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House Floor Session and debates for the week of March 1

This week is the second week in a two week stretch of floor action in the House and Senate. 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 in the House during the floor sessions this week:

Monday March 1st:

HB 1320

Topic: Civil protection orders

Sponsors: Goodman,Thai

Vote: 53-44-0-1

What the bill does: Consolidates and harmonizes laws governing domestic violence protection orders, sexual assault protection orders, stalking protection orders, anti-harassment protection orders, vulnerable adult protection orders, and extreme risk protection orders under a new chapter governing all protection orders. Amends provisions of law addressing the recognition and enforcement of Canadian domestic violence protection orders. Revises laws governing orders to surrender and prohibit weapons, revocation of concealed pistol licenses, unlawful possession of firearms, and domestic violence no-contact orders. Establishes responsibilities of school districts with respect to students who are subject to protection orders. Repeals existing chapters and provisions governing protection orders and makes conforming and technical changes to numerous provisions of law.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Reps. Chapman (D.), Rule (D.), Shewmake (D.)

For:

  • Rep. Roger Goodman (D, 45th District)

The public health crisis that we’re now in has forced the closure of restaurants, bars, gyms, and theaters, but also our courthouses. And this has jeopardized a critical protection for those who are victims of violent crime. We’re speaking here with this legislation about social protection orders to protect against domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, stalking abuse of vulnerable adults. The pandemic has really also laid bare how those petitioners for these orders don’t have adequate access to the courts. The courts in response to the pandemic put in place, not statewide, but in most places the ability to file for the petition electronically. To have the petition itself served on the respondent, remotely or electronically. And also to have remote hearings, video hearings kind of like this legislative session. And what has resulted is much greater compliance by the respondents because they get a text message. It wakes them up and it’s much easier than having to have a deputy go to the location and serve the order.  And then again much greater ease in filing the petitions and holding the hearings to determine whether the order should be imposed. Those who have been petitioning for these orders over the course of time, have had tremendous barriers to getting to the courthouse and having to choose between caring for a child. or going to work, and going to the courthouse to seek protection. These innovations because of the pandemic response provided a much better access to justice. So we want to make it permanent and the bill before us allows for these methods so that those seeking protection can get protection easier.”

Against:

  • Rep. Jim Walsh (R, 19th District)

Civil protection orders and extreme risk protection orders are a tricky business. We do want to offer effective protection for people who have been victimized by intense and sometimes maniacal abusers and harassers. And that is a legitimate interest of all of us and of the state as a governmental entity. On the other hand and sort of the counterbalance these orders are a slippery slope in some cases toward the erosion of foundational constitutional rights of individuals. It’s a long debated point, how do we balance the right of the individual who’s been harassed and abused, versus the right of an individual who may be being harassed and abused through a different means and whose foundational rights to protect himself or herself, live her life or his life as they choose could be compromised by one of these orders. There are due process issues in many cases with how these orders are issued.”

HB 1411

Topic: Health care workforce

Sponsors: Simmons,Davis

Vote: 58-39-0-1

What the bill does: Prohibits the Department of Social and Health Services (Department) from automatically disqualifying a person who has a criminal record containing certain crimes from having unsupervised access to, working with, or providing care to vulnerable adults or children. Establishes a work group to identify an informed consent process to allow older adults and people with disabilities to hire an individual with a criminal record that would otherwise disqualify the person from providing paid home care services. Authorizes the Department to exercise its discretion regarding whether to permit or prohibit a person with a certificate of restoration of opportunity to have unsupervised access to children, vulnerable adults, or individuals with mental illness or developmental disabilities.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Reps. Harris (R.), McEntire (R.), Vick (R.), Paul (D.)

For:

  • Rep. Tarra Simmons (D, 23rd District)

Our state is too rigid right now this has created a complex set of laws that allowed me to be and keep my RN license as a formerly convicted person but I’m unable to be my dying father’s in home care provider when he wanted me to be. I am just one person of thousands of families across the state who are facing unnecessary barriers. This legislation gives us the flexibility we need with caregivers so people are not automatically disqualified from the workforce due to low level offenses that this legislature has deemed vacatable or offenses that you can earn a certificate of restoration of opportunity with. There’s a shortage in home caregivers and this bill helps fix that. And the problems of the status quo hit hardest in communities of color. This bill will help ensure that. It’s a reform that other states have made, we’ve seen good outcomes and recidivism has decreased.”

