Following article by Walker Orenstein And Rachel La Corte, The Associated Press appeared on Kitsap Sun on April 2, 2016.
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – Lawmakers adjourned Tuesday night after passing a supplemental budget, 20 days into an overtime special session. The list of legislation approved at the Capitol this year is long, but many bills died too. Here is the status of some:
PASSED WITHOUT GOVERNOR’S SIGNATURE:
CHARTER SCHOOLS: The state’s charter system was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in September, and the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6194 as an attempt to keep the schools operating and allow more to open in the future. The measure uses money from the Opportunity Pathways Account because the court took issue with how the alternative public schools were originally financed. Inslee on Friday decided to let the Legislature’s charter school fix become law without his signature. It’s the first time a Washington governor has let a bill become law without his signature since 1981.
SIGNED INTO LAW:
MCCLEARY PLAN: The Legislature passed Senate Bill 6195 early in the regular session, which promises that the 2017 Legislature will solve what the Supreme Court says is an overreliance on local levies to pay for basic education. The bill, dubbed by many as a “plan-for-a-plan” to fix the way the state pays for education, was signed in late February.
STATE-PATROL PAY RAISE: Troopers with Washington’s State Patrol will receive a new 5 percent pay raise on July 1 thanks to House Bill 2872. Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill, which also requires trooper pay to be competitive with local police departments starting in July of next year. Many troopers are leaving the patrol for higher paying jobs at local law enforcement agencies.
HOMELESS STUDENT HELP: Faced with a rising number of homeless students in Washington, lawmakers passed House Bill 1682, which will create grant programs to help the issue. The programs will provide homeless students with housing assistance, case management, transportation, emergency shelters and more. They will also help school districts hire more homeless liaisons. The budget passed by the Legislature contains $2 million for the bill.
FELONY DUI: House Bill 2280, signed by Inslee on Thursday, doubles maximum penalties for felony-level convictions of driving under the influence. A fifth DUI within 10 years is a Class C felony under existing law, and a DUI for a person previously convicted of vehicular homicide or vehicular assault while intoxicated also receives a Class C felony. The bill makes felony DUIs a Class B felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and $20,000.
POLICE TASK FORCE: Washington has one of the strictest standards in the nation for convicting police officers who improperly use deadly force, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. House Bill 2908 creates a task force to study use of deadly force in the state, existing deadly force laws, and make recommendations for how to reduce violent interactions with law enforcement. Inslee has not signed the bill yet, but it has been approved by the Legislature.
POLICE BODY CAMERAS: House Bill 2362 sets rules on what police body camera footage is available to the public and requires law enforcement agencies that use body cameras to establish policies on how and when officers use them. It also creates a task force to study how best to use police body cameras.
MONTANA COAL PLANT: Senate Bill 6248 creates a fund to help pay for an eventual shutdown of two coal-powered electricity plants in Colstrip, Montana. The bill lets Puget Sound Energy put money aside for future decommissioning and remediation costs of the power plants, but Inslee vetoed a section that only allowed the utility to use the money if the two plants are closed after 2023. The Colstrip Power Plant has four units, and the utility owns half of the older Colstrip Units 1 and 2. The plant is the 15th biggest producer of greenhouse gases in the country according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill does not require the plants to be shut down.
TEACHER SHORTAGE: Though the Legislature didn’t pass raises for beginning public school teachers meant to reduce the state’s shortage of teachers – a priority for House Democrats this year – they did pass Senate Bill 6455 that contains a number of approaches aimed at shrinking the shortage. The bill would allow new paths to becoming a teacher in Washington, create a grant program to aid some new teachers in financial need and would let some retired teachers become substitutes without hurting their retirement benefits.
AWAITING GOVERNOR’S SIGNATURE:
SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET: The supplemental budget passed by the Legislature increases spending in the current two-year, $38.2 billion dollar budget adopted in 2015 by $191 million and puts more money into the state’s mental health hospitals. It also includes $190 million from the state’s emergency fund to repair damage from last summer’s wildfires. Inslee praised the final budget when it was unveiled, but said he will look at it deeper before taking action on it.
VAPING REGULATION: Senate Bill 6328 creates regulations for companies selling vaping products such as e-cigarettes and the nicotine solutions that go into them. One regulation would require vapor products to have warning labels that alert potential users to the health effects of vaping. The bill stalled just before the end of the regular session, but was passed by the Legislature on the final day of the overtime special session.
LAWS THAT WERE DEAD DUE TO VETO, BUT REVIVED BY VETO OVERRIDES:
TESTIMONIAL PRIVILEGE: Legal protection will be given to information shared between people in alcohol and drug addiction recovery programs and their sponsors so that such confidences can’t be used in civil court cases. Under Senate Bill 6498, a person “who acts as a sponsor providing guidance, emotional support, and counseling in an individualized manner” to someone in a recovery program can’t testify in a civil action or proceeding about anything said in their conversations, unless the privilege is waived by the person in recovery or on account of their death.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP: Licensed growers will now be able to produce industrial hemp in Washington as part of a research program. Washington State University will be able to study the hemp growth under Senate Bill 6206 to see if widespread production statewide is feasible.
RAISING THE SMOKING AGE: For the second year in a row, an effort by lawmakers and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 died in the Legislature.
REPEAL TRANSGENDER BATHROOM PROTECTIONS: Washington has a rule that requires buildings open to the public to allow transgender people to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The policy that took effect on Dec. 26. Senate Bill 6443, the main attempt to reverse the rule, was voted down by the Senate in February.
OVERBROAD RECORDS REQUESTS: A bill aimed at reducing the effect of large record requests that can overload local agencies such as fire departments did not get a floor vote in the House. House Bill 2576 would have let local agencies limit the amount of time spent responding to records requests.
VOTING RIGHTS ACT: A measure seeking to reform representation of minorities in local elections died in the Senate for the fourth time in as many years. Though passed by the Democratic-controlled House during the regular session, House Bill 1745 made it through committee, but never came up for a floor vote in the Republican-led Senate. The measure would have opened the possibility of court challenges to cities, counties and school districts to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are present.
AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION: A measure that sought to help increase voter engagement passed the House but died in the Senate during the regular session. House Bill 2682 would have automatically registered people who aren’t on the voter rolls but already have or apply for an enhanced driver’s license or commercial driver’s licenses, both of which require citizenship verification.
PAY RAISE FOR TEACHERS: A proposal to raise the state’s portion of beginning teachers’ salaries from $35,700 to $40,000 to recruit and retain new public school teachers did not find its way into the final budget. House Democratic leaders have said they will try to hike salaries again next year.
TAX INCREASES: A bill aiming to send voters a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature for all future tax increases failed a Senate vote. Constitutional amendments need a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers before they can become a ballot measure statewide.