a web-based reporting portal and a call-back mechanism where mandatory reporters could leave a call-back number if they were placed on hold.

Title-only bill

These are bills that are introduced as single-sentence placeholders, with the details to be filled in later.

Senate Joint Resolution 8214, sponsored by Wilson, would ask voters to amend the Washington Constitution to prohibit tile-only bills, but the legislation failed to get a hearing, much less to make it onto the Senate floor.

Wilson tweeted out a simple message on Feb. 14: “Well … I tried.”

Columbian staff reporter