Archive for WA Senate

Washington’s regular legislative session ends; special session to begin April 29

By | April 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature gaveled out of the 2015 regular session Friday – two days earlier than the 105-day regular session was scheduled to end, but still weeks or more away from a budget deal.

split2Late in the session, lawmakers said they’d need more time to reach an agreement on how to fund the state for the next two years. The Democrat-led House and GOP-controlled Senate are still far apart on the basics.

House leaders say more revenue is needed to fully fund education and more as the state faces Supreme Court sanctions after an unprecedented court ruling. But the Senate is sticking with a no-new taxes proposal.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced a 30-day special session beginning April 29. The two chambers will have to make some concessions to find an agreement, he said.

“It is time to compromise and for all of us to compromise,” he said during a press conference earlier in the week. “I understand I won’t be getting everything I proposed, and I have told lawmakers they each need to now starting moving towards each other’s position. The House is going to have to find a way to reduce spending and the Senate will have to add revenue.”

Both sides will also have to compromise on a $15 billion transportation plan. The House and Senate agree state projects should be funded with a nearly 12-cent gas tax increase, but they’re stuck on the details.

The special session can adjourn before the full 30 days if they reach a deal. If not, Inslee can announce another special session to give lawmakers more time.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

Ban on aversion therapy for minors stopped from advancing on Senate floor

By | April 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

A bill that would have banned aversion therapy for minors — including electric shock and ice baths — was stopped from moving forward on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Bill sponsor Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, tried to bring Senate Bill 5870 to the Senate floor for a vote in a procedural move, but Senators declined to continue considering the bill, 22-27.

Opponents of aversion therapy say it has been used often to try to convert gay teenagers to straight.

“I am appalled that the Republican majority killed legislation to protect kids from electric shock, ice baths, and other physical and emotional abuse, simply because they’re gay. We need to end conversion therapy once and for all,” Liias said in a prepared statement.

The bill originally passed the Senate unanimously in March, after references calling out sexual orientation change efforts were removed from the bill language. Then the House added talk conversion therapy into the ban.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, urged members to vote against Liias’ procedural move to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“I believe this bill is significantly different than when it left this body and is still what we call a work-in-progress,” he said.

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Wednesday recap on ‘Legislative Review’

By | April 9, 2015 | 0 Comments

Watch highlights from Wednesday’s floor debate in the House and Senate on this 15-minute edition of “Legislative Review.” Plus, the public weighs in on the proposed $3.9 billion capital budget, which pays for construction projects around the state.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m.

Cutoff deadline: What’s alive, what stalled

By | April 8, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Washington State Legislature is nearing the end of the 105-day legislative session, and this week marked one of the last major deadlines for lawmakers. Tuesday was the cutoff for fiscal bills to pass out of committee in the opposite chamber. Here are a few bill that stalled, and a few that are still alive after the deadline.

STALLED:

Distracted driving: A proposal to update the state’s distracted driving law for the first time since 2007 — before the iPhone was released — stalled in the House Transportation committee after passing in the Senate.

Senate Bill 5656 would have made it a crime to hold a phone while driving. Holding a phone to your ear and texting while driver have been banned since 2007, but it’s still legal to update your Facebook status, check your email and plan your route behind the wheel.

Payday loans: Washington payday lenders will continue operating under the state’s current rules after a bill to overhaul the state’s lending system missed Tuesday’s deadline.

Under current law, customers can borrow up to $700 from payday lenders, no more than eight times per year. The short-term loan comes with a $95 fee. Senate Bill 5899 would have allowed lenders to offer loans with longer terms and higher interest, but it never got a vote in the House General Government committee.

Minimum wage: A push to increase the statewide minimum wage to $12-an-hour stalled this session after the Republican chair of a committee refused to put the bill up for a vote.

House Bill 1355 would increase Washington’s minimum wage by more than $2.50 in four years. It passed in the House, but Senate Commerce and Labor committee chair Sen. Michael Baumgartner did not give the bill a vote in committee.

“I’m not going to put people out of work in eastern Washington just to placate the egos of some extreme liberals in Seattle,” Baumgartner said of his decision.

Washington has the nation’s highest minimum wage at $9.47.

Boeing tax breaks: The plan to tie Boeing’s tax breaks to the size of its Washington workforce never moved out of a House committee.

House Bill 2147 responds to a decline in Boeing jobs after the legislature in 2013 approved as much as $8.7 billion in tax incentives for the aerospace giant. It would have required Boeing to employ more than 83,000 workers for the full tax break and reduce or revoke the tax break if enough jobs are lost.

Smoking age: Washington’s legal smoking age appears it will stay the same after a proposal to raise the age requirement to 21 for tobacco and vapor products missed Tuesday’s deadline.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested the bill to require Washington residents to wait to buy cigarettes until age 21, the same requirement for alcohol and marijuana. Opponents said 18-year-olds are old enough to go to war, so they should be able to buy cigarettes, too.