Against:

  • Rep. Joe Schmick (D, 9th District)

I agree that we do have a shortage of workers out there. I think that this bill addresses some issues, especially those working with their family members. But there’s one part of the bill that concerns me. And I do believe in giving second chances and allowing these folks a chance, because there’s some adequate protections there for those who have all their faculties. But there’s a couple areas here that I am concerned with the D.D. (Developmental Disabilities) community for one. The parents came to me and said they were very uncomfortable with the fact that a lot of times their children are uncommunicative, cannot communicate well and [asked] for some protections there surrounding the D.D. community. And also those in the elderly, especially those that have dementia. My mother went through this, times of dementia where, and  my father too, they didn’t know who was there. They couldn’t reason. And it was difficult for the family because a lot of times they didn’t even know their family. And to put these folks in the situation of having a caregiver come in, I just think I want to err on caution. And that caution is that I think there should be a little bit more protection here for the D.D. and those with dementia.”

HB 1127 

Topic: COVID-19 health data privacy

Sponsors: Slatter,Boehnke

Vote: 76-21-0-1

What the bill does: Restricts a covered organization’s ability to collect, use, or disclose Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) health data. Specifies prohibited purposes for collecting, using, or disclosing COVID-19 health data. Exempts COVID-19 health data from disclosure under the Public Records Act.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: (20 Republicans voted for this bill and 21 voted against) Reps. Abbarno (R.), Barkis (R.), Boehnke (R.), Caldier (R.), Chambers (R.), Dent (R.), Gilday (R.), Goehner (R.), Griffey (R.), Harris (R.), MacEwen (R.), Masbrucker (R.), Orcutt (R.), Robertson (R.), Rude (R.), Steele (R.), Stokesbary (R.), Volz (R.), Wilcox (R.), Ybarra (R.)

For:

  • Rep. Vandana Slatter (D, 48th District)

Last summer at the University of Washington, a remarkable team of computer scientists developed a privacy preserving application that uses Bluetooth technology to detect and notify you for an exposure notification. And with Apple and Google’s help that same application became a privacy preserving tool that we now call WA Notify, which is on our phones or many of us have on our phones. This was a key advance because sometimes when you reopen an economy it’s very difficult to contact trace in time to be able to stop the spread of disease. Worldwide there have been hundreds of them developed or proposed that look at exposure notifications, symptom tracking or elements like that. But not all of them are privacy preserving like Washington notify and this is important because it turns out that one of the biggest barriers for people to adopt COVID-19 exposure notification applications is a lack of trust in government or in big tech. People want to be certain, they want to know that their information, their COVID-19 health data will only be used for saving lives in a pandemic and nothing more. Indeed, the editors of the prestigious journal Nature Medicine actually had an editorial on this topic recently. Madam Speaker may read a sentence from that report? ‘The rapid rollout of digital health approaches in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has neglected to prioritize data privacy and is a missed opportunity for building users’ trust in these technologies for future outbreaks and quotidian health care.’”

Against:

  • Rep. Vicki Kraft (R, 17th District)

There are things, specifically language in this bill that seems to be conflicting language with that intent for providing data privacy and security. The good lady mentioned the affirmative consent that is written into this bill and I appreciate that the bill addresses an opt in or affirmative consent. One aspect of that affirmative consent is that someone can withdraw their affirmative consent. Again I think a good thing. Page eight line eight essentially states that if affirmative consent is withdrawn, then the covering organization, or the one that’s doing the data privacy, has to stop collecting, using, or disclosing data within up to seven days. Madam speaker seven days is a long time. Especially in the technology world as we all know. Think of some of the unfortunate data security fraud scams and also breaches that have happened that’s just the reality of the technology and data world.”

