Support Public Service Journalism

Senate floor session and debates on bills for the week of Feb. 22nd

This week is a big one for floor action in the House and Senate, Tuesday was the start of a two-week stretch of floor debate in both chambers. These bills make it to the floor after passing out of committees controlled by the Democratic majority. but that doesn’t mean that they will pass the floor as easily. In the early part of session, legislators typically bring less controversial bills to the floor that pass with bipartisan majorities. But some bills still attract significant debate before they pass.

Here is a round-up of the bills that had the most debate during this week’s floor sessions:

Tuesday, February 23rd: 

SB 5026

Topic: Cargo handling equipment

Chair/Sponsor: Kuderer/Salomon

Vote: 34-14-0-1

What the bill does: Prohibits the use of port district funds to purchase fully automated marine container cargo handling equipment.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Sens. Gildon (R.), Holy (R.), King (R.), Rivers (R.), Short (R.), Warnick (R.), Wilson J. (R.) 

For:

  • Sen. Jesse Salomon (D, 32nd District)

I remember a couple years ago I was touting a facility that trains ironworkers in construction and the head of the facility told me that “yes we are losing jobs overseas, but we are actually losing more jobs to automation, then we are to free trade.” And I thought about that and I took that to heart. Many of us rely on work, not just for income, but also to bring meaning to our lives. Something to get out of bed every day, to have friends at work to go see. Unfortunately many of these good family wage jobs are threatened by automation, including jobs that are at marine ports.”

Against:

  • Sen. John Braun (R, 20th District)

This bill is literally legislating against technological progress in the state of Washington, arguably the most advanced or at least one of the most advanced in our country. And we’re going to legislate against technology? I just think that makes no sense for now or into our future. We should look for ways to use technology to give folks a better more meaningful work, not limit technology so they can keep their current employment.”

SB 5021

Topic: Retirement benefits/furlough

Chair/Sponsor: Rolfes/Hunt

Vote: 29-20-0-0

What the bill does: Provides that specified public pensions will not be reduced as a result of compensation reductions that are part of a public employer’s expenditure reduction efforts during the 2019-2021 and 2021-23 fiscal biennial. Provides that the pension benefit of an employee covered by a pension system that is administered by the Department of Retirement Systems is not reduced as a result of the participation in an unemployment insurance shared work program.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Sens. Gildon (R.), Sheldon (D.)

For: 

  • Sen. Sam Hunt (D, 22nd District):

Our state employees have gone through a lot, like the rest of us have in the past year. They’ve seen furloughs. They’ve seen job sharing. They’ve seen working remotely and trying to adjust their whole work schedule. This bill is a little effort to level the playing field in terms of retirement benefits. So that a state employee will not receive a reduction in payment into the retirement system or have a negative impact on his or her retirement when that occurs.”

Against:

  • Sen Mark Schoesler (R, 9th District):

Many people in the private sector suffered this year, nobody’s going to move their retirement date forwards or backwards for them. Everybody got unemployment with the added benefits, but the private sector, many of whom are still not back to work. Nobody’s going to protect their retirement date or their retirement benefits. I think we need to treat people all evenly, fairly, singling out people for special privileges over another just doesn’t work.”

SB 5066

Topic: Officer duty to intervene

Chair/Sponsor: Pederson/Dhingra

Vote: 28-21-0-0

What the bill does: Requires a peace officer to intervene when the officer witnesses a fellow peace officer engaging in the use of excessive force. Requires a peace officer who observes wrongdoing by a fellow officer to report the wrongdoing to the officer’s supervisor. Requires law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies on the duty to intervene and ensure that all law enforcement officers obtain training on the policy through the Criminal Justice Training Commission.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Sen. Sheldon (D.)

For:

  • Sen. Manka Dhingra (D, 45th District)

I have worked with some incredible law enforcement officers. Officers that I call my friends. These are officers who hold themselves to a very high ethical standard. They take their jobs seriously, they’re in there to help people and want to make sure they’re doing the right thing. This bill helps them do that, because you have to make sure that these good, honorable, ethical law enforcement officers have the tools they need to stop the bad apples. So they’re not standing around waiting or seeing something happen that they know is wrong. That they are empowered to act.”

Against:

  • Sen. Lynda Wilson (R, 17th District)

I have seen so many times where we’ve done these things on the floor and we run these bills because we need to do something. And we rush without taking full consideration of the input of those that we are affecting. And in this case the agencies may or may not agree, but if you talk to those on the street, to officers on the street, you are going to get the true feelings of what they truly feel about some of these things we are doing to them. And you have to consider the ramifications of a bill like this, it questions their motives and with no clear definitions, it makes them question their own decisions when they’re on the streets.”

