OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee is out of the state this week on an east coast campaign tour, but Democrats in Washington’s Legislature are working to pass key bills on his agenda.
On Thursday, the state House debated SB 5116, the governor’s sweeping proposal to move the state to what he calls a “clean-energy” economy. Under the bill, Washington’s electric utilities would have to eliminate all coal-fired energy sources by 2025, and by 2045 would have to get 100 percent of retail electricity generation from non-carbon and renewable resources.
The bill passed the state Senate on March 1st by a party-line 28-19 vote—the same day Governor Inslee announced his campaign for U.S. President. Republican senators argued that Washington utilities already rely heavily on clean hydroelectric power and that the bill’s provisions would really only result in additional costs and rate increases imposed on consumers. House Republicans offered similar arguments, along with more than a dozen amendments, which were rejected by majority Democrats.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 56-42, with only one Democrat, Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) voting against it. The bill will now be reconciled with the senate-passed version and sent to the governor for his signature upon his return to Olympia.
Another key item on the governor’s agenda is the so-called “public option” socialized health care coverage measure, SB 5526. This bill would create subsidized state-funded public health plans managed by regulated insurance companies. It would require the State Insurance Commissioner and the Health Care Authority to set up the socialized plans by 2021.
These plans would be available through the state’s health care exchange to all residents, but the state would pay subsidies to individuals with incomes of up to five times the poverty level. Premiums would be limited to no more than ten percent of adjusted gross income, and payments to doctors and other health care providers would be restricted to Medicare-level limits.
The bill passed the Senate last month by a 36-13 vote, after a House version of the proposal, HB 1523, passed the House on a 57-41 party-line vote. The final proposal of the bill was incorporated in SB 5526 and passed the House on Wednesday by a 54-38 vote, with six members excused.
Changes to the bill made by the House will have to be approved by the Senate before it goes to the governor for his signature.
Last month, House Democrats passed HB 1575, which would bar public employees from seeking refunds of fees they were wrongly forced to pay to government unions. In the “Janus” case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require public employees who are not members to pay fees to the union. This bill says workers cannot get their money back by providing that public employers and public employee unions are not required to return union fees that were deducted prior to the Court’s ruling.
The bill passed the House on a partisan 57-41 vote and came up for debate and vote by the full Senate Thursday. After hours of contentious debate, Senate Democrats postponed the final vote for action later Friday or in the next few days.
This week's key votes
Following the April 9th deadline this week for bills to gain approval from the opposite chamber’s fiscal and transportation committees, the focus in Olympia is now on consideration of bills by the full House and Senate. State lawmakers have until April 17th to act on measures passed by the opposite chamber. Only budget and budget-related bills can be considered thereafter, along with initiatives to the legislature. This year’s session is scheduled to adjourn on April 28th. Highlighting this week’s roll call votes are bills considered to be key agenda items for Governor Inslee and his fellow Democrats, who control both chambers of the legislature. These include a “clean energy future” measure, SB 5116, and a “public option” subsidized health insurance bill, SB 5526. A bill to help public sector union membership retention in the wake of the US. Supreme Court’s “Janus” ruling, HB 1575, was heavily debated on the floor of the Senate this week, but a final vote on the measure — which earlier passed the House on a party-line 57-41 vote, has been postponed.
Senate Bill 5116, Supporting Washington's clean energy economy and transitioning to a clean, affordable, and reliable energy future. Passed the House on April 11, 2019 by a vote of 56-42.
This bill is Governor Inslee’s sweeping proposal to move the state to what he and supporters of the bill say is a “clean-energy” economy. Under the bill, Washington’s electric utilities would have to eliminate all coal-fired energy sources by 2025 and meet 100 percent of its retail electric load using non-emitting and renewable resources by January 1, 2045. The bill passed the state Senate on March 1st on a party-line 28-19 vote. Republican senators argued that Washington utilities already rely heavily on clean hydroelectric power and that the bill’s provisions would really only result in additional costs and rate increases to be borne by consumers. House Republicans offered similar arguments, along with more than a dozen amendments that were rejected by majority Democrats. The bill now goes back to the Senate for approval of changes to the bill made in the House, before it is sent to the Governor for his signature.
19 Rep. Brian Blake (Aberdeen) (D) N
19 Rep. Jim Walsh (Aberdeen) (R) N
Senate Bill 5526, Increasing the availability of quality, affordable health coverage in the individual market. Passed the House on April 10, 2019 by a vote of 54-38, six members excused.