HB 1155

Topic: Emergency communications sales tax

Sponsors: Riccelli,Ormsby

Vote: 56-41-0-1

What the bill does: Modifies requirements related to interlocal agreements for the emergency communications systems and facilities local sales and use tax.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: None

For:

  • Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D, 3rd District)

Back in 2002, a bill passed bipartisanly, became state law and that said any county with a population over 500 thousand or above needs to have an interlocal agreement with any cities in that county 50 thousand and above on the distribution of revenue generated from an emergency communications tax. So I’m not aware of a single instance where that requirement for a city and county to negotiate such an interlocal agreement in good faith has caused any negative consequences and really that’s all we’re doing here today. When Spokane County passed this particular measure, it was just under 500 thousand so I really look at this as a technicality. It’s now much larger than 500 thousand and this just ensures the city of Spokane, the city of Spokane Valley, has a seat around the table. Again it was kind of an unfortunate oversight back then and I think we can correct that.”

Against:

  • Rep. Mike Volz (R, 6th District)

I am reading from a letter from the Spokane Regional Emergency Communications Group dated January 19th, 2021. In part the letter reads: ‘this bill if passed would significantly step back from the regional approach to dispatch services Spokane County first responder partners have been working on for more than a decade at the direction of voters who tax themselves with the expectation of a regional system.’ So this is a step back in this letter signed by our Spokane Regional Emergency Communications, which represents a broad base of law enforcement and fire departments and city agencies.”

HB 1105

Topic: Medical use of cannabis

Sponsors: Kloba,Simmons

Vote: 69-29-0-0

What the bill does: Provides criminal and civil protections, rather than an affirmative defense, to qualifying patients and designated providers who have a valid authorization for the medical use of marijuana. Specifies the marijuana possession limit for a person who is both a qualifying patient and a designated provider for another qualifying patient.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Reps. Chase (R.), Goehner (R.), Griffey (R.), Hoff (R.), Jacobsen (R.), Leavitt (D.), MacEwen (R.), McEntire (R.), Orcutt (R.), Rude (R.), Steele (R.), Stokesbary (R.), Walsh (R.), Young (R.)

For:

  • Rep. Shelley Kloba (D, 1st District):

The last four years it has been my pleasure to meet and learn from medical cannabis patients about their experiences with cannabis as a medicine. And to understand more about the challenges in acquiring it to use it to treat their condition. And one thing has become clear to me and that is that some of the patients are experiencing unequal treatment under the law. There are six criteria that you have to meet in order to be considered a qualified patient. And as a qualified patient it is voluntary to either choose to join the registry or not join the registry. And when you join it, it does give you the opportunity to not pay a sales tax, for instance, and to possess a higher limit, but slightly different products, that are medical grade. But again it is voluntary. Additionally one thing that it does is provide some arrest protection, if the police were to come to your door as a patient, and you would show your authorization. Which is like a prescription and your registration card and that would probably be the end of it, as long as you’re following all the rules. But for a person or a patient who does not decide to join the voluntary registry that experience would be different. If the police were to come to their door, they really only have, what’s called an affirmative defense… What I want to get across to everyone today is that our current policy subjects medical cannabis patients to a cruel level of uncertainty and vulnerability with regard to their legal status and it is time to change this and treat all patients, all qualified patients, who are in compliance with the law equally.”

Against:

  • Rep. Joe Schmick (R, 9th District)

The reason why when we negotiated this bill originally was, and I think it’s an important fact, that we needed to see those providers who were signing those medical marijuana cards. Being in the Ninth district we have WSU and it was quite common to see an ad on Craigslist that would say come to such and such place and for so many dollars you can have your medical marijuana card. And that was the reason, that was kind of the carrot, and that’s why we did what we did to allow that affirmative defense, no sales tax when you had an appropriate card. We just wanted to make sure that we could track who was writing those prescriptions, because they can have more product on hand and the police won’t bother them. I do believe that that reason still exists and that’s the reason why we did it.”

HB 1365

Topic: Schools/computers & devices

Sponsors: Gregerson,Stonier

Vote: 59-39-0-0

What the bill does: Directs, subject to state funding, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop and administer a technology grant program to advance the following objectives: attain a universal 1:1 student to learning device ratio; expand technical support and training of school and district staff in using technology to support student learning; and develop district-based and school-based capacity to assist students and their families in accessing and using technology to support student learning. Requires each educational service district to provide technology consultation, procurement, and training according to specified requirements, and allows procurement to be performed in consultation and contract with the Department of Enterprise Services.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Reps. Harris (R.), Rude (R.)

