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Halfway through Washington’s legislative session, here’s a look at what bills are dead

House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, is displayed on video screens as he speaks remotely following opening remarks from House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, during the opening session of the Washington state House of Representatives at the Capitol in Olympia in January.  (Associated Press)
House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, is displayed on video screens as he speaks remotely following opening remarks from House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, during the opening session of the Washington state House of Representatives at the Capitol in Olympia in January. (Associated Press)

OLYMPIA – Seven-year-olds still won’t have to attend school and voters won’t need to learn major changes to Washington’s election system, thanks to a passed deadline.

The Washington state Legislature is now more than halfway through its session, and a deadline for bills having to win approval from the House or Senate passed Tuesday, putting the kibosh on many bills.

Though some legislative magic could revive proposals that lawmakers deem important enough, most bills that didn’t make the deadline won’t be back this session.

Hundreds of proposals, such as emergency power reform, a transportation package, safe staffing standards for hospitals and making pickleball a state sport, still are alive.

Here’s a look at what didn’t make it:

Election misinformation

A Gov. Jay Inslee-requested bill that would have made it a crime for candidates and elected officials to lie about election results did not make it to the floor in time.

The bill would have made it a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail or a $5,000 fine, for candidates or elected officials to “knowingly, recklessly or maliciously” make false statements about election results.

The bill passed out of a Senate committee but did not make it to the floor.

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said in a statement the bill did not have enough support in its current form to advance.

Middle housing

Two proposals that would have required cities to allow “middle housing” in neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes within a half-mile of major public transit sites both failed to meet the deadline.

Cities would have been required to allow housing such as duplexes, triplexes and town homes, on land zoned for single-family homes.

Advocates say allowing more middle housing closer to transit stops creates more affordable housing, curbs the homelessness crisis and helps reduce carbon emissions. Opposition arose, however, from cities that said the decision to allow these types of home should be made at a local level.

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said the Legislature is looking at a number of other proposals to help with the housing crisis, including the bill passed this week to make it easier to build accessory dwelling units, such as backyard cottages.

House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, said he was disappointed the housing bill did not move forward, adding that he and others in his caucus may have ended up supporting it had it been amended slightly.

Compulsory school age

A Senate proposal would have required children to start formal education at 5, as opposed to the current standard of 8.

Prime sponsor Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, said children need to start their education earlier to better compete for jobs in the future.

Some Spokane-area families who home-school their children expressed concern that the proposal would take away their flexibility in deciding what’s best for their children. Becki Anderson, a mother of six children in Spokane, told The Spokesman-Review she was concerned that younger children’s “developmental abilities won’t be respected” if they’re forced to start school at a young age.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, was not convinced that 5 was the right age to start school, but said 8 “is too old for sure to be the required age when kids start school.” Washington is the only state that doesn’t require children to be in school until they are 8.

Hazing penalties

Seen as a companion to a separate hazing education and prevention bill, this House proposal would have increased hazing penalties from misdemeanors to gross misdemeanors or class C felonies – depending on their severity.

After the death of Washington State University freshman and fraternity pledge Sam Martinez, investigators weren’t able to bring up hazing charges as the statute of limitations for the misdemeanor already had expired. Increasing hazing charges would extend their statutes of limitations. Rep. Tana Senn, D-Bellevue, told The Spokesman-Review that authorities want “more time to do a thorough and complete investigation and not be up against the clock.”

Martinez’s mother, Jolayne Houtz, said classified as a misdemeanor, hazing is “the equivalent of stealing a shopping cart.”

Legislative collective bargaining

A bill that would have allowed legislative staff to take part in collective bargaining failed to meet the Tuesday deadline.

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, would have allowed them to unionize and bargain for things like wages and hours.

More than 100 legislative staffers called in sick on Wednesday in protest.

Democratic leaders said though the bill didn’t move forward this year, they were hopeful they would have a proposal ready to pass next year.

Ranked choice voting

A proposal in the Senate would have allowed counties, cities and other local jurisdictions to adopt ranked choice voting and implement it in elections as they choose. Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank candidates in preferential order, and whoever gets a majority of votes after an elimination system wins the race.

Prime sponsor Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, D-Tacoma, said ranked choice voting “enables people to vote based on their values instead of having to settle for the lesser of what they consider to be two evils.”

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton told The Spokesman-Review that while discussions with ranked choice voting advocates have been beneficial, “there’s still a lot of individual steps and impacts that need to be explored, need to be worked and need to be thought all the way through.”

Cannabis regulation

A “battle royale” over the sale of impairing substances that act like marijuana ended in a stalemate, with a pair of legislative proposals failing to meet the cutoff.

The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board put forth a proposal that would have prohibited the sale of products derived from hemp, including products containing what is known as delta-8 THC, subject to rule-making by the agency. A counterproposal backed by hemp interests would have permitted the sale of such products, subject to the same testing requirements as traditional delta-9 THC.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board’s bill managed to make it to the floor of the House of Representatives, but failed to receive debate Tuesday night. David Postman, chair of the state board, said at a meeting Tuesday that failure to act on the legislation would permit the continued sale of delta-8 products in convenience stores and elsewhere in the state, without clear understanding of how such chemicals affect the user.

“What’s at stake is our ability to stop the infiltration of these derivatives outside of the regulated 502 market,” Postman said, referring to Initiative 502, which legalized cannabis use after it was approved by voters in 2012.

That’s one point both the Liquor and Cannabis Board and the Washington CannaBusiness Association appeared to agree on. However, opponents of the state board proposal said it would stifle the creation of new products for users seeking a less intense psychoactive experience and threaten investments that already had been made after the passage of the 2018 federal farm bill, which legalized the sale and production of hemp nationwide.

Mushrooms

Another Senate proposal would have allowed anyone 21 and older to access psychedelic mushrooms at Department of Health-licensed clinics. The department would have had two years to establish a regulatory framework before mushrooms would be available to the public. Oregon voters adopted a similar policy in 2020.

Proponents of the measure say psychedelic mushrooms have been shown to provide help to people suffering from certain mental illnesses. Dr. Nathan Sackett, researcher at the University of Washington, said he has worked with patients who were treated with them and has “seen the positive effects firsthand.”

Linda Thompson, of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council, was concerned the state was moving too fast without enough details in place.

“We need to be very careful about providing access to different drugs,” she told The Spokesman-Review.

Women’s Suffrage Day

A House proposal would have designated March 22 as a paid holiday for state employees in recognition of the women’s suffrage movement. March 22 is the day in 1920 when Washington state voted to ratify the 19th Amendment – though the amendment prohibiting the denial of the right to vote based on sex wasn’t officially adopted across the country until Aug. 18 of that year.

Prime sponsor Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, said the 19th Amendment is the reason why she is able to serve in the government. A bipartisan coalition of representatives, including Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, introduced the bill in the 2021 legislative session.

A fiscal analysis from the state Office of Financial Management in 2021 estimated the bill would cost the state around $7.5 million every two years to compensate state employees.

Janie White, of the Washington Education Association, supported the bill but asked lawmakers to choose a different date that recognizes “the suffrage movement for all women,” alluding to the fact that many Black women remained disenfranchised until the late 1960s.

S-R reporter Kip Hill contributed to this report.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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