As this year’s scheduled 105-day legislative session nears the halfway point, state lawmakers worked long hours last week to meet the Friday, March 1, deadline for passing bills out of transportation and finance committees in their originating chamber.
The full Senate passed more than two dozen non-controversial bills on its consent calendar with unanimous votes, along with more contentious measures that passed with close votes along party lines.
As Governor Inslee announced his climate change-focused presidential campaign Friday morning, the state Senate took up a sweeping proposal to move the state to a “clean energy” economy as early as 2025. 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. Here are some of the contentious bills they addressed:
Senate Bill 5116: Aims to support Washington’s clean energy economy and transition the state to a clean, affordable and reliable energy future. Passed the Senate on March 1 by a vote of 28-19, two members excused. Bailey and Wagoner voted no.
Under this bill, Washington’s electric utilities would have to eliminate all coal-fired energy sources by 2025 and meet 100 percent of its retail electric load using non-emitting and renewable resources by Jan. 1, 2045.
In support of the bill, Democrats said the state has an entrepreneurial economy that can move toward a clean energy economy. Solar and wind are the future, and they said this bill provides a common-sense framework for bold actions toward a carbon-free electricity.
Republican senators offered nearly two dozen amendments to the bill, pointing out that Washington utilities already rely heavily on clean hydroelectric power and that the bill’s provisions would really only result in additional costs and rate increases to be borne by consumers.
Most of the amendments failed, and the bill passed along strictly partisan lines, with one Republican and one Democrat member excused. The bill was sent to the House Committee on Environment and Energy, which has scheduled a public hearing for March 5.
Senate Bill 5395: Concerns comprehensive sexual health education. Passed the Senate on Feb. 27 by a vote of 28-21. Bailey and Wagoner voted no.
This is an all-grades sex education proposal that would require schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education as an integral part of the curriculum. The curriculum would be “evidence-based and inclusive” and would encourage healthy relationships based on mutual respect and affection, free from violence, coercion and intimidation. It would also teach how to identify and respond to attitudes and behaviors contributing to sexual violence and emphasize the importance of affirmative consent.
Supporters of the bill said in order for young people to make “good choices,” they need help understanding the ramifications of their choices. They said comprehensive sexual health education provides this information and is essential to students’ health, relationships and meeting their life goals.
Opponents said the decision to offer this type of education should lie with school boards and ultimately parents. Republicans opposed to the measure proposed more than a dozen amendments including proposals to block the classes from being taught to the youngest students. The amendments failed and the bill passed with a partisan 28-21 vote. Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Mason County), who has joined Republicans in the past, was the only Democrat to vote against the bill. The bill was sent to the House Education Committee for further consideration.
Senate Bill 5689: Deals with harassment, intimidation, bullying and discrimination in public schools. Passed the Senate on Feb. 27 by a vote of 29-20. Bailey and Wagoner voted no.
Current law requires each school district to have policy and procedures that prohibit harassment, intimidation or bullying (HIB). School districts must designate a primary contact regarding the policy with certain responsibilities.
Under this bill, school districts would have to adopt or amend such policies to specifically include transgender students. They would also have to designate a primary contact to oversee transgender policies and procedures.
Debate on the bill went back and forth between Democrats, who said it was needed to protect certain students. Republicans called it state government interference in local school districts’ decisions and pointed out that rules against bullying already exist. They said the legislature should not keep adding new groups of protected students.
The bill passed 29-20 along close party lines, with one Democrat against, and one Republican in favor. It was sent to the House Education Committee for further consideration.
Note: The Feb. 26 report from WashingtonVotes was posted online at scnews.com due to insufficient space in the newspaper. In it, lawmakers were split on whether to increase the legal age to buy tobacco, whether political committees should disclose contributions to another committee, about the requirements to obtain a sexual assault protection order and whether to establish a program to provide long-term services to those in need. None of those bills had passed both House and Senate.