Wednesday, February 24th: 

SB 5025

Topic: Consumer Protection Act

Chair/Sponsor: Pederson/Rolfes

Vote: 31-18-0-0

What the bill does: Increases the maximum civil penalties for a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. Enhances penalties that may apply to unlawful acts or practices targeting specific individuals or communities based on demographic characteristics.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Sens. Hawkins (R.), Wagoner (R.)

For:

  • Sen. Christine Rolfes (D, 23rd District)

The consumer protection division investigates complaints, provides dispute resolution services and when it’s warranted they file legal actions to stop unfair and deceptive practices on our behalf. And the fees and penalties that are recovered through this program can be reinvested in this consumer protection work that benefits all of us. But this program has been slowly starved over the years. The fees and fines, the penalty for Consumer Protection Act violations have not been increased since the 1970’s. For 50 years these fines have remained the same. The penalty for the antitrust violations has not been revised since 1983. That’s almost 40 years. This bill does something simple, it adjusts these fines, these kinds of fees, by inflation. It doesn’t go over the top. It keeps pace with what the fines were when they were first adopted.”

Against: 

  • Sen. Mike Padden (R, 4th District)

If all the bill was, was adjusting the penalties for inflation, I think it could have near unanimous support. But it does more than that. There’s no statute of limitation on it, and there’s other areas that it expands the authority and power of the attorney general. And there’s certainly some concern on our side of the aisle about those provisions.”

Thursday, February 25th

SB 5151

Topic: Foster care & child care

Chair/Sponsor: Wellman/Wilson, C.

Vote: 29-18-0-2

What the bill does: Makes an outdoor nature-based child care pilot program permanent and adds this program to various provisions. Amends provisions related to child care licensing including the definition of seasonal camps, programs in private schools, background check submissions, and an internal review process. Makes changes to foster care licensing including creating a child-specific license and amending the definition of a qualified residential treatment program. Prohibits the secretary of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families from charging fees to the licensee for obtaining a child care license until June 30, 2023.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Sen. King (R.)

For:

  • Sen. Claire Wilson (D, 30th District)

I will just respond that this is not a kitchen sink bill. What it is, is a bill that relates to the many different types of licensing that is the responsibility of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. And so they are all together in a package under this bill…As we look at the child care licensing fees, what this does is just eliminate the fees through 2023 for licensing for childcare providers. And what this does is provide a direct and immediate way to provide some relief to those providers across the state that we know have been impacted so severely by the pandemic.”

Against:

  • Sen. Shelly Short (R, 7th District)

We know the need for kinship caregivers to be licensed. We know that the need is great. We know that we have children languishing in foster care, we know that… While I wouldn’t advocate that we put administrative protocols into legislation, I think what my concerns really still underscore the oversight responsibility that we have as a legislative body to learn about how our agencies are processing these things and how our agencies are making these programs and how they’re going to handle that prioritization.. The time to put in that oversight is now.” 

SB 5190

Topic: Health care workers/benefits

Chair/Sponsor: Keiser/Holy

Vote: 34-15-0-0

What the bill does: Makes health care employees who left work to quarantine during a public health emergency eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Provides that misconduct for unemployment insurance purposes does not include entering quarantine or contracting the disease that is the subject of a public health emergency. Provides presumptive workers’ compensation coverage for health care employees who are in quarantine or contract the disease that is the subject of a public health emergency. 

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Sens. Fortunato (R.), Gildon (R.), Holy (R.), Mullet (D.), King (R.), McCune (R.), Warnick (R.), Wilson J. (R.)

For:

  • Sen Jeff Holy (R, 6th District)

Spokane has a pretty big medical center and I already had reports of nurses being sent home to quarantine or getting sick and being sent home by employers and being told that, because they believe that these frontline health care workers had acquired the disease elsewhere besides at work, they had to take their own personal leave.”

Against:

  • Sen. John Braun (R, 20th District)

This puts in place where health care workers can say “I don’t want to do this anymore, I’d rather go on unemployment insurance.” And while I certainly acknowledge the stressful situation that they have to work in and I want to make sure that they are taken care of… but I’m not sure that this is the right thing for us because that’s one less health care worker that we really need in our hospitals.”

