Session is rolling on, and tomorrow is the last day for the Legislature to pass non-budget-related bills out of the house of origin. Lawmakers have been hard at work passing a number of consequential bills off the floor, and we highlight several of them here.
Thanks, as always, for reading!
With help from Emily Boerger and DJ Wilson
1. Legislature votes to move presidential primary
The only thing standing between Washington State and a March presidential primary is a signature from Gov. Jay Inslee. The main motivator is to give Washington more leverage in the presidential nomination. Advocates stress that it’ll move Washington away from party caucuses. Whether Democrats will actually do that is yet to be determined.
Arguments against the bill during House floor debate focused on its exclusion of unaffiliated voters. Another subject of argument against the effort: It allows government agencies and political parties to keep records that link voters’ names to their declared political party affiliation. Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat compares this to “a direct-mail and telemarketing scheme,” and former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro calls it “highway robbery.”
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3. Senate passes school-safety bills
Three bills related to school safety made it out of the Senate last week. Two of the bills directly address recommendations from the Mass Shootings Work Group’s final report.
The Senate bills passed last week allow courts to enter extreme risk protection orders against minors, define what school resource officers are and set training requirements for them, and require notification of schools when there’s a situation that might warrant an evacuation or lockdown.
4. Wire Insider: Tim Eyman, political activist
Tim Eyman is a political activist. He joins us as a “Wire Insider” to discuss taxes and the influence of Democrats in the Legislature.
“Democrats are completely in charge. They have total numbers in the House, the Senate, Inslee’s running for president—they can do anything. There are no restraints on them whatsoever, so for me it’s all about taxes… So, my question during one of the sessions [at Re-wire] was, ‘So now we just have to rely on your self-restraint? Is that all we got now?’ And that’s kind of a scary thing.”
5. Senate passes Washington Privacy Act
In a near-unanimous vote, the Senate passed a bill its prime sponsor Sen. Reuven Carlyle said “responsibly takes the best practices from Europe, California and other states to build a data privacy regulatory framework that will help set a standard and lead the nation in bringing our data privacy laws into the 21st century.”
Under the bill, consumers can request access to their data, as well as correction, deletion, and restriction of its processing. It also sets requirements for companies to take preventive measures and limits how facial recognition technology can be used.
6. Bills bolster renters
The House passed three bills altering Washington’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act last week. Among the changes: Renters would get more notice when they face situations like rent increases and pay-or-vacate notices.
One of the bills has bipartisan support and came about as a result of the Tiki apartments incident in Tacoma last year, when tenants were given as little as 25 days to move out after their building changed hands. The other bills were more contentious. Especially HB 1453, which would make several changes to the act and which some critics say throws off the balance between tenants’ rights and landlords’ rights.
7. Sue Bird throws shade at Sen. Schoesler
It’s not often that a 10-time WNBA All-Star weighs in on the goings-on of state Legislature. But it happened, after Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler cast the only “no” on a bill to create Seattle Storm license plates.
Proceeds from the plate’s sales would go to the Legislative Youth Advisory Council and grants “to support and enhance athletic, recreational, and other opportunities for women and girls, especially those with disabilities.” The plate would join a wide array of special plates available for purchase, including plates for three Seattle-based men’s professional sports teams.
8. Senate votes for environmental-justice task force
The Senate passed the Healthy Environment for All Act off the floor last week in a vote almost entirely along party lines. The bill creates a task force with the goal to “incorporate environmental justice principles into the operations and activities of state agencies.”
It follows the launch of the Environmental Health Disparities Map (pictured above), a tool that displays cumulative environmental health impact scores at a neighborhood level. The bill essentially takes that mapping tool and applies it to state agencies’ work via the task force. One lawmaker in opposition said it implies a “broad swath of authority.”