OLYMPIA – When a legislative session ends, a pile of bills wind up on a governor’s desk to become law or be vetoed, but 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 the past two years on topics 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 some The Spokesman-Review reported on during the session that won’t become law.
Waivers for churches providing temporary shelter 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, the bill 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 restroom 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 a Senate bill that would have overturned the rule. Another Senate proposal, 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 got 37 GOP co-sponsors but no committee hearing. Another House bill, 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, the legislation later was 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, the Senate bill 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 the proposal got out of committee but never came to a vote in the full Senate.
Banning abortions for sex selection. During a packed hearing for a Senate bill 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 bill 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. The bill 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 would have punished government officials for illegally confiscating guns or denying concealed weapons permits, and increased penalties for anyone possessing, brandishing or discharging a firearm during a felony. But the legislation was introduced on the last day for bills to be voted out of committee and raised eyebrows when questions arose about the veracity of some quotes 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 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. The proposal 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.
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