ALIVE:

E-cigarettes and vaping: The state House is poised to vote on regulations for Washington’s growing e-cigarette and vapor industry after a bill was voted out of committee Tuesday.

House Bill 1645 requires licenses for vapor stores, prohibit sales to minors and requires child-proof packaging and warning labels. A 95 percent excise tax on all products was part of the original bill, but that proved hard to move past some lawmakers and was not part of the bill that moved out of committee. Vapor advocates said nearly doubling the price would force smokers to stick to traditional cigarettes.

The bill passed out of the House Appropriations committee and now moves to the floor for a vote.

Uber and Lyft: Ride-share companies could be required to provide $1 million liability insurance to their drivers, under a bill headed to the House floor, but only when a customer is in the car.

Senate Bill 5550 would have created an entire framework to regulate the companies, but that proved hard to move past other lawmakers. Now the measure focus on what sponsor say is most important right now – insurance.

The proposal cleared a House committee and moves on the floor. If it passes, it will have to head back to the Senate for approval.

Oil trains: As Washington prepares for more crude oil shipments, a bill to improve railway safety standards is advancing.

Senate Bill 5057 requires rail lines to come up with oil spill response plans, and increases the per-barrel oil taxes to help pay for cleanup. The measure passed out the House Appropriations committee on Tuesday.

Mental health: A bill to require more training for police officers on how to deal with the mentally ill is headed to the House floor.

Senate Bill 5311 would provide as many as 40 hours crisis intervention training to officers. It’s one of the ways lawmakers are responding to needs within the state’s mental health system.

The measure was voted out of House Appropriations on Tuesday.

Categories: WA House, WA Senate

State Senate passes budget, modifies class size initiative

By | April 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

The state Senate passed a two-year operating budget off the floor Monday, along with a bill that sends a class size reduction initiative back to the voters in an effort to save the state money.

Republican lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill introduced the $38 billion budget Monday, saying it focuses on education and mental health without raising taxes.

“This budget balances without job-killing manufacturing tax increases,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

Several Democrats spoke against the budget, saying it falls short on state worker pay raises and other issues. The Senate budget gives state workers up to a $2,000 pay raise over two years, instead of the salary increases negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement with the governor’s office.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said that amounts to a “hidden tax” on state workers.

“We’ve hidden the tax on state employees and community college employees and state patrol,” said Keiser. “They all had the assurance that when the economy improved we would make things right for them. But that promise is now broken as well.”

The budget passed along caucus lines, 26 to 23, with the mostly Republican Majority Coalition Caucus in support and Democrats opposed.

The Senate also passed a bill that modifies Initiative 1351 and sends it backs to voters to ask whether they agree with the change. The initiative adopted by voters last year required smaller class sizes in all grades at a cost estimated around $4 billion through 2019. It did not come with a source of funding.

“It’s pretty clear at this point that it’s not affordable,” said Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, speaking in support of changing the initiative.

The bill only pays for smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.

Opponents of the bill argued that voters knew what they were doing when they passed the original initiative.

“Washington state has the 47th worst class sizes in the nation. And that’s why the people rightfully sent us to Olympia with a mission to correct that challenge,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo.

The bill passed 27-22.

The House previously passed its budget. Both sides must negotiate a final budget plan.

Watch the highlights from both Senate floor debates, as well as discussion over a controversial payday lending bill, on Monday’s 15-minute edition of “Legislative Review” below.

Budget debate highlights on weekly ‘Legislative Review’ wrapup

By | April 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

Watch highlights from the Senate and House floor debate over the budget on this 30-minute weekly edition of “Legislative Review.” Plus, highlights from several other bills debated in the Legislature.

“Legislative Review” airs nightly at 6:30 and 11 p.m. The 30-minute weekly edition airs Friday evenings and throughout the weekend.

Categories: TVW, WA House, WA Senate
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Senate budget proposal to be released at noon Tuesday, TVW will be live

By | March 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

Senate Republican lead budget writer Sen. Andy Hill will announce the Senate’s operating budget proposal at noon on Tuesday at the Capitol.

TVW will carry the announcement live on television and on the web at this link.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a public hearing on the budget proposal at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. It will air live and at this link.

The House released its $38.8 billion budget proposal on Friday, calling for $1.4 billion in new taxes to pay for education. It also focuses on mental health and freezes college tuition.

Full budget documents for the Senate proposal will be available at the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program (LEAP) website following the announcement.

Categories: Budget, TVW, WA Senate

Senate Democrats to seek new rule on ‘fairness and balance’

By | March 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

This post has been updated with comments from the Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mark Schoesler.

Senate Democrats plan to ask for a new rule calling for “fair and balanced” hearings, after raising concerns about equity in hearings in the Senate Commerce and Labor committee, Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, said Monday.

Sen. Sharon Nelson

Sen. Sharon Nelson

Nelson spoke at a Democratic leadership press availability on Monday morning. The rule could be introduced later this week.

Nelson said Democrats are concerned that representatives on both sides on an issue have been unable to testify at committee hearings, particularly in the Commerce and Labor committee, headed by Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane.

