What Lawmakers Have Been Working On While Not Solving McCleary

This year’s motto could be: Don’t sweat the big stuff.

OLYMPIA — Not a whole lot is going on around the Capitol these days as the first not-so-special session reaches the end of its third week.

Negotiations on the funding and operations of public schools are occurring on most weekdays, not weekends, and there’s no guesstimate of when Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate may cut a deal.

And periodic conversations are taking place on matters of import, such as paid family leave, but not so much on touchy subjects, including Internet privacy, Sound Transit car tabs and the Hirst decision on water rights. Most lawmakers aren’t participants in any conversations so they’re home and won’t be back in Olympia unless summoned for votes.

As for Gov. Jay Inslee, he too is watching and waiting for legislators to settle their differences and send him a budget to keep the wheels of government churning when the new fiscal year starts July 1.

Amid such monumental inactivity, it’s easy to forget the 147 citizen lawmakers did accomplish a few things in the 105 days of regular session they hope will make society safer, business less cumbersome and the quality of life in Washington better.

Lawmakers introduced 2,590 bills in the 2017 session and 339 made it to the governor’s desk, AKA the finish line. He’s signed or will sign nearly all of them.

Remember the levy cliff? In mid-March they sent Senate Bill 5023 to the governor. It delayed a cut in local school levy rates for one year, preserving a critical stream of revenue for districts while lawmakers negotiate a long-term strategy for fully funding education. (They are in special session because they haven’t figured it out yet.)

A desire to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people resulted in a bill Inslee signed Wednesday. House bill 1501 requires firearms dealers to keep track when they turn down a sale after a background check reveals the customer is ineligible to acquire a gun. Information on those denials—which customers can appeal—is supposed to reach the Washington State Patrol and put in a database used by law enforcement.

Another gun bill signed Wednesday seeks to erase lingering concerns stirred by passage of Initiative 594 requiring universal background checks. Pretty much everything it does is spelled out in the 123-word title. Senate Bill 5552 makes clear in-laws are covered by the family member exemption and clarifies sale of flare guns and construction tools don’t require background checks.

It won’t be easy for a company to make money off a person’s biometric identifiers. House Bill 1493 prohibits selling, leasing, or disclosing of an identifier such as a fingerprint, voiceprint or an eye scan for a commercial purpose without the person’s consent.

Speaking of the private sector businesses, lawmakers attempted to ease the strain of rules and regulations on smaller businesses. