Archive for WA House

Birth control bill passes out of House

By | February 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

Women could pick up a year’s worth of contraceptives at the pharmacy under a bill passed out of the House on Thursday.

House Bill 2465 requires private health insurers and Medicaid to reimburse women for a 12-month supply of contraceptive drugs. It passed with a vote of 91-6, and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

getty_rf_photo_of_birth_control_pillsWatch TVW video of the House floor here.

Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, voted in support of the bill, saying she’s heard from many women who are waiting for this to go into effect.

“It’s a very common-sense solution to preventing unintended pregnancies,” she said. “It will make lives a lot easier for all women who use contraceptives.”

Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup, also spoke in favor of the bill.

“This to me is about two crucial pieces for women, access and consistency,” she said. “Women who live in rural areas or have difficulty accessing transportation often have a hard time getting to their pharmacist to get a prescription.”

Categories: Healthcare, TVW, WA House

Lawmakers hear testimony on bill to change deadly force law for police

By | February 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

A proposal that would change the standard in Washington for which police officers could be charged with a crime for improper use of deadly force drew an overflow crowd to Olympia on Wednesday.

Under current state law, a police officer cannot be held criminally liable for using deadly force when acting “without malice and with a good faith.”

House Bill 2907 would change that, removing immunity for officers acting without malice and with good faith. It also outlines when deadly force is justifiable.

“Its time to change this immeasurable, impossible to prove, and imprecise law. Why? Because we are dealing with high value lives,” said Karen Johnson with the Black Alliance of Thurston County, who requested the legislation.

She said there is a lack of trust between communities and law enforcement.

Watch TVW video of the hearing here.

Prime sponsor of the bill Rep. Luis Moscoso, D- Bothell, said there needs to be an open and transparent discussion about police shootings.

“There’s not a person in this room that hasn’t been paying attention to a lot the shootings in this country,” he said. “We are all concerned about why that’s been happening and how we can prevent that.” We need to have a civil discussion on the issue.”

Tom McBride, the executive secretary of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, testified in opposition to the bill. He refuted the idea that police officers are not prosecuted for wrongdoing.

“There’s not a resistance to filing charges when they’re deserved, whether it’s a police officer or anyone else,” he said. “What we are interested in is a fair standard upon which to base our decisions.”

He said that fair standard has to take into account what police officers are asked to do each day, which is put themselves into “ambiguous, high-risk situations.”

Also speaking in opposition to the bill was Troy Meyers, an instructor at at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

“One of the things that I have to tell them with every graduating class is that the state has their back if they act with good faith,” he said. “I don’t want to have to stop saying that.”

Meyers said that while much of the debate has focused on racial injustice, the bill doesn’t do anything to address race or mental health problem.

“I expect my state to address those things head-on if that’s really our concern,” he said.

An overflow room waits to testify at the House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. More than 65 people signed in to testify.

An overflow room at the House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. More than 65 people signed in to testify.

Carlos Bratcher with the Seattle chapter of the National Black Police Association urged lawmakers to pass the bill, saying it will provide clarity to police officer. He said he’s shocked over what he’s seen in the last few years with police shootings

“As with any good practicing law enforcement officer, if I have a colleague or another officer that commits the use of deadly force under questionable circumstances, I want to see them being held accountable, as does any citizen in the state,” he said.

Other supporters say is too difficult to prosecute police officers in Washington. Pastor Richmond Johnson said the current law ties the hands of prosecutors — even when prosecution is needed.

“There’s a negative effect when the culture says shoot first. I’m persuaded that ‘shooting first’ is a result of a weak mind. We’ve got to turn the culture around,” said Johnson, who is the director of Partnering for Youth Achievement in Bremerton and has served on a police and community task force.

Mitch Barker represents the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and spoke in opposition to the bill.

He said the goal should not be to prosecute more officers, but to find a way to reduce the number of police shootings.