For:

  • Rep. Mia Gregerson (D, 33rd District)

Our families and our students went into remote learning overnight and we had over 100 thousand students without a learning device. And it kept growing throughout the last eleven months… The reality is that even today we have nearly 100 thousand students without devices that work, or they don’t have digital literacy skills, or the tech support that is necessary in order for them to learn from home. You’ve heard from the governor and others that learning loss is a really important issue and that we need to do whatever we can to get in control of that.”

Against:

  • Rep. Alex Ybarra ( R, 13th District)

But as she also stated cost, cost, we’re in COVID and in the end what we’re doing is just raising more taxes for folks to be paying. Do we need computers across the board? Most of the districts that I know of, the 295 districts in the state, have acquired computers for their kids. But this particular bill not only wants computers for the kids and also for the child care providers across the state. So cost, cost, cost. Do we need some of this, yes. But this is a huge amount of dollars that are going to be thrown into this particular bill.”

Tuesday March 2nd:

HB 1443

Topic: Cannabis industry/equity

Sponsors: Morgan,Wicks

Vote: 60-37-0-1

What the bill does: Expands the purpose of the Task Force on Social Equity in Cannabis (Task Force) to include providing recommendations to the Liquor and Cannabis Board on the issuance of existing cannabis producer and processor licenses. Modifies Task Force reporting requirements, including adding Task Force recommendation topics and extending the due date for the final Task Force recommendations to January 10, 2022. Expands eligible applicants under the Cannabis Social Equity Technical Assistance Grant Program to include all existing cannabis license holders and cannabis license applicants who meet social equity criteria. Requires the Department of Commerce to create a pilot program by October 2, 2021, to provide technical assistance to current cannabis retailer licensees who meet the social equity applicant criteria.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Reps. Corry (R.), Maycumber (R.), Mosbrucker (R.)

For:

  • Rep. Melanie Morgan (D, 29th District)

In conclusion, I’d like to say that cannabis, known by other names like marijuana, pot, grass, etcetera, was historically demonized and many Black, African-Americans, and other communities of color were arrested and over sentenced. Especially during the War on Drugs in the 80s and early 90s. But now it’s legal and my hope is that this bill will help the task force to ensure that this industry is equitable and that we are ensuring access to every community in the state of Washington. That they may also participate in this industry to build wealth for their families as well.”

Against:

  • Rep. Drew MacEwen (R, 35th District)

Unfortunately asking for a no vote on this. The Good Lady from the 25th brought forth an amendment that would have returned the task force to its original charter. And I think we could have been a yes had we had been able to adopt that amendment. I recognize the point that the Good Lady from the 29th brings up, it’s very valid ,and again we’d like to have been able to support this bill had we had that amendment hang on there, but because of that we will be voting no.”

HB 1117

Topic: Comp. planning/salmon

Sponsors: Lekanoff,Fitzgibbon

Vote: 58-38-0-2

What the bill does: Adds a goal of salmon recovery to the listed goals of the Growth Management Act (GMA). Requires the land use element of comprehensive plans adopted under the GMA to include a strategy that achieves net ecological gain of salmon habitat. Requires the capital facilities element and transportation element of comprehensive plans adopted under the GMA to include a schedule for the elimination of all identified fish passage barriers. Requires the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to adopt rules that establish criteria for net ecological gain and consistency with applicable regional salmon recovery plans that certain counties and cities must meet through the adoption of comprehensive plans. Requires development regulations that protect critical areas to apply certain mitigation requirements. Requires the WDFW to monitor the progress that certain counties and cities have made toward achieving net ecological gain and requires them to provide a report of its monitoring to the Governor, the Legislature, and local governments.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Reps. Chandler (R.), McEntire (R.)

