Week 9 General Legislative Review
March 6 – 10, 2023
While the Senate took last weekend off, the House returned on Monday from a long Saturday spent on the floor passing high-profile bills including: “Right to Repair” HB 1392 (Gregerson, D-3); “My Health, My Data” HB 1155 (Slatter, D-48); “Clean Energy Siting” HB 1216 (Fitzgibbon, D-34); and “Dental Therapy” HB 1678 (Riccelli, D-3).
The Senate returned Monday afternoon passing a suite of bills to address nursing issues, including SB 5236 (Robinson, D-38), the highly negotiated hospital nurse staffing bill. This significant piece of legislation requires hospitals to submit staffing plans to the state Department of Health. The expected staff-to-patient staffing standards would be developed by a hospital’s designated nurse staffing committee, composed of 50% nursing staff and 50% hospital administration. If a hospital is less than 80% compliant with its committee’s approved plan, DOH and state Department of Labor & Industries can investigate and require a corrective action plan, along with possible penalties. The Senate passed several more bills related to nursing: SB 5538 (Cleveland, D-49) to encourage retired nurses to return to patient care without losing retirement benefits; SB 5499 (Mullet, D-5) which would enter Washington state into the 37-state Nurse Licensure Compact and allow nurses with the multistate license to work here; SB 5454 (Cleveland, D-49) which would provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for nurses with post-traumatic stress disorders, similar to a 2018 law that allows PTSD worker’s comp coverage for police and firefighters; and SB 5582 (Holy, R-6) which would provide additional educational opportunities for prospective nurses.
The Department of Commerce estimates Washington needs to build an additional one million homes over the next two-plus decades to keep pace with population growth. Though Democrats hold strong majorities in both the Senate and House, several major bipartisan housing bills have recently passed their chambers of origin. On Monday, one such bill, HB 1110 (Bateman, D-22) passed the House. This bipartisan bill legalizes duplexes or four-plexes in almost every neighborhood in larger Washington cities. It would require cities with populations between 25,000 and 75,000 to allow duplexes in all residential areas. In cities with more than 75,000 people, all residential areas would have to allow four-plexes.
On Tuesday, the House passed HB 1541 (Farivar, D-46), the “Nothing About Us Without Us Act.” The goal of the bill is to include individuals who are directly impacted by government policies in the decision-making process by implementing membership requirements for statutory entities such as task forces, work groups, or advisory committees. The bill received bipartisan support from some Republicans who spoke to the importance of including Eastern Washington voices in advisory groups for issues such as siting clean energy operations.
5171 (Dhingra, D-45) the bill that would end the “pink tax” as it’s been called, passed the Senate on Tuesday. Under the bill, companies doing business in Washington would no longer be allowed to charge different prices for substantially similar products such as differently colored razors marketed to men and women. The legislation is based on existing laws in New York and California and authorizes the Attorney General to enforce the ban.
As floor cutoff approaches, there is great annual speculation as to what the “5:00 bill” in each chamber will be. The term “5:00 bill” refers to a rule that if debate begins on a bill prior to the 5:00 pm cutoff, debate can continue after 5:00 pm. Legislative leadership may choose the 5:00 bill because it is controversial with a lot of amendments, thus enabling them to work on the bill without taking up valuable floor time needed to pass other bills, or because the bill is of special importance to the majority caucus. The Senate picked a broadly bipartisan, uncontroversial bill Majority Floor Leader Pedersen said would be a “high-note” as they ended their action, SB 5600 (Wellman, D-41). The bill extends the expiration date of the state Universal Communications Services Program by ten years. On the other hand, the House majority leadership picked HB 1240 (Peterson, D-21) prohibiting the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, or offer for sale of any assault-style weapon, subject to various exceptions for licensed firearm manufacturers and dealers, and for individuals who inherit an assault weapon. If the bill passes the Senate, Washington will join nine other states with similar bans. The night prior, the House passed another measure, HB 1143 (Berry, D-36) that establishes the following requirements for all firearm purchases in Washington: a background check; a 10-day waiting period; and completed safety training within the last five years.
Two House bills that did not make the 5:00 pm house of origin cutoff include those related to police pursuit and non-moving violations, HB 1363 (Rule, D-42) and HB 1513 (Street, D-37) respectively. On Tuesday, House Republicans attempted a motion on the floor to relieve the Rules committee of HB 1363 the police pursuit bill, forcing Democrats to bring the bill up for a vote. The motion failed on party lines. Late Tuesday, Representative Street, sponsor of HB 1513, the non-moving violation bill attempted to merge the bills, prompting Republicans to pen 29 amendments to a bill still stuck in Rules, effectively killing the bill’s chances of making it to the floor the next day. In a late move on Wednesday afternoon, and after a lengthy debate, the Senate passed a moderate striker to 5352 (Lovick, D-44) another pursuit bill, though it was never heard in a policy committee. The bill received the support of moderate Democrats and Republicans who suggested the bill was better than no action at all, passing 26-23. It was opposed by Democrats who opposed a roll-back of current law and by Republicans who felt the bill didn’t roll back current law enough.
Members will now return to policy committees to hear bills passed by the other chamber. Bill must be passed out of policy committees by March 29 to continue their journey through the process.
- March 29 – Policy committee cutoff – opposite house
- April 4 – Fiscal committee cutoff – opposite house
- April 12 – Floor cutoff – opposite house
- April 23 – Sine Die
Source: Brynn Brady, Ceiba Consulting, Inc. | ceibaconsulting.com