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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Some bills on life-support

OLYMPIA – Friday was a cut-off day for the Legislature. That’s not to say the weather has been so good that we can shed our raincoats and don jeans that have been shortened by scissors.

Rather it is a term for deadlines the Legislature imposes on itself to pare down the hundreds of bills that get introduced, directing more attention to a some while pushing others toward oblivion. Many people refer to latter as dead, although veteran legislators will tell you that nothing is truly dead until the honorables adjourn for good and go home. Like Lazarus a few have been restored to life over the years. They are, more accurately, on life support and the hand that could pull the plug is hovering.

Bills that would change state law that involves policy without significantly affecting the budget faced such a deadline Friday They needed to get voted out of their first committee or be put in that precarious position. There may be some bills you’ve heard about in recent weeks and are wondering “what the hell ever happened to. . .?” Here are some updates:

Efforts to repeal I-594. At least three bills were introduced in the House, none got a hearing let alone a vote. A Senate committee approved some bills to narrow the background check provisions for law enforcement, the military and a few other professions.

Splitting Washington into two states: Two bills and a memorial to Congress to accomplish that in one form or another were introduced. None got a hearing.

Abolishing the death penalty: Got a hearing in the House, didn’t get a committee vote.

Restrictions on using small parcels of state land to access streams, rivers and lakes: Generated lots of heat in the outdoors community, and got a hearing in a House committee. The reaction was bad and the sponsor planned to rewrite it to address concerns; a new version never surfaced for a vote.

Getting rid of Daylight Savings Time: Got hearings in the Senate and House, but no vote in either.

Criminalizing “agricultural production interference”, sometimes called the ag gag bill: Got a House hearing, no vote.

Changing the way the state Supreme Court is elected: This was very popular among some legislators, due in no small part to the court holding them in contempt for not spending enough on public schools. At least seven different ideas were proposed – six to elect them by district and one to make them partisan positions “because the Supreme Court has decided to act like the Legislature and has thus violated the separation of powers”. Some are bills, others are proposed constitutional amendments. One proposed amendment on district elections got a hearing in Senate Law and Justice Committee and was passed out on a partisan 4-3 vote. So it’s alive, but supporters may want to get the defibrillator panels charged because a constitutional amendment takes a super majority in both chambers, and the committee vote suggests that’s not likely. The others didn’t get hearings.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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