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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Slow driver penalties, sex-selection abortion ban, temporary shelters for homeless didn’t make it through Legislature

OLYMPIA – When the legislative session ended, a pile of bills wound up on a governor’s desk to become law or be vetoed. An even bigger pile were introduced and never made it that far.

A few got close; many got nowhere.

With more than 3,800 bills, resolutions and memorials introduced in 2015-16 session ranging from Abortion to Zoos, no one can keep track of everything. Some shone brightly in the public spotlight for a while, but faded before passing both houses. Here are updates on some bills The Spokesman-Review covered during the session which aren’t going to become law.

Waivers for churches providing temporary to homeless families. Written to help exempt churches working with Family Promise of Spokane from local building codes that require expensive fire suppression systems for older churches if they allow homeless families to spend the night there, HB 2929 came about as close as any bill to passing. It received unanimous votes in both chambers, but a dispute over how many days in a row a church facility could operate doomed the bill on the final day of the regular session.

Transgender bathroom rules. Probably nothing generated more controversy in the first month of the session than the Human Rights Commission codifying a rule that allows transgender people to use public restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities based on their gender identity, not their biology. It generated four bills. On a 24-25 vote, the Senate rejected SB 6443, which would have overturned the rule. SB 6548, which required people to use those facilities based on their genitalia, got a hearing and vote out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, but no vote in the Senate; the House companion bill HB 2589 got 37 GOP co-sponsors but no committee hearing . HB 2782, which called for use based on anatomy or DNA also got no hearing.

Five commissioners for Spokane County. Originally drafted to require Spokane County to grow its board of commissioners from three to five members, allow other counties to do so if they want and rearrange elections so commissioners are chosen by district voters in primary and general elections, HB 2610 was later amended to make that mandatory for Thurston County also. It passed the House narrowly but never got a vote in the Senate.

Driving too slow in the passing lane on interstates. Originally introduced near the end of the 2015 regular session, SB 6105 didn’t get a hearing until 2016. The Washington State Patrol didn’t oppose it outright but a spokeswoman said the agency had some concerns about the wording. It passed the Senate Transportation Committee with talk of working on those concerns. It never got a vote in the full Senate.

A year’s supply of contraceptives. The House overwhelmingly passed a bill allowing women to get a 12-month supply of birth control pills at a pharmacy on request, with only six male members voting no. But the Senate Health Committee added amendments that allowed insurance companies to put some limits on those requests and HB 2465 got out of committee but never came to a vote in the full Senate.

Banning abortions for sex selection. During a packed a hearing for SB 6612 in the Senate Law and Justice Committee, supporters of the ban called the practice gender-acide while opponents called it a problem that doesn’t exist in Washington. The committee passed the 4-3, but it never came to a vote in the full Senate.

Restricting local ordinances on sick leave or minimum wage laws. A proposal to keep individual cities from enacting sick leave or higher minimum wage ordinances created some friction between Spokane city council members and the sponsor, Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane. SB 6578 narrowly passed the Commerce and Labor Committee, where Baumgartner is chairman, but never came to a vote in the full Senate.

Firearms Civil Rights Act. This bill that would punish government officials for illegally confiscating guns or denying concealed weapons permit, and increase penalties for anyone possessing, brandishing or discharging a firearm during a felony. But HB 2975 was introduced on the last day for bills to be voted out of committee and raised eyebrows over quotes some said were incorrectly attributed to various Founding Fathers in the bill’s long intent section. It never got a hearing.

Changes to the Supreme Court. A bill to shrink the nine-member state Supreme Court down to five, the original number of justices at the time of statehood, joined several proposals from 2015 to require justices to be elected by districts rather than statewide. HB 2784 never got a hearing but prime sponsor Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, filed an initiative to the people in an effort to get the proposal before voters this November.

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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