Key bills in limbo as lawmakers enter final push in Olympia

By Jonathan Kaminsky
The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — With the passage of a key deadline for non-budgetary bills in the state Legislature, the prospects for some high-profile measures, including one to assess A-F grades for schools, have dimmed, while those for others, such as the creation of a firearm offender registry, remain on track.

Tuesday was the last day to read in the opposite house committee reports from House fiscal committees and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation committees.

For those bills that have passed the House but stalled in Senate committees — a first-in-the-nation abortion insurance mandate and the so-called Dream Act prominent among them — Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said a procedural move will not be used to advance them.

That maneuver is known as “the ninth order of business,” in which bills not advanced from committee can be revived on the Senate floor,

“We will not go to the ninth,” Tom declared, before noting that a range of stalled bills could be revived in less dramatic ways as part of a budget deal.

“As they always say, everything's alive until we leave town.”

With Tom's caveat in mind — and with the added asterisk that some “likely dead” bills are more likely dead than others — here's a look at some of the measures that are still alive and others for which eleventh-hour maneuverings would be required to see them reach Gov. Jay Inslee's desk.

Bills still alive:

■ Firearm offender registry: A bill to require felony firearm offenders to register with their county sheriff subject to the discretion of a judge. It has advanced to the Senate Rules Committee after passing out of the House. The information would not be publicly available. The database would be maintained by the State Patrol. (HB 1612)

■ Third grade reading: A measure to have third-graders with inadequate reading skills held back if they don't improve in time to enroll in fourth grade passed out of the Senate. In the House, the bill was altered to make third-grade reading a measure to help judge whether schools are hitting literacy targets and has advanced to the House Rules Committee. (SB 5237)

■ Toxic products: A bill to ban two chemical flame retardants from sofas and children's products starting in 2015 passed out of the House and has advanced, in scaled-back form, to the Senate Rules Committee. Supporters say that the chemicals have been identified as carcinogens, while opponents say they help reduce fires. (HB 1294)

■ Rendering criminal assistance: A measure that passed out of the Senate and has advanced to the House Rules Committee would make helping a fugitive remain at large, even without having specific knowledge of the underlying crime, a felony. (SB 5059)

■ Social media passwords: A bill that would prohibit employers from asking employees and job seekers for the credentials to personal social media accounts has advanced to the House Rules Committee after passing out of the Senate. (SB 5211)

■ Wrongful convictions: A measure to pay out $50,000 per year of imprisonment stemming from a wrongful conviction has advanced to the Senate Rules Committee after passing out of the House. The bill provides for a $50,000-per-year death row bonus and $25,000 for each year wrongfully on parole, in community custody or registered as a sex offender. (HB 1341)

Bills likely dead:

■ Abortion insurance: Washington would become the first state to require insurers to cover abortions under a measure that advanced from the House but stalled in the Senate Health Care Committee. (HB 1044)

■ Dream Act: A measure to make young immigrants living in the country without legal permission eligible for college financial aid passed from the House but has stalled in the Senate. The measure received a hearing but not a vote in the Senate Higher Education Committee. (HB 1817)

■ Voting Rights Act: A bill to make it easier for minorities to get elected to local government posts advanced from the House but stalled in the Senate Governmental Operations Committee. Modeled on the California Voting Rights Act, it would encourage court challenges to cities, counties and school districts to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are underrepresented. (HB 1413)

■ Background checks: The most prominent gun control measure of the session, to expand mandatory background checks to private gun transactions, came a few votes short of advancing from the House. A similar Senate bill didn't get a hearing. (HB 1588)

■ Grading schools: A measure to assign A-F letter grades to schools based on factors including improvement of student test scores advanced from the Senate but stalled in the House Education Committee. (SB 5328)

■ Nonparental visitation: A measure championed by grandparents-rights advocates to make it easier to get visitation rights advanced from the House but stalled in the Senate Human Services and Corrections Committee. (HB 1934)

■ Workers' compensation: A package of bills to make workers' compensation rules more business friendly advanced from the Senate but stalled in the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee. Most prominent is one to overhaul the voluntary “compromise-and-release” settlement agreement system for injured workers first approved by the Legislature in 2011. Tom called the measures a top priority for the Senate majority and said they could remerge as bargaining chips in the budget debate. (SB 5112, SB 5127, SB 5128)

Bills passed:

■ Climate change: Gov. Jay Inslee last week signed into law a stripped-down version of a measure he championed to study the best practices for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under the law, an outside consultant will review the state's efforts to cut carbon emissions. (SB 5802)

■ Alcohol tasting: A plan to allow students 18 and older to taste alcohol in college classes has passed both legislative chambers and awaits the governor's signature. The idea would allow students in alcohol-related programs, such as culinary classes, to taste but not ingest alcohol as part of their studies. (SB 5774)

Last modified: April 10. 2013 6:53PM
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