As deadline nears, a flurry of bills pass in the House and Senate

With the Wednesday deadline for bills to pass in their house of origin, a flood of bills passed out of the House and Senate over the weekend. Bills related to affordable housing, health, and elections all took steps forward.

Affordable Housing:

Addressing Washington’s homelessness crisis has been a key issue during this session. Though the problem is multifaceted, possible solutions continue to move forward as three bills aimed at improving access to affordable housing passed out of the Senate on Friday.

House bill 5407, sponsored by Senator Frockt, would forbid landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income. This bill would ensure that tenants whose income includes housing subsidies or other forms of public assistance would have the same opportunities to rent or lease property as any other tenant who does not utilize these services.

“Homelessness is a crisis in Washington state, and we have limited tools to solve this problem,” Frockt said. “One of those tools is housing assistance. But that only works if people are able to rent homes using that source of income.”

Also passing Friday was SB 6371 which would increase the debt allowed by the Housing Finance Commission, SB 6294 which would exempt certain emergency shelters from impact fees, and SB 6347 which would expand the property tax exemption for building multi-unit housing.

Opioids:

Another publicized issue during this session has been tackling the state’s opioid epidemic.

Representative Eileen Cody’s opioid treatment and prevention bill passed out of the House with a unanimous vote Friday afternoon. Among several actions, the comprehensive bill would establish new requirements for integrating health records and the prescription drug monitoring program, allow pharmacists to partially fill prescriptions, and require in-person discussions between provider and patient for first time opioid prescriptions.

Monday morning, the House also passed HB 2390, a bill that would ensure that Narcan, an opioid overdose reversal medication, is available in kindergarten through 12th grade schools as well as in college dorms.

“We need to do everything possible to save the lives of young people during this opioid epidemic,” said sponsor Rep. Gerry Pollet. “It reaches everywhere in our state and, sadly, every school and college. Naloxone is safe and easily administered. We need to educate people to recognize overdoses and enable school and college dorm staff to administer – especially since so few public schools have nurses on hand.”

Voting and Elections:

On Saturday, legislation to enact automatic voter registration passed out of the Senate by a 31-12 vote. If the bill becomes law, starting in 2019, anyone who applies for or renews an enhanced driver’s license will automatically be registered to vote. The Senate also passed a bill to toughen campaign finance laws and bring about transparency regarding the individuals and entities that pay for political ads.

These bills are part of the “Access to Democracy” package of legislation announced before session began.

“It is our most fundamental duty to make sure our democracy is accessible to every single eligible voter,” said Senator Sam Hunt. “This legislation is just one more bill in a larger push to expand access to democracy in every corner of our state.”