For:

  • Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D, 40th District)

We have a unique opportunity here with this bill to present salmon recovery as a goal to our GMA comprehensive plans. We should all be excited. We should all be so very excited now we have international, federal, state, tribal and local government as part of the salmon recovery plan. Developing through science and through shared agency responsibility and opportunity for our local communities to be part of that salmon recovery planning. Now you might all want to know, co-managers are also supporting that as the Treaty Tribes of Washington state. My cities and counties have sat down with me every week to be able to develop this bill together stakeholders have sat down and said, ‘well Representative Lekanoff, this is a good bill that really brings all of our governing bodies together.’ Mr Speaker we’re looking to spend between cities, counties and states almost $9 billion dollars in salmon recovery and culverts. We want to be able to know that if we’re going to put culverts down river in a city and county, that their comprehensive plan will look down to that salmon recovery and say ‘upriver we’re going to continue to invest in habitat.’”

Against:

  • Rep. Peter Abbarno (R, 20th District)

I do have some significant concerns and these were the same concerns that many of us had when this legislation was brought to committee. The fact that ecological gain is really a very subjective term with arbitrary tests and standards, that even in committee no one could really pinpoint what that was and how that would impact the Growth Management Act. It was clear in the bill itself when the bill actually has a fiscal note that requires an administrative law judge, because there’s going to be litigation on this issue because the language on that bill is very subjective and the standards aren’t very well defined.”

HB 1140

Topic: Juvenile access to attorneys

Sponsors: Johnson, J.,Frame

Vote: 56-41-0-1

What the bill does: Requires law enforcement to provide juveniles with access to an attorney prior to any waiver of the juvenile’s constitutional rights when law enforcement: (1) questions a juvenile after providing a Miranda warning; (2) detains a juvenile based on reasonable suspicion; or (3) requests that the juvenile provide consent to an evidentiary search of the juvenile or the juvenile’s property, dwellings, or vehicles under the juvenile’s control. Provides that the consultation with an attorney may not be waived. Establishes that statements made by a juvenile during or after the foregoing scenarios are inadmissible, unless: (1) the juvenile is provided with access to an attorney for consultation and the juvenile makes a valid waiver of the juvenile’s rights; (2) the statement is for impeachment purposes; or (3) the statement was made spontaneously. Establishes exceptions to the attorney-consultation requirement if law enforcement believes the juvenile is a victim of trafficking, or believes the information sought is necessary to protect an individual’s life from an imminent threat.  Requires the Office of Public Defense to provide access to attorneys for juveniles when required by this act.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Rep. Chapman (D.)

For:

  • Rep. Jesse Johnson (D, 30th District)

We know that Black youth, indigenous youth and youths of color are disproportionately stopped, arrested, and questioned by the police. And in many instances this leads to false confessions, prosecutions, and incarceration in the juvenile legal system. In fact, youth of color statewide represent only about 28% of the general population but nearly 50% of youth in county detention. We also know that youth of color experience trauma associated with the disproportionate and sometimes overly aggressive policing in our communities. It leaves them often incredibly scared, disempowered, and vulnerable when they interact with officers. I saw this in education, as a high school college and career counselor in interactions with the school resource officers at times. Miranda rights can also be confusing and applied with little consideration to this trauma and social emotional reality. I believe our youth deserve an opportunity to consult with an attorney with legal expertise in juvenile law before they make what could be a life-altering decision with long-term consequences.”

Against:

  • Rep. Jim Walsh (R, 19th District)

There is a flaw at its core, in its premise, young people minors in the state have every legal protection, constitutional protection, that adults have in the state. What this bill does is create a super status, a status of greater position with regard to constitutional protections. Like the protection against self-incrimination, with protections against unfounded searches and seizures, these sorts of things. We all have those protections, the youngest of us and the oldest. If we get into the business of creating super protections, groups that are more protected than others in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the Constitution, we begin a process that creates hierarchies of protected status. And these are not just words on paper this is a slippery slope. This takes us to the place where not everyone has equal protection under the law.”

HB 1214

Topic: K-12 safety & security serv.

Sponsors: Senn,Johnson, J.

Vote: 67-30-0-1

What the bill does: Creates the category of safety and security staff for kindergarten through grade 12 public schools. Provides requirements for safety and security staff agreements, data collection, and training, for educational service districts, school districts, and charter schools. 

