This week, the House and Senate passed more than a dozen bills in their first round of full floor action this session. The topics included composting of human remains, state unemployment compensation for federal workers during government shutdowns, mandatory insurance for motorcycles, workmen’s comp for Hanford workers who have cancer, ballot drop boxes on Native American reservations, and clarifying the types of child passenger restraints required by law. Some of the recorded roll calls are featured here.
The Senate returned the full membership of 49 on Tuesday, when Anacortes City Council Member Liz Lovelett was appointed to the 40th District seat left vacant by Sen. Kevin Ranker’s resignation earlier this session. However, Sen. Lovelett was not yet in Olympia when several votes were taken in the Senate on Wednesday, so is shown as excused.
District 10 legislators are Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor; Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor; and Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton. District 39 legislators are Sen. Keith Wagner, R-Sedro-Woolley; Rep. Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls; and Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan.
Senate Bill 5001: Concerning human remains. Passed the Senate on Feb. 6 by a vote of 36-11, two members excused. Bailey voted no; Wagoner voted yes.
Also called the “Human Composting” bill, it would include natural organic reduction as an allowable means of disposing of human remains. Natural organic reduction is the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil, i.e. composting. Washington would be the first state in the country to allow composting of human remains.
The bill would also legalize alkaline hydrolysis, which uses water, heat and chemicals to produce a result that is similar to cremation without fire. SB 5001 was sent to the House, where similar legislation (HB 1162) is pending.
Senate Bill 5716: Defining when federal government employees are unemployed for purposes of unemployment insurance. Passed the Senate Feb. 6 by a vote of 39-8, two members excused. Bailey and Wagoner voted yes.
In this bill, a federal government employee is considered unemployed in any week the individual is not receiving wages due to a government shutdown, making the employee eligible for state unemployment payments regardless of whether the individual is performing any services for federal government during that time. These provisions would apply retroactively to Dec. 22, 2018. The bill is now before the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee.
Senate Bill 5079: Enacting the Native American voting rights act of Washington. Passed the Senate on Feb. 6 by a vote of 34-13, two members excused. Bailey voted yes; Wagoner voted no.
This bill would expand voter services on state tribal lands, by requiring county election officials to provide at least one ballot drop box on any Native American reservation, if requested by a tribe. Tribal members could register to vote using tribal identification cards and non-traditional addresses, which could include a verbal description of a voter’s residence. The bill was sent to the House State Government, Tribal Relations, and Elections Committee.
House Bill 1490: Amending the application of the occupational disease presumption for cancer for Hanford site workers. Passed the House on Feb. 7 by a vote of 67-29, two members excused. Paul and Smith voted yes; Eslick and Sutherland voted no.
This bill clarifies that the presumption established for certain cancers as an occupational disease would apply to an active or former U. S. Department of Energy Hanford site worker, even when he or she was not given a qualifying medical examination, and would ensure the worker is eligible for workmen’s compensation under state industrial insurance laws. The bill is headed to the Senate for further consideration.
House Bill 1014: Concerning financial responsibility of motorcycle operators. Passed the House on Feb. 7 by a vote of 70-26, two members excused. Paul and Eslick voted yes; Smith and Sutherland voted no.
This bill would require that persons operating a motorcycle meet the insurance or equivalent requirements for registered motor vehicles under current law. During hearings, some people said it may be more difficult for younger or newer riders to obtain an insurance policy. They also pointed out that some of these riders are using a motorcycle as inexpensive transportation and requiring insurance may create a financial hardship. New riders should be phased in to the insurance market, they said. The bill is headed to the Senate for further consideration.