Also proposed by Governor Inslee, this bill would create a subsidized state-funded public health plan. It would require the State Insurance Commissioner and the Health Care Authority to set up plans by 2021 with insurance companies that offer qualified plans in this state. These plans would be available through the state’s health care exchange to all residents, but the state would pay subsidies to individuals with incomes of up to five times the poverty level. Premiums would be limited to no more than ten percent of adjusted gross income, and payments to doctors and other health care providers would be restricted to Medicare-level limits. The bill passed the Senate last month by a 36-13 vote, after a House version of the proposal, HB 1523, passed the House on a 57-41 party-line vote. The final version of the bill was incorporated in SB 5526 and also passed by a party-line vote. Six members were excused when the vote was taken this week. Changes to the bill made by the House will have to be approved by the Senate, before it goes to the Governor for his signature.
19 Rep. Brian Blake (Aberdeen) (D) Y
19 Rep. Jim Walsh (Aberdeen) (R) N
House Bill 1101, Concerning state general obligation bonds and related accounts. Failed to pass in the Senate on April 8, 2019 by a vote of 26-21, two members excused. (Sixty percent majority vote required for passage.)
This is a bill to authorize more than $3.08 billion in general obligation bonds to help finance the proposed state capital budget that would provide for $5.26 billion in construction and infrastructure projects statewide for the 2019-21 biennium. The House unanimously passed a $4.4 billion capital budget (HB 1102) along with a $3.1 bond authorization bill (HB 1101) last week. Notice to reconsider the vote by which HB 1101 failed in the Senate was given, meaning that members agreed to bring the bill back up to vote, so the bill is scheduled for a re-vote in the coming days.
19 Sen. Dean Takko (Longview) (D) Y
House Bill 1742, Concerning juvenile offenses that involve depictions of minors. Passed the Senate on April 10, 2019 by a vote of 25-19, five members excused.
This bill would exclude minors from felony crimes involving dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and creates a new class of crimes that apply exclusively to minors. It would limit the crime of a minor dealing in depictions of another minor thirteen years of age or older engaged in sexually explicit conduct to a gross misdemeanor. It also would exempt minors from being charged with a crime for depictions of themselves engaged in sexually explicit conduct unless they sell the depiction. Supporters of the bill say that teenagers use smartphones every day and experience shows that many of them are using phones to send sexually explicit pictures of themselves. They say adults struggle to intervene because they know that any juvenile engaging in this conduct is guilty of a Class B sex offense under current law and would have to register as a sex offender. Juvenile conduct is very different from that of an adult and the statutory response needs to differentiate between the two. Opponents of the bill as proposed say that while it is important to decriminalize possession because we want juveniles to report behavior and ask for help without getting in trouble, the bill is overly broad in exempting distribution of juvenile depictions of sexually explicit behavior from criminal prosecution. Proposed amendments to narrow such exemptions were rejected and the bill passed by a majority Democratic vote, with no Republican support. The bill passed the House last month on a 57-39 vote, and it now goes back to the House to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.
19 Sen. Dean Takko (Longview) (D) Y
House Bill 1817, Ensuring for a skilled and trained workforce in high hazard facilities. Passed the Senate on April 10, 2019 by a vote of 29-16, four members excused.
The bill would require owners and operators of oil refineries to require their contractors and subcontractors to use a skilled and trained workforce to perform onsite work. It defines a skilled and trained workers as registered apprentices or skilled journeypersons who meet certain apprenticeship graduation requirements. Supporters of this bill say it is key to long term safety at these facilities. They say that after California passed a similar bill, there was an increase in safety. They also say that some contractors cut costs by hiring low-cost unskilled labor from other areas. Opponents say these facilities are already safe and there is no data to support the bill. Contractors are already selected based on their safety record and are frequently audited. Their main concern, they say is that he bill will eliminate competition between the union and non-union contractors. They say it establishes a prevailing wage for the private sector for the first time, which may be preempted by federal law, adding that that discriminates against out of state workers who may be from federal apprenticeship programs but not state apprenticeship programs. The bill passed the House last month on a 64-32 vote and now goes back to the House for reconciliation of amendments passed by the Senate.
19 Sen. Dean Takko (Longview) (D) Y
Y = Yes, N = No, E = Excused, X = Not Voting