Mid-Session Olympia update

Flag_Logo_ImageAppFriday marked the first cutoff of this year’s 60-day legislative session. Any bills that were not voted out of their committees are generally considered “dead” for the session unless they are necessary to implement the state budget. With the session now half over, here’s a look at a few key issues we are tracking.

Like last year’s 105-day session, this year’s session has been marred by acrimony between the Democrat-controlled House, Republican-controlled Senate, and Democratic Governor.

On Friday, the Senate voted to terminate the governor’s appointee as Department of Transportation Director, setting off a political firestorm. On Saturday, the governor’s Corrections Director resigned amid the Senate Republican investigation into the early release of thousands of prisoners. All this could impact the disposition of bills and budget requests in GSI’s 2016 legislative agenda.

Minimum wage/paid leave

Spokane state Senator Michael Baumgartner introduced legislation (SB 6578) that would have negated Spokane’s safe and sick leave ordinance as well as minimum wage increases in Seattle and Tacoma.

But, last week, Baumgartner and other Republicans on the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted to amend the bill to “grandfather” any ordinances in place when it passes, restricting only new attempts by cities or towns to raise the minimum wage or require businesses to offer family or medical leave. The bill is still alive but he acknowledges will be tough to get through the House, which is controlled by Democrats.

Legislation to increase the minimum wage statewide has been defeated. However, an initiative has been filed to raise the minimum wage and require safe/sick leave statewide. Supporters must gather 246,372 signatures by July 8 to qualify for the November ballot. It would increase the current minimum wage of $9.47 to $11 in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019 and $13.50 in 2020, as well as require 7 paid safe/sick leave days annually. If passed, the measure would pre-empt Spokane’s safe/sick leave ordinance which takes effect in January 2017.

Charter schools

Last fall, the state Supreme Court ruled that Washington’s charter schools are unconstitutional, overturning the 2012 law that allowed them to operate. Spokane currently has two charter schools in operation, Spokane International Academy and PRIDE Prep.

In response to that ruling, the Senate voted 27-20 in favor of a bill (SB 6194) that would maintain the state’s charter schools largely as is but change their funding from the state’s general fund, which the Supremes said was unconstitutional, to revenues from the state lottery. The bill now awaits action in the House.

As we solidify plans for the upcoming Regional D.C. Fly-in public policy advocacy trip, we’ll continue to keep you updated on Olympia. Stay tuned.


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