SB 5038

Topic: Open carry of weapons

Chair/Sponsor: Pederson/Kuderer

Vote: 28-20-0-1

What the bill does: Prohibits the open carry of a firearm or other weapons at or near public demonstrations, the west state capitol grounds, capitol grounds buildings, and other legislative locations. Provides an exception for federal, state, and local law enforcement officers. Makes violations of these prohibitions a gross misdemeanor.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Sen. Sheldon (D.), 

For:

  • Sen. Patty Kuderer (D, 48th District)

We’ve seen the increase in armed vigilante activity, intimidation with the use of firearms. In just the past four years, we had Charlottesville, where a young woman lost her life after being run down by a vehicle. We had Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a young teenager crossed state lines and shot two people who were protesting at a black lives matter protest. We had Olympia, here in our own state, where we had two people shot again at a peaceful protest situation. And of course probably the most glaring example of all, was what happened on January 6th of this year in our U.S. capitol, that will go down in history as a day where a violent mob led an armed insurrection at the Capitol… Many of us in this chamber have also seen people with weapons as they sat in the gallery. I can tell you that it wasn’t very comforting to lookup and see the weapons, and the reason it wasn’t very comforting is because when you have an open carry of a weapon there is an increased potential for violence to erupt if someone doesn’t like what’s being said.”

Against:

  • Sen. Phil Fortunato (R, 31st District)

I think what makes me more distressed is that [this bill] once again turns a legal gun owner into criminals and seeks to criminalize a legal protest where you decide to bring your firearm.”

SB 5051

Topic: Peace & Corrections Officers

Chair/Sponsor: Pedersen/Pedersen

Vote: 26-19-1-3

What the bill does: Modifies the priorities and composition of the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC). Expands the background investigation requirements for persons applying for peace officer, reserve officer, and corrections officer positions.  Expands the conduct for which the certification of a peace officer or a corrections officer may be revoked. Requires employing agencies to report all separation and disciplinary matters regarding a certified officer to the CJTC. Removes confidentiality of complaints, investigations, and disciplinary actions for certified officers and requires information be maintained on a publicly searchable database.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Sen. Sheldon (D.)

For:

  • Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D, 43rd District)

It is time that we turn the page, that we start to make a system that can do justice for everyone in our society, can make all members of our community feel like they are protected. And that when there is mistreatment, when there is misconduct, that there will be state accountability for that misconduct.” 

Against:

  • Sen. Curtis King (R, 14th District)

There are areas in this bill that are just too overbearing, just too much authority to the criminal justice training commission… We know there are bad actors out there, but the vast majority of our police officers are good honest respectable friends and neighbors.”

SB 5035

Topic: Drug offender scoring

Chair/Sponsor: Pederson/Dhingra

Vote: 29-19-1-0

What the bill does: Excludes certain class C felony drug crimes from counting towards an offender’s criminal history score if it has been more than five years since the date of the conviction.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: None

For:

  • Sen. Manka Dhingra (D, 45th District)

What this bill attempts to do is really about making sure that people who were subjected to [substance use] charges ten years ago are treated the same way that people who engage in the same conduct are treated today.”

Against:

  • Sen. Mike Padden (R, 4th District)

There is concern in the law enforcement community and the prosecutorial community about this bill. We are reducing the count on the criminal history which is part of the grid and taken along with the severity of the crime determines the range in which an offender is going to be sentenced. So they’re going to be sentenced to a lower range because of this.”

SB 5267

Topic: Electrical work/flipping

Chair/Sponsor: Keiser/Saldaña

Vote: 29-19-1-0

What the bill does: Requires persons performing electrical work on certain property offered for sale within one year of obtaining to acquire an electrical contractor license or a certified electrician to perform the work. Requires persons performing telecommunications work on certain property offered for sale within one year of obtaining to acquire a telecommunications contractor license.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Sens. King (R.), Wilson J. (R.)

For:

  • Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D, 37th District)

This is a bill that’s really about trying to protect homeowners that are purchasing from folks that serve as house flippers and a lot of house flippers have great and professional businesses. But what we’ve heard from our inspectors across the state, is that we’re finding that there’s house flippers that are using the exemption for homeowners to cut corners. And instead of hiring licensed electricians, they are doing things on the fly and trying to make sure that they can get things sold.”

Against:

  • Sen. John Braun (R, 20th District)

But I have a broader concern about the cost of housing in our state. Most of the work that this bill would purport to deal with already requires an inspection. So when they choose not to have it inspected they choose to do the work themselves, that they can do as the owner legally. But they cannot legally avoid the inspection, so they are already breaking the law. On top of that when you sell a home, as part of the standard disclosure that every home seller is required to do, you have to disclose “did I do any work without an inspection?”


Your support matters.

Public service journalism is important today as ever. If you get something from our coverage, please consider making a donation to support our work. Thanks for reading our stuff.