“We feel that it’s important that both sides of an issue be heard. In particular, in Commerce and Labor, that’s not happening,” Nelson said.

Nelson said that Democratic leadership has approached the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus leadership regarding the fairness issue.

“Only one side is pretty much being allowed to testify and the others are cut short,” Nelson said. “That’s not what the public expects from this institution.”

Baumgartner declined to comment on the question of whether Commerce and Labor is being run fairly.

However, Majority Leader Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said Monday that he has reminded the committee chairs to “pay attention the needs of the minority.”

“The Labor committee has always been contentious,” Schoesler said. “Let’s be real, they didn’t propose any fairness doctrine when they were in the majority.”

Schoesler said the Republicans did not try to propose a similar rule when they were the minority party.

“We understood the majority controlled the agenda,” Schoesler said.

A fairness rule would be patterned after a House of Representatives rule that lawmakers say has been in place for several years.

Under Rule 24, second D, 11, the House rules state, “Insofar as practicable, testimony in public hearings should be balanced between those in support of and in opposition to proposed legislation, with consideration given to providing an opportunity for members of the public to testify within available time.”

The simple majority of Senators would have to approve the rule change.

The Senate rules have seen a change this year; the first day of session, Senate Majority Coalition Caucus introduced a rule that any new taxes would have to be approved by two-thirds of the chamber. The rule was approved by a majority, but later overturned by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.

TVW taped the press conference. We will post it here when it is available.

Bills fall by the wayside after mid-session cutoff

By | March 13, 2015 | 0 Comments

While some bills made it through the halfway point, and will continue to be considered, other bills have fallen by the wayside.

Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters on Thursday that he was disappointed that a bill limiting vaccination exemptions did not make it to the House floor for a vote. He said the Department of Health will find “new, creative ways” to get information about vaccines to parents this year, and he hoped to see the bill return next year.

Doug Reuter, the father of the namesake of Joel’s Law, told AP that he was hoping to see lawmakers pass House Bill 1450, which would have expand the criteria for involuntary treatment.

House Republicans posted a list of bills the caucus was following. Dead bills listed in the House Republicans’ “good” category include House Bill 1446, which would have permitted certain restaurant employers to pay 16- and 17-year olds less than minimum wage; and House Bill 1741, which would have allowed disabled people to enter state land without a Discover Pass.

Senate Democrats also released a listed of dead bills that its caucus had backed. The list included Senate Bill 5752, regarding creating statements of impact on ethnic and racial minorities for bills affecting criminal justice, human services, and education, and Senate Bill 5527, which would have extended the deadlines for voter registration.

We also asked on Twitter what bills people wished made it through.

Democrats challenge Senate transportation proposal over two-thirds supermajority rule

By | February 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Those who were hoping to see a transportation package passed off the floor on Friday were left with a cliffhanger. Senators will return to the debate on Monday following a surprise challenge from Democrats.

The state Senate on Friday began debate on a $15 billion dollar transportation package, which would pay for major road projects around the state by raising the gas tax by 11.5 cents per gallon. The package also includes conditions that many Democrats oppose — including what they call a “poison pill” that would shift money away from transit, bike and pedestrian paths if the governor institutes a clean fuel standard.

Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson urged members on the floor to adopt a “clean package” without the conditions. She said her version still provides tax money to fund transportation projects, but is “not linked to any other legislation which may be based on ideology from either party.”

That proposal failed along caucus lines. As the Senate prepared to debate the final transportation package that included the conditions, Democratic Sen. Annette Cleveland asked Lt. Gov. Brad Owen if the proposal to raise the gas tax requires approval of two-thirds of members based upon a rule change made on the first day of session.

The rule change, which was passed off the floor by the mostly Republican Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, includes a clause that would require bills with a new tax to get a two-thirds supermajority approval of the Senate before advancing to third reading.

Republican Sen. Curtis King responded to Cleveland’s question by saying he believes the gas taxes in the package are “existing taxes and therefore would not fall under that guideline.”

Following a break, Sen. Joe Fain told members the Senate will hold off on the transportation package until Monday to give Owen time to make his decision.

Before the challenge, the Senate debated several other bills related to the transportation package. One of the most contentious proposals, Senate Bill 5990, would shift sales tax money collected from building road projects away from the general fund, and use it for transportation.

Several Democrats spoke in opposition to the proposal, saying it will rob the general fund of education money.

“The fact is that taking a billion dollars, when we have no agreement around where those dollars are going to come from, means that we are saying, ‘We are going to fund concrete instead of our kids,'” said Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle.

Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane urged support, saying the transportation package will add money to the general fund for education in the long-term. “What those roads are going to do is allow our economy to grow and generate a tremendous amount of economic growth,” he said.

The bill passed along caucus lines with a vote of 26 to 23.

You can watch the full Senate floor debate in TVW archives. We’ll also have the highlights on Friday’s edition of “Legislative Review” at 6:30 and 11 p.m. (unless a committee is live).

Categories: transportation, WA Senate