OLYMPIA — Of the 2,151 measures introduced in this year’s legislative session so far, 1,484 have survived last Friday’s deadline for policy committees to pass bills in their house of origin. Another deadline looms this Friday, March 1, the last day to pass bills out of fiscal and transportation committees in their originating chamber. This will further reduce the number of active bills left for consideration in the scheduled 105-day session, which is now in its 45th day.
House and Senate legislation that seeks to exempt the Legislature from state public records laws did not make last Friday’s cut, or were declared dead in committee earlier after strong opposition from open-government advocates.
The question of whether legislators are subject to the same disclosure rules as other state and local elected officials will likely now be decided by the Washington State Supreme Court. The court on Monday set June 11 as the date to begin hearing oral arguments in a case brought by a coalition of media organizations that claim legislators have been violating the law by not releasing lawmaker emails, schedules and reports of sexual harassment.
A measure that would repeal Washington’s death penalty law (SB 5339) passed the Senate earlier this month by a 28-19 vote and is currently before the House Public Safety Committee. Rep. Jenny Graham (R-Spokane), who serves on the committee and whose sister was murdered by serial killer Gary Ridgway, told KOMO News this week that she will continue to fight to keep the death penalty as an option in Washington state.
She said it is important to keep the death penalty, because it was a key bargaining tool in the Ridgway case. Authorities were able to offer him a life sentence without parole instead of the death penalty in exchange for his disclosing the location of 41 murder victims.
The current death sentence law was enacted in 1981, but Governor Inslee issued a moratorium on all death sentences in 2014. The Washington Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the way the death sentence was being carried out in the state is unconstitutional but found that the death penalty itself is not unconstitutional.
A bill to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags (SB 5323) continued to advance in the Senate this week with passage by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. If enacted, the bill would replace 27 current city and county bag bans. Most local bans impose a 5-cent fee per bag for paper bags, but the Senate bill would raise that fee to 10 cents per bag. A companion bill in the House, HB 1205, is currently before the House Finance Committee.
The Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing Tuesday on legislation to lower yearly car tab fees, which skyrocketed after voters approved a Sound Transit expansion and tax package (ST3) in 2016. SB 5042 would require that vehicle valuations be based on true Kelley Blue Book market values. Currently, Sound Transit uses the much higher manufacturer’s suggested retail price to impose car tab fees, which are used to help fund the multibillion dollar, 25-year ST3 program.
Initiative 976, to restore $30 car tab fees is also before the House and Senate. If the Legislature takes no action on the measure this session, it will go to state voters in this year’s November election.
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