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Reps. Abbarno (R.), Barkis (R.), Chandler (R.), Gilday (R.), Goehner (R.), Griffey (R.), Harris (R.), Steele (R.), Wilcox (R.), Ybarra (R.)

For:

  • Rep. Tana Senn (D, 41st District)

We know that unfortunately Black and brown children feel unsafe at school in a lot of communities when there is law enforcement present. In my own community, in Bellevue, I met with local students who brought this forward and I was honored to work with a number of other legislators, to listen to their concerns. And they had also brought their concerns to their school district and the school board and the students are now working together to make sure they do have the data that they need locally and that they have a better understanding of what works and wasn’t doesn’t work for those students in those school buildings. So I hope you’ll join me in making sure that we’re hearing the voice of students, we’re getting the data that we need, we’re building these relationships by having a lot of clarity about what the roles are and aren’t of S.R.O.s and we’re able to insure that training makes for safer environments and better professionalism.”

Against:

  • Rep. Alex Ybarra (R, 13th District) (He voted in favor of the bill, but is explaining the position of the Republican caucus)

So we will be mixed on this side…. I understand that the additional training is needed, part of the reason we will be mixed is training costs money. And when we pass this particular bill, it says that different pieces of training need to happen, and policies need to be changed in 295 school districts. Policies, procedures, the E.S.D.’s need to make changes, have to do the training for school districts across the state. And that costs money. And there’s not a lot of funds attached to this.”

Wednesday, March 3rd

HB 1220

Topic: Emergency shelters & housing

Sponsors: Peterson,Macri

Vote: 57-39-0-2

What the bill does: Updates the housing goals of the Growth Management Act to include planning for and accommodating affordable housing. Requires jurisdictions to address moderate, low, very low, and extremely low-income housing in the housing element of the comprehensive plan. Requires jurisdictions to address racially disparate impacts and displacement in the housing element of the comprehensive plan. Requires the Department of Commerce to provide the inventory and analysis of existing and projected housing needs required in the housing element of the comprehensive plan.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: None

For:

  • Rep. Strom Peterson (D, 21st District)

This is an issue about housing. This is an issue about making sure that those people that have no housing or are on the verge of homelessness have a place to lay their head, have a place to close a door, have a place to take a shower… But we know that we have to look at our history to see for some of the reasons that we are here today in this housing crisis when we have the haves and the have nots when it comes to a safe place to live.”

Against:

  • Rep. Keith Goehner (R, 12th District)

You know we’ve been working on the homeless crisis now for many years I know least for the last twenty. And we’ve had countless attempts to generate funds for that and to hold communities accountable and it hasn’t really worked. But it’s not because there hasn’t been a lack of effort; some communities have responded differently, they haven’t responded with what would be considered to be as receptive to some of these facilities as others. The reality is that each community has taken on the responsibility for dealing with this issue and maybe they haven’t experienced the success that they would like to see. But I don’t believe it’s the role of the state government to dictate to local governments where and how they should plan. We should be giving guidelines but local governments should have the latitude to deal with the issues on a community basis.”

HB 1267

Topic: Police use of force

Sponsors: Entenman,Hackney

Vote: 57-39-0-2

What the bill does: Establishes the Office of Independent Investigations within the Office of

the Governor for the purpose of investigating deadly force incidents involving peace officers.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Reps. Abbarno (R.), Chapman (D.)

For:

  • Rep. Debra Entenman (D, 47th District)

I was closely involved in the work that was done out of this taskforce. There were two recommendations. One was for an independent investigative body that would come into a community when there was an incident immediately take over jurisdiction and do a thorough investigation. So that we could rebuild trust that when someone’s lost their lives at the hands of a police officer. So that it could be investigated fairly and prosecuted if necessary. The other part of  what the task force was tasked to do was to have independent prosecution. We had a bill we made through committee, we did not have enough time, but these two things together we hope will rebuild trust in the justice system in Washington.”

