OLYMPIA – The Washington Legislature finished its session shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday, on time for only the second time this decade after updating budgets for government operations, roads and government construction projects.
Thanks to a booming economy, they were able to spend more on state programs, promise a tax cut to property owners in 2019 and not raise taxes they talked about when the session started in January.
The 2017 session lasted a record 193 days. This year’s lasted the constitutionally established 60 days.
Minutes after the gavel came down to end the session, Gov. Jay Inslee listed the high points: Changes to the voting system to register more people; a ban on bump stock devices for semi-automatic rifles; pay equity and reproductive parity in insurance plans for women; the nation’s first net neutrality law and property tax relief.
“I think we can celebrate a long list of accomplishments for a long list of Washingtonians,” he said at the post-session press conference.
But there were disappointments, too, he said. He wanted a tax on carbon, restrictions on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons. Both got hearings, but no votes. A proposal to end capital punishment in Washington passed the Senate but stalled in the House.
“We’ll be back in January,” he said.
Lawmakers’ last day was filled with complaints about “process” as bills traveled back and forth from one chamber to the other. A major adjustment to the state’s public school system, updating the work the Legislature did last year, almost foundered on complaints by Senate Republicans that they hadn’t even had time to read the changes approved earlier in the day by the House.
The Senate took a 15-minute break for legislators to read the bill, then returned to the chamber where it passed 25-23, with the Republican members and the Democrat who caucuses with them voting no.
An initiative to the Legislature that attempts to reduce incidents of deadly force by law enforcement also passed after lawmakers passed, and Inslee signed, a bill to amend the initiative the day after it takes effect. Supporters said the sponsors of the initiative and law enforcement organizations worked out the compromises; opponents questioned whether that method, which may be unprecedented, is a legal way to change a legislative initiative.
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