- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - In a 60-day Legislative session that ended without the need for overtime work, lawmakers stayed until the very end, adjourning at nearly midnight Thursday.

While it was a long final day of bill passing, a large number of bills were left for dead.

A $155 million supplemental budget passed, as did a measure to keep funding homeless prevention programs through fees on real-estate sales. Another bill allowing military veterans to pay in-state college tuition without waiting a year to establish residency passed unanimously through both chambers.’

But, efforts to pass a transportation package stalled, as did a budget measure funding statewide construction projects, a medical marijuana regulation bill and a measure that would have mandated the use of standardized test data in teacher evaluations.

“This is divided government and we probably should not be shocked that when you have divided government that you may not have as many bills passed,” Gov. Jay Inslee said, referring to the fact that Democrats control the House and a predominantly Republican majority controls the Senate.

But he did note things that he was happy made it through the legislative process, including a measure that expands state college financial aid to students who don’t have legal status in the United States, and the homeless measure.

“I think legislators ought to have feelings of accomplishment on those issues and those shouldn’t be ignored,” he said.

However, on issues like the transportation revenue package, Inslee said he had “great frustration.”

“It is such a looming issue,” he said.

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville said the session highlight for him was passing the supplemental budget in a bipartisan manner.

“The most important thing we do here is budget,” he said.


IMMIGRATION-FINANCIAL AID: A measure to expand college financial aid to include students who were brought to the state illegally as children passed both the Senate and House with bipartisan support. The measure requires students to have received a high school diploma or equivalent in Washington state and to have lived in the state for at least three years beforehand. The bill allocates $5 million through June 30, 2015, from the general fund to pay for the financial aid payments under the state need-grant program. Inslee has signed off on the bill.

SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET: The bipartisan supplemental budget agreement that heads to the governor will add more money to basic education and cap tuition increases for public college students for the second year in a row. The budget proposal has a $155 million spending increase over the $33.6 billion, two-year state operating budget approved by the Legislature last year. The budget puts $58 million toward K-12 materials and supplies and an additional $25 million for “opportunity scholarships” for students who are pursuing degrees in what are known as the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. The budget also allots more than $20 million in community mental health, including $7 million in response to a settlement that requires the state to expand mental health services for children.

HOMELESS PROGRAMS: A bill that would retain a $40 fee on real-estate sales that pays for homelessness prevention in Washington state passed through the Legislature and will head to the governor for signing.

COLLEGE TUITION FOR MILITARY VETS: A bill that would allow military veterans to pay in-state college tuition without waiting a year to establish Washington residency will head to the governor’s desk.

TANNING BEDS: A bill banning tanning facilities for those under age 18, except for those with a doctor’s prescription awaits a signature from Inslee. Facilities that allow people under age 18 to use a tanning device could be fined up to $250 per violation.

FISHING WARS: American Indian tribal members who were arrested before 1975 could apply to the court to expunge their misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony convictions if they were exercising their treaty fishing rights, under a measure going to Inslee.

DRONES, GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE: A bill that would limit the purchase and use of unmanned aircraft systems by state and local agencies is heading to Inslee.

CAR DEALERS/MANUFACTURERS: A bill that will allow Tesla Motors, manufacturer of electric cars, to continue and expand their system of selling cars directly from the manufacturer to the customer is awaiting Inslee’s signature.

STATE WATERFALL: A measure Inslee plans to sign designates Palouse Falls in southeastern Washington as the official state waterfall.

TRAFFICKING VICTIMS: Three bills related to human trafficking in Washington state are going to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for his signature. One would make it a crime to coerce someone to perform labor or services by withholding or threatening to withhold or destroy someone’s immigration status papers. Under another measure, the charge of trafficking in the first degree would be added under the umbrella of sex offenses. The third would allow a victim of trafficking to have prostitution convictions cleared from their record.

24-CREDIT DIPLOMA: A bill that would raise the number of credits needed for a high school diploma from 20 to 24 starting with the class of 2019 has been delivered to the governor for his signature. The measure also would begin the process to help students earn more graduation credits for career and technical classes. The idea for a 24-credit diploma was developed by the State Board of Education.


MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Despite a last-minute push from Inslee, a measure to merge the state’s medical marijuana system with the new voter-approved legal recreation market died in the Legislature after a disagreement in the House about potential tax revenue sharing with local governments. Lawmakers had been seeking to overhaul the system, making changes to the amount of marijuana and number of plants patients could possess, doing away with collective gardens and establishing a patient registry. Recreational sales are set to start this summer.

TEACHER-PRINCIPAL EVALUATIONS: None of the proposals to revise the state’s new teacher-principal evaluation system have been approved. The state’s waiver from provisions of the so-called No Child Left Behind law appears to be in danger because Washington law suggests, but does not insist, that statewide test results be used as a factor in teacher evaluations. This issue could come back to life during budget negotiations because it would affect spending of about $40 billion in federal dollars.

MINIMUM WAGE: A bill to increase what is already the highest state minimum wage in the nation to $12 an hour over the next three years passed a policy committee, but died in a House fiscal committee.

TOXIC PRODUCTS: A House bill would have banned some chemical flame retardants from household furniture and children’s products such as strollers and changing pads.

GAY CONVERSION: A bill intended to prevent health care providers from trying to convert gay people under age 18 passed the House and failed to move through the Senate. The measure would have made it an act of unprofessional conduct to try to change the sexual orientation of a patient under 18.

PAID SICK LEAVE: A bill that would have guaranteed paid sick time away from work for some employees in Washington state passed the House but failed to gain traction in the Senate. The bill would have required employers with more than four full-time employees to provide paid leave for specified medical reasons. It would have also covered work absences to care for children, spouses, parents, grandparents and parents-in-law.

OIL TRAIN SAFETY: A bill backed by environmental groups that would have studied the state’s ability to respond to oil train accidents passed through the House, but died in the Senate. It also sought to authorize the state to come up with new rules requiring tug escorts for oil tankers entering Grays Harbor and the Columbia River.

QUALITY IMPROVEMENT FOR EARLY LEARNING: Two lawmakers from across the political aisle proposed a new multi-million dollar push for high-quality preschools in a bill which passed in the House but failed to gain traction in the Senate. The program would have involved financial incentives, intensive mentoring and training for preschool teachers and quality improvements for the kids of parents trying to work their way off welfare.

PAY IT FORWARD: A House bill that failed to make it out of that chamber would have let college students attending public schools to pay nothing upfront for tuition. Instead, they’d pay after leaving school in the form of a small, fixed percentage of their future income for up to 25 years.

ABORTION INSURANCE: For the third year in a row, Democratic state lawmakers have pushed for a measure that would require Washington insurers offering maternity care to also cover elective abortions, but as in the past, after passing the House, it is not expected to advance in the Senate. Opponents have argued that business owners and others would be required to pay for policies that are out of line with their personal beliefs. (House Bill 2148)


GUN INITIATIVES: The House and Senate held public hearings on two gun initiatives, but did not advance them out of their respective committees, which means that voters will weigh in on them in November. Initiative 594 would require universal background checks on all firearm sales in Washington. Initiative 591 would prevent Washington state from adopting background-check laws stricter than the national standard, which requires the checks for sales by licensed dealers but not for purchases from private sellers. It would also prohibit confiscation of firearms without due process.

AP writer Rachel La Corte contributed to this report.

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