OLYMPIA — Forty days into this year’s scheduled 105-day regular session, state lawmakers have now introduced some 2,200 bills. So far lawmakers have passed more than 300 measures out of House and Senate committees. That number will increase substantially by the end of Feb. 22, which is the cut-off date for consideration of bills by policy committees in the originating chamber.
So far this session, the full House and Senate have passed a total of 73 bills, but only one bill, HB 1064, to change the law enforcement initiative approved by voters last November, has been signed into law.
Among the bills that advanced in the Legislature this week are:
HB 1074, to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. It passed the House on Wednesday by a 66-30 vote.
SB 5221, to require that political committees list the top five individuals or entities that contributed at least $700 to the sponsor of a political advertisement during the 12 months before the advertisement was distributed. It passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 33-14.
HB 1087, to create a long-term care program funded by a new tax on employee wages of 0.58 percent. It passed the House on Thursday by a 63-33 vote.
The Senate State Government, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee on Thursday passed SB 5139, to end the yearly changes in daylight savings time by making daylight savings permanent. The bill now goes to the Senate Rules Committee and possible consideration by the full Senate. Other western states are also considering ending the twice-yearly daylight saving time shift.
As legislative policy committees work toward their deadline today, the broader conversation in Olympia is shifting toward spending and tax issues. According to revenue forecasts, taxpayers are providing lawmakers with a record $50 billion, available for the next two-year spending plan. This is $4.2 billion more than current tax revenues, but Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, told reporters Tuesday that costs for existing programs would amount to $51.1 billion.
Democratic leaders said they could use existing reserves, but there is a long list of additional spending their members want which amount to several billion dollars more. The Democrats’ spending and tax plans will provide more detail when their proposed budget is released next month.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats also introduced a new carbon fuel tax bill (SB 5971) today that would increase the gas tax by 15 cents-a-gallon, along with other increases in taxes and fees, to raise some $17 billion for various proposed transportation and environmental projects.
Previous attempts to impose a carbon tax have failed, including Initiative 1631 which garnered less than 44 percent support by Washington voters last November. The sponsor of SB 5971 and Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens), acknowledged the past failure of carbon tax proposals, but said he thinks his bill has at least a 50-50 chance of passing the Legislature.
Washington Votes is a product of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy at the Washington Policy Center.