The committee also heard House Bill 2908, which would create a joint legislative task force on community policing standards, as well as a House Bill 2882 requiring law enforcement to collect data on deadly force incidents. Many of those who testified in favor of the deadly force bill were also in favor of the other bills.

House passes bill modifying Equal Pay Act, 56-41

By | February 4, 2016 | 0 Comments

The House passed a bill off the floor Wednesday that makes it easier for coworkers to share information about their salaries and aims to prevent gender discrimination in the workplace.

House Bill 1646 modifies the state’s Equal Pay Act so that an employer cannot retaliate against workers for wage discussions in the workplace. It also prohibits employers from assigning people “less favorable” jobs because of their gender.

Watch TVW video here. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 2.11.16 PMRep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, is the sponsor of the bill. She said paying people differently for the same job is “unfair, unbelievable and frankly un-American.”

“Today’s fight is about equal pay,” she said. “We are not asking business to rearrange their payroll. We simply are asking … for people to have the information they need to make the most basic of informed decisions.”

Under the bill, workers can seek actual damages or statutory damages of up to $5,000 and attorney fees if the Equal Pay Act is violated.

Rep. Luanne Van Werven, R-Lynden, urged a no vote on the bill. “I have concerns that this will do nothing to empower women, however, it will empower attorneys,” she said.

She said women have been protected under federal law since 1963. “It is against the law to not provide equal pay for equal work,” she said.

Members debated an amendment before passing the bill that would have eliminated the section that makes it a “violation for receiving less favorable employment opportunities,” among other things.

Republican Rep. Shelly Short of Addy introduced the amendment, saying it was important to have  “succinct direction to both our employers and employees.”

But Democrats said the amendment waters down the bill. Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, said the amendment would make the bill “almost ineffective in actually doing anything.”

The amendment failed. The final bill passed on a 56-41 vote, and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Categories: TVW, WA House

House passes education funding bill, 64-34

By | January 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

The House passed a bill off the floor Monday that requires next year’s Legislature to end the state’s overreliance on local school levies to pay for basic education.

House Bill 2366 also collects data on teacher compensation and local levies, and creates a task force to continue working on the issue before the 2017 Legislature convenes.

Watch TVW video of the floor debate here.

Rep. Matt Manweller

Rep. Matt Manweller

Republican Rep. Matt Manweller voted against the bill, describing one section of the bill as a “poison pill to the extent that it’s a deal killer.”

The section states that “legislative action shall be taken by the end of the 2017 session to eliminate school district dependency on local levies” to fund public schools.

Manweller said that language forces “someone else do the job that we are either unwilling to do or cannot do.”

He said the section was placed in the bill to appease the Washington Supreme Court, which is holding the state in contempt for failing to provide a plan for how it will adequately fund basic education. 

Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said the bill is not about appeasing the court, but about “living up to a promise to a million school kids we made in 2009.”

Sullivan said he supports both the bill and the section language.

“The bill we have before us today puts forward the next promise,” he said. “The promise that we’ll fix a broken school employee compensation system.”

The bill passed with a vote of 64-34, and heads to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration.

Democratic leaders said at a press event Monday that Senate Republicans told them they would not move the bill forward if it contains the section debated on the House floor.

However, Senate Republicans told reporters Tuesday that they are continuing to study the bill.

“We are going to take a look at the legislation as it comes to our caucus,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. “We aren’t shrugging anything off and that narrative is completely false,” he said.

Gov. Jay Inslee praised the passage of the bill, saying the House “vote keeps us moving in the right direction.”

Categories: WA House

Proposed fireworks ban draws strong opposition

By | January 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

A proposed ban on summer fireworks drew strong opposition at a House committee on Thursday, with many arguing that it would be devastating to nonprofit groups that rely on firework sales for funding.

House Bill 2310 would ban the sale and use of fireworks from June 1 to Sept. 30. Fireworks purchased legally elsewhere could not be discharged in Washington. It would also ban outdoor burning from July 1 to Sept. 30. The bill expires on September 30, 2016.