Against:  

  • Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (R, 14th District)

There’s new ways and better ways that we can rebuild that trust. I-940 passed by what the people wanted and it was barely a year ago and we haven’t fully developed those investigative tactics. Again we’re changing the rules, we’re changing the way that we do it. But the people had spoken and they had told us what they wanted. We also struggle with under this bill the Office of Investigation chooses which cases. So it’s not all cases, it’s just some cases. So we want to make sure that that’s balanced and there’s a formula to know which cases will be under review. We’re also concerned about the fiscal note, this is 60 million dollars over four years and there was a 72 page fiscal note on this.”

Thursday, March 4th

HB 1097

Topic: Worker protections

Sponsors: Sells,Bateman

Vote: 53-44-0-1

What the bill does: Establishes statutory procedures for an employer to contest an order of immediate restraint (OIR) and appeal alleged violations of the OIR, and authorizes the imposition of daily civil penalties. Amends the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act’s anti-retaliation provision by explicitly prohibiting acts that would deter a reasonable employee from exercising their rights, expanding the time for filing a complaint, authorizing civil penalties, and making other changes. Creates a grant program to assist small businesses in equipment purchases or capital costs during a state of emergency proclamation.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Reps. Chapman (D.), Leavitt (D.), Springer (D.), Walen (D.)

For:

  • Rep. Mike Sells (D, 38th District)

Whenever I look at workplace safety bills I think of a line from a protest about forty years ago, ‘We just come to work, we don’t come to die.’ Now that might seem to be a bit of hyperbole, but it undergirds just about everything we think about in terms of workplace safety and in one of those areas the order of imminent restraint. Those are areas of huge danger, people die or they get substantially hurt so they can’t even work the rest of their life. The economic impact to that individual, to that company is substantial. What we’ve done in this bill is change some of the enforcement mechanisms and added in penalties and action because we think that needs to be done to get quicker action on orders of imminent restraint. We think that’s an important thing to do and it’s paying homage to those folks who may have been in an accident in the past where we could’ve saved them and their community some of the anguish.”

Against: 

  • Rep. Larry Hoff (R, 18th District)

I really think the employer should have been considered a little bit more in this particular piece of legislation. Now the other part is the anti retaliate bill and as I said before no one should be retaliated against. They should have open and free opportunities just to air their grievances with the agency and have the agency judge those, investigate them as they’ve been directed. No question about that the only challenge we had was a timeframe giving employees significantly more time and the employer significantly less time just doesn’t seem to be balanced to me.”

Friday, March 5th

HB 1076

Topic: Workplace violations/qui tam

Sponsors: Hansen,Fitzgibbon

Vote: 53-44-0-1

What the bill does: Authorizes a qui tam action for enforcement of various employment laws under which a relator on behalf of an agency may pursue relief. Specifies the distribution of any penalties or damages awarded.

The Debate:

Votes against party majority: Reps. Chapman (D.), Springer (D.), Tharinger (D.), Walen (D.)

For:

  • Rep. Drew Hansen (D, 23rd District)

This bill allows Washington’s workers to enforce the laws that protect them. We have a number of laws to protect workers in this state the Wage Payment Act, the law against discrimination, our health and safety laws, and more. But even with these laws we know that workers in the state don’t always get all the wages they’re entitled to, they don’t always work in safe conditions, and they often suffer discrimination. We know this from a couple of sources. We know this from surveys and research. We know this from testimony on this bill. We also know this from actually litigated court cases. There was a case not long ago involving nurses who the trial court, after a nine day bench trial, found were forced to work without pay, it found that they missed ninety percent of their meal periods, and it found that their employer did this knowingly and willfully. But when the case got into the Supreme Court, our Supreme Court dismissed it holding that the plaintiff, the state Nurses Association, did not have standing.”

Against: 

  • Rep. Larry Hoff (R, 18th District)

Nobody is denying anybody access to justice. In fact employees that have a grievance with an employer should indeed be able to air those grievances and employers that are doing things wrong should indeed be charged with fixing those or fined so that they can actually make the condition right. But that’s by far and away a small percentage of our employers, we don’t have a massive backlog. As evidenced by the Department of Labor and Industries on email and testimony. And to suggest that we have a line of people waiting to file a grievance is once this bill passes I think it’s just blatantly wrong. If indeed those grievances exist they now can air those with the department.”


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