If guys with white beards and red suits are posing for photos with children and trees are decorated with twinkling lights and ornaments, it can only mean one thing.
Not that Christmas thing.
It means a legislative session will be starting in about a month, and some folks are scrambling to get their great ideas filed before the post-holiday rush.
The Washington Legislature allows bills to be “prefiled” in December, possibly as a way to get the creative juices flowing before all the lawmakers rush back into Olympia and the legislative machinery gets flooded. Among the scores of pre-filed bills so far are some brand new ideas, some adjustments to existing laws and some chestnuts being thrown back onto the fire to see if they will pop.
One new idea that sounds like an old one comes from Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, to make “The Evergreen State” the official nickname of Washington.
Wait a minute, some readers probably just said. “The Evergreen State” is the nickname of Washington. We even have a state college called that.
Washington was nicknamed “the Evergreen State” by a pioneer Seattle real estate broker, newspaperman and historian named Charles Tallmadge Conover in the early part of the last century when he was pushing a national campaign to boost the city and the state. Even though the phrase stuck, it was never officially adopted as the state nickname.
Over the years, the Legislature has adopted a plethora of official state things: a fish, an amphibian, a fossil, a marine mammal, an endemic mammal, a vegetable, an oyster — and on and on. With a list that long, Honeyford’s proposal might be a no-brainer.
There also are several proposals to roll back restrictions placed on law enforcement in last year’s session, including bills by several House Republicans to allow a greater use of physical force when arresting and detaining suspects, and to broaden the use of vehicular pursuits. Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, would like to raise the maximum penalty for assaulting a police officer from five years to 10 years.
The state’s new long-term services and care program is likely to get lots of attention next year. Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, has an early bill that calls for a study of financial products people could buy or employers could offer like annuities or life insurance to take its place.
A pair of House Democrats want a ban on firearms and other dangerous weapons in election offices, voting centers and ballot counting centers. Law enforcement and security officers would be exempt from the law, which would be a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
Rep. Rob Chase, R-Spokane Valley, is co-sponsoring a state constitutional amendment to put term limits on legislators and statewide elected officials. Voters rejected term limits by initiative in 1991 but approved them in 1992, only to have the state Supreme Court rule such changes had to be constitutional amendments, not initiatives, which are simply statutes.
The odds of success are probably no better or worse for pre-filed bills than similar legislation on the same topic filed after the session starts. One proposal that may have the least chance of becoming law in the next session is from Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, to require “informed consent” for any woman seeking an abortion, along with a waiting period of at least 24 hours.
While some states have competed to find new ways to restrict abortion in hopes of getting the nod from the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington voters approved legal abortion before Roe v. Wade, and Democrats who control Legislature, along with Gov. Jay Inslee, have shown no inclination to put up restrictions.
If one could bet on legislation like one can bet on sports, there would be no odds posted for an informed consent bill passing, and maybe 1,000-to-1 on it even getting a hearing.