OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday signed SB 5273, to move Washington’s 2020 presidential primary from May to March and require voters to register by party. The bill passed both houses of the legislature earlier this session with mostly Democratic votes. The governor’s action came just days after he officially announced his campaign for U.S. President.
Also this week, state senate Democrats pushed through SB 5078, to require candidates to disclose their federal tax returns before their names could appear on Washington’s presidential primary ballot. The vote was 28-21, with only one Democrat, Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Mason County) who caucuses with Senate Republicans, voting against it.
Wednesday’s cut-off deadline for bills to pass their original chamber left just 681 bills out of some 2,150 bills introduced still under consideration for this session. Democrats in Olympia continue to advance what they and the governor say are their key agenda items for the year.
• SB 5822, to design a government-run, “socialized” health care system for all residents. If approved by the House and signed by the governor, the system outline would be announced by Nov. 15 and a full plan would be revealed a year later. During lengthy debate on the floor, Republican senators offered an amendment to preserve consumer choice in the private insurance market. The amendment failed and the bill passed 28-21, with all Republicans and Democratic Sen. Sheldon, voting against it.
• HB 1110, to impose low-carbon fuel limits on gasoline and other transportation related fuels, passed the House on Tuesday. The bill would direct the state Department of Ecology to impose a “clean fuels” program to reduce the carbon emissions 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. The mandatory program would begin by Jan. 1, 2021. During floor debate, opponents argued that the bill would harm Washington residents by raising gas prices, which are already among the highest in the nation, and raising other costs, including food prices. A Republican amendment to allow a public vote at the next general election was defeated, and the bill passed along party lines by a 53-43 vote. Bi-partisan opposition to the bill included all Republicans and three Democrats.
• HB 1575, passed on a partisan vote of 57-41 on Monday, with all House Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans against. The bill would bar public employees from seeking refunds of fees they were wrongly forced to pay to government unions. In the 2018 ”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. The court ruled an employee's clear consent is required before dues may be deducted from the employee's pay. The bill passed Monday says workers cannot get their money back, by providing that public employers and public employee unions would not be required to refund dues and fees deducted before the Court's ruling.
• In other action this week, SJR 8201, a proposed state constitutional amendment to lower the standard for passing school bond measure failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority for passage. The measure garnered a 28-21 vote, with all Republicans and one Democrat opposed.
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