Democrat Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, a firefighter from Sequim, is the primary sponsor of the bill. He said he hopes it will prevent wildfires like those that burned across Eastern Washington last summer, costing the state $250 million and resulting in the deaths of three firefighters.

“I’m personally at a point where we need to do something substantial,” Van De Wege said at the hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. “This is a bill that starts in a way that is the most stringent probably possible.”

He also aims to clarify what he said can be a muddled message about burn bans. He said that people can become confused as burn bans are issued by the Department of Natural Resources and individual counties, which makes enforcement difficult.

“When people are burning in a burn ban, they’re either truly confused or they play stupid and they can get away with it,” he said.

Several people testified against the bill at the hearing, saying that people are already decreasing their use of fireworks during wildfire season voluntarily. Others noted that border states and tribal reservations will still be allowed to sell and discharge fireworks.

Joel Cowart, owner of Pyroland Fireworks in Sumner, said the bill was the state taking a position to “willfully impede” his business.

“This bill right here gives us no legal option to unload the products that we have in our warehouse and is full impedement of my business. I ask that you guys shoot this down at the committee level,” he said.

His concerns were echoed by Katie Westall of Thunder Fireworks, who said that most retailers are buying their products now — far before their selling period in summer. That’s in addition to the cost of licensing fees and land leases.

“If this ban goes into effect, retailers would be out of anywhere from $10,000 to $150,000 dollars,” she said. “Wholesalers will be stuck with product that they’re unable to distribute, retailers would be stuck with a product that they’re unable to sell and an entire industry would fall into debt.”

Westall also argued that nonprofit groups that use firework sales as a fundraiser would be impacted. She said many rely on the funds because there’s a short selling period and a high potential for profit.

“Hundreds of nonprofit groups around the state will struggle to pay their bills, buy their uniforms or will cease to exist all together,” she said.

Ed Murphy, president of the Jet Steppers Square Dance Club, said his club relies on revenue from firework sales each summer to pay the cost of the club’s operations each year.

“The social fabric, the environment that we live in, is enriched by what we do,” he said.

Only one person spoke in favor of the bill: Madeline Goodwin, a Master’s of Environmental Studies student at Evergreen State College. She said she had no opinion on the fireworks portion of the bill, but said the burn ban was an important step in preventing wildfires.

“It’s fun to roast marshmallows, but I would rather roast my marshmallows over a camp stove or wait until the rains are here then have fun roasting a marshmallow and then ‘Oops,’ I just lit the forest on fire,” she said. “Accidents happen, it doesn’t matter how good you are at maintaining your fires and keeping them safe. A sudden gust of wind is very unpredictable.”

After the hearing, Van De Wege said it was clear to him that the bill would not  move forward with the fireworks ban in place. He said he filed the bill in its “toughest” form, “totally expecting it wouldn’t be implemented into law.”

Van De Wege told committee members he was open to amending the bill “to make it work for how the committee sees fit.”

 

 

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Breakfast after bell measure passes out of committee

By | January 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 1.09.39 PMThe House Education Committee voted Thursday to advance House Bill 1295 requiring certain schools to provide students with breakfast after the beginning of the school day. It passed out of committee on a vote of 17-4. Watch the hearing here.

The “Breakfast After the Bell” program would be implemented starting in the 2016-17 school year at schools where at least 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Before members passed the bill, they debated an amendment that would have reduced the amount of refined sugar allowed in breakfast foods from the current 35 percent to 25 percent.

Republican Rep. Michelle Caldier of Port Orchard sponsored the amendment, saying that some doughnuts fall under the current federal requirements of 35 percent.

“I did a little bit of research and found that quite a few of sugary snacks include 31 percent by weight,” she said. “I’m a dentist by trade and I have a huge problem with the amount of sugary foods that children are eating and the rates of disease in children by obesity.”

Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, supported the amendment. “When I was doing my student teaching, the teacher that I was student teaching under brought doughnuts for the kids to eat first thing in the morning and I had an extremely hard time controlling the kids on that sugar high the rest of the day,” he said.

Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, also spoke in support of the amendment, mentioning a TVW segment on the Breakfast After the Bell program. He said that it showed kids receiving Pop Tarts toward that end and “that’s when it lost me.”

“I think its important to control our processes sugar intake but especially our childrens because they already go through such swings in energy level and we are trying to keep them as low as possible through the day and we want them in the right condition to learn at maximum efficiency,” Magendanz said.

Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, said she appreciated the amendment, but it needs more research and could place a burden on schools to determine the amount of sugar in each product.

“Serving our children the healthiest meals is something I definitely would support,” she said. “However I think we need to study this a little further and have remarks from nutritionist.”

Committee chair Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos said that the intent of the amendment was “noble” but there needs to be more discussion and it could be addressed on the House floor.

The amendment was rejected.

Before the final passage of the bill, Republican Rep. Mark Hargrove of Covington said that he did not support the bill  and he thought there were better way to feed kids.

“I saw Breakfast After the Bell fully implemented at an elementary school last month with no bill and at no cost to the state so I don’t think there is a need for this bill,” he said.

Categories: WA House

Selling counterfeit airbags would become a crime under House bill

By | January 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

380A bill that would criminalize the modification, sale and distribution of counterfeit vehicle airbags was heard on Wednesday in the House Public Safety committee. Watch TVW’s webcast here.

Selling counterfeit airbags under House Bill 2314 could result in a maximum fine of $10,000, plus up to five years in jail. The bill also changes the definition of “airbag.”

Rep. Roger Goodman, D- Kirkland, is the prime sponsor of the bill.

“This could be deadly,” he said. “We want to hold accountable those who are trying to profit from the installation of these counterfeit airbags.”

There is a “tremendous market” for counterfeit airbags in the United States, according to Steve Osborn, Assistant Vice President of Parts, Service and Technical Operations at Honda.

A real airbag sells for $600 to $900. Counterfeits are made in China for $30 and sold on eBay for $100 to $150, he said.

Osborn told the committee that Honda didn’t know about the issue until 2010, when the federal government brought it to their attention. He said that 16 arrests have been made at the federal level. Of those 16, six arrests have been in the state of Washington.

Counterfeit airbags don’t actually contain a bag. Osborn passed around an example to the committee. It was stuffed with Styrofoam and the inflator — the explosive charge that causes the airbag to deploy — was placed on top. He said they’ve found sawdust, putty and garbage bags stuffed in counterfeits airbags. They are just “nasty,” Osborn said.

Counterfeit bags are different from salvaged bags — counterfeits have already been deployed and salvaged have not.

A similar bill criminalizing counterfeit airbags has been passed in 10 states.

Osborn said Honda’s goal in each state where the bill is passed is to change the definition of airbag to “an inflatable restraint system including cover, sensors, controllers, inflators, and wiring.”

Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, raised questions about language in the bill that makes it a crime if a person “reasonably should have known” that an airbag he or she is installing or offering for sale is counterfeit, nonfunctional or previously deployed.

“I know a lot of people work on their own cars and they wouldn’t be knowledgeable in this,” Appleton said. (more…)

Categories: WA House

Republican response to Gov. Inslee’s State of the State

By | January 13, 2016 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 10.38.36 AMRepublican Sen. Jan Angel of Port Orchard responded to Gov. Jay Inslee’s State for the State on Tuesday, saying she agrees with steps made toward education, transportation investment, “unlocking family wage jobs,” and progress on the mental health system. Watch the TVW video of her response here.

“These huge strides came hand-in-hand with a recovering economy,” she said. “That’s why we resisted the governor’s efforts to create new taxes which would only strangle a reviving economy.”

Angel criticized the governor’s supplemental budget plan, which calls for spending additional money hiring and retaining teachers.

