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Legislative Session Update: March 6-10

By Jim Hedrick, GSI WA State Lobbyist and Spokane Regional Advocate

Legislative Session Update

Here is the Legislative Session Update for March 6-10. While the Senate took last weekend off, the House returned on Monday from a long Saturday spent on the floor passing high-profile bills including: “Right to Repair” HB 1392 (Gregerson, D-3); “My Health, My Data” HB 1155 (Slatter, D-48); “Clean Energy Siting” HB 1216 (Fitzgibbon, D-34); and “Dental Therapy” HB 1678 (Riccelli, D-3).

The Senate passed a suite of bills to address nursing issues, including SB 5236 (Robinson, D-38), the highly negotiated hospital nurse staffing bill. This significant piece of legislation requires hospitals to submit staffing plans to the state Department of Health (DOH). The Senate passed several more bills related to nursing including long-time GSI priority: SB 5499 (Mullet, D-5) which would enter Washington state into the 37-state Nurse Licensure Compact and allow nurses with the multi-state license to work in Washington; SB 5538 (Cleveland, D-49) to encourage retired nurses to return to patient care without losing retirement benefits; SB 5454 (Cleveland, D-49) which would provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for nurses with post-traumatic stress disorders, similar to a 2018 law that allows PTSD worker’s comp coverage for police and firefighters; and SB 5582 (Holy, R-6) which would provide additional educational opportunities for prospective nurses.

The Department of Commerce estimates Washington needs to build an additional one million homes over the next two-plus decades to keep pace with population growth. Though Democrats hold strong majorities in both the Senate and House, several major bipartisan housing bills have recently passed their chambers of origin. On Monday, one such bill, HB 1110 (Bateman, D-22) passed the House. This bipartisan bill legalizes duplexes or 4-plexes in almost every neighborhood in larger Washington cities. It would require cities with populations between 25,000 and 75,000 to allow duplexes in all residential areas. In cities with more than 75,000 people, all residential areas would have to allow 4-plexes.

On Tuesday, the House passed HB 1541 (Farivar, D-46), the “Nothing About Us Without Us Act.” The goal of the bill is to include individuals who are directly impacted by government policies into the decision-making process by implementing membership requirements for statutory entities such as task forces, work groups, or advisory committees. The bill received bipartisan support from some Republicans who spoke to the importance of including Eastern Washington voices in advisory groups for issues such as siting clean energy operations.

As floor cutoff approaches, there is annual speculation as to what the “5:00 bill” in each chamber will be. The term “5:00 bill” refers to a rule that if debate begins on a bill prior to the 5:00 pm cutoff, debate can continue after 5:00 pm. Legislative leadership may choose the 5:00 bill because it is controversial with a lot of amendments, thus enabling them to work on the bill without taking up valuable floor time needed to pass other bills, or because the bill is of special importance to the majority caucus. The Senate picked a broadly bipartisan, uncontroversial bill Majority Floor Leader Pedersen said would be a “high note” as they ended their action. SB 5600 (Wellman, D-41) extends the expiration date of the state Universal Communications Services Program by ten years. On the other hand, the House majority leadership picked HB 1240 (Peterson, D-21) prohibiting the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, or offer for sale of any assault-style weapon, subject to various exceptions for licensed firearm manufacturers and dealers, and for individuals who inherit an assault weapon. If the bill passes the Senate, Washington will join nine other states with similar bans. The night prior, the House passed another measure, HB 1143 (Berry, D-36) that establishes requirements for all firearm purchases in Washington including background checks, a 10-day waiting period, and completed safety training within the last five years.

Two House bills that did not make the 5:00 pm house of origin cutoff include those related to police pursuit and non-moving violations, HB 1363 (Rule, D-42) and HB 1513 (Street, D-37) respectively. On Tuesday, House Republicans attempted a motion on the floor to relieve the Rules committee of HB 1363 the police pursuit bill, forcing Democrats to bring the bill up for a vote. The procedural motion failed on party lines. Late Tuesday, Representative Street, sponsor of HB 1513, the non-moving violation bill attempted to merge the bills, prompting Republicans to pen 29 amendments to a bill still stuck in Rules, effectively killing the bill’s chances of making it to the floor the next day. In a late- move on Wednesday afternoon, and after a lengthy debate, the Senate passed a moderate striker to 5352 (Lovick, D-44) another pursuit bill, though it was never heard in a policy committee. The bill received support from moderate Democrats and Republicans who suggested the bill was better than no action at all, passing on a tight 26-23 vote.

It was opposed by Democrats who opposed a roll-back of current law and by Republicans who felt the bill didn’t roll back current law enough.

Legislators will now return to policy committees to hear bills passed by the opposite chamber. Bills must be passed out of policy committees by Wednesday, March 29 to continue advancing through the process.

More Information
Public Policy developments change fast. Note this is a wrap-up of the week of March 6-10. You can find prior week wrap-ups here: February 6-10, January 30-February 3, January 23-27January 16-20, and January 9-13. Check out GSI’s 2023’s State Agenda. For more details about any of the bills in this article, visit the Washington State Legislature page to search by bill number. For more information contact Jake Mayson, Director of Public Policy.

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