“Every year, the governor seems to ignore state laws that require our budgets to balance over four years,” she said. “Sending a wish list of spending ideas to the Legislature without a sustainable way to pay for them fails to accept the reality of governing.”

She concluded with saying the Republicans will focus this year on restoring charter schools, maintaining a long-term budget and refusing new taxes.

Republican leaders also commented on the governor’s speech at a press conference.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said this is the first time he’s seen a governor politicize the State Investment Board. Inslee asked the board to exercise its voting authority to reduce the widening pay gap between CEOs and workers.

“I hope that the independent members of the State Investment Board dismiss this as election year politics,” Schoesler said. “We need to stick to investing and stay out of politics.”

Schoesler also took aim at the governor’s plan to hire as many as 7,000 new teachers, saying Washington schools are only producing about a 1,000 teaching graduates each year. “Even if we did have the money, they may not be readily available,” he said.

House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen addressed the mistakes that lead to the early release of over 3,00 prisoners, saying that there needs to be accountability. He claimed that information provided by the governor’s office shows that two governor’s administrations knew about the DOC computer error starting in 2002 and 2012.

“The information that we received was that it was made known to administration in 2002,” he said.

The governor’s spokeswoman Jaime Smith responded to the claim,  saying “The King decision in 2002 was when DOC made the original changes in their system. I’m not sure if/what prior Administrations knew about the sequencing error resulting in the miscalculation, but our understanding is that 2012 is when the victim’s family brought it to DOC’s attention. We were aware of it last month.”

Watch Republican press conference here.

 

Legislative leaders offer preview of upcoming session

By | January 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

Legislative leaders and Gov. Jay Inslee offered insights to the upcoming legislative session Thursday at the AP Legislative Preview. TVW taped the event — watch the House and Senate leadership panel, education funding panel and Gov. Inslee. Here’s a look at some of the issues they covered:

The accidental early release of 3,200 prisoners:

Republican Sen. Mike Padden, chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, will hold a hearing on Monday at 1:30 p.m. looking into why thousands of prisoners were released ahead of schedule. The House will also hold a hearing next week looking into the technical computer failures that resulted in the early releases.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said the situation was unacceptable. “Letting the governor chose his own people to be independent investigators is questionable. The hearings need to be soon and they need to ask a lot of questions so we get real answers, and not spin,” he said.

Inslee later said he was “disappointed” by that characterization. He said the investigators are professionals with a combined 60 years of prosecutorial experience. “We’re going to make sure employees cooperate fully with these investigators,” he said.

Initiative 1366: 

Voters approved I-1366 in the fall, which cuts the state’s sales tax revenue unless the Legislature imposes a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. House Speaker Frank Chopp said the measure is “clearly unconstitutional.” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Sharon Nelson said she’s “hopeful the courts will take quick action,” adding that lawmakers are not willing to cut $1.4 billion out of the state budget.

Schoesler said Republicans support the initiative, noting that the two-thirds threshold can be met — as it was with last year’s gas tax increase to pay for transportation projects. House Republican Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen said if the court doesn’t make a decision, “you could be looking at a special session” to deal with the issue.

Charter schools:

The Washington Supreme Court ruled in September that charter schools do not qualify for public money because they are not under the control of a locally elected school board. Schoesler said a bipartisan bill will be introduced to address the court’s concerns and keep charter schools open.

Homelessness:

Nelson said the Legislature should declare homelessness an emergency and use $300 to $400 million from the rainy day fund to address the problem. “Drive along the freeway in Seattle and you see tent cities everywhere. We have an emergency,” Nelson said.

Schoesler said any use of the rainy day fund would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, and he would be “hard pressed” to see that vote. “I don’t think homelessness falls into the definition that created it,” he said, adding that the money should be kept in the emergency fund in case of another recession. 

Impeaching State Auditor Troy Kelley:

Chopp and Schoesler both said they do not want to interfere with the federal case against Kelley, which begins in March. “We’re open to taking action, but we need to make sure the action is productive and constructive,” Chopp said.

On the education school funding plan:

A bipartisan workgroup convened to address the Washington Supreme Court’s contempt order against the state is close to finalizing an education funding plan, which will be released within a week.

Legislators said the plan will focus on gathering more data, including how local levy dollars are being spent on education and teacher compensation in each district. “We don’t know what potion of that is for basic education or legitimate enhancements to basic education,” said Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah. “We’ve been guessing up until now. Nobody really knows.”

The plan will make it clear that local levy dollars cannot be used for basic education, he said.

Lawmakers do not agree on a dollar amount that will be needed to fully fund basic education, although Democrats say that number should be at least $3.5 billion. They also do not have a funding source, and say that likely will not be resolved until the 2017 session.

Inslee said he’s “optimistic” about the plan. He said the effort should not just comply with the court order, but also improve education for children in Washington.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Prefiled bills: Charter schools, ‘Redskins’ mascot, abortion funding and fireworks ban

By | January 6, 2016 | 0 Comments

With the legislative session beginning Monday, more than 70 bills have been prefiled in the House and Senate on topics ranging from public health to mascots. Here are some highlights so far.

Keeping charter schools open
Two state Senators from Spokane, Democrat Andy Billig and Republican Michael Baumgartner, are co-sponsoring a bill that would keep charter schools open following a September ruling by the Washington Supreme Court that deemed charter schools unconstitutional. The bill, SB 6163, addresses the court’s concern that charter schools are not under the control of a locally elected school board. The bill creates charter school districts within existing local school districts, making the charter schools accountable to an elected board and eligible for state funding for basic education. However, charter schools would still have some independent authority in managing their budget, staff and curriculum. Currently there are eight charter schools in Washington.

Banning “redskins” as a public school mascot
Democratic Rep. David Sawyer of Tacoma is the primary sponsor for HB 2306, a bill that would prevent Washington public schools from using the term “redskin” in the names of any organizations or clubs, or as the school or athletic mascot. The bill says the word is a “disparaging racial reference to Native American” that has no place in public schools. Currently, the only school using the word is Wellpinit High School in Wellpinit, Wash., a small town in the center of the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Restricting public funding for abortions
On Dec. 7, Republicans filed House Bill 2294, an act restricting the use of public funds for elective abortions. Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, is the primary sponsor, along with 19 Republican co-sponsors. The bill prevents the state from providing “benefits or services” for abortions, unless medically necessary. It also bans the state from distributing grants or funds to “any organization that provides elective abortions or is affiliated … with any organization that provides elective abortions.”

Summer fireworks ban
If HB 2310 is passed, Washington residents will have to forget the fireworks for Fourth of July. In an effort to prevent fires this summer, the bill prohibits “the sale, purchase, use, and discharge of consumer fireworks” from June 1 to Sept. 30 this year, with the bill expiring on Oct. 1, 2016. The bill would also ban unnecessary burning outdoors without a permit from June 1 to Sept. 30. Democrat Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, a firefighter from Sequim, is the primary sponsor of the bill.

Accommodating pregnant women in the workplace
If passed, Senate Bill 6149 would require employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to pregnant employees. For example, the employer must provide more frequent bathroom breaks, provide places for the employee to sit, allow time off to recover from childbirth and temporarily modify work schedules or job duties. The bill’s primary sponsor is Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent.

Increasing the smoking age
At the request of Attorney General Bob Ferguson, SB 6157 would increase the legal age from 18 to 21 for purchasing tobacco and vapor products, including e-pipes and e-cigarettes. Democrat Rep. Tina Orwall and 16 co-sponsors have signed on to the companion bill in the House. Ferguson attempted to raise the smoking age last year, but the bills failed to pass. Some cities, including New York City have increased their smoking age to 21, and recently Hawaii became the first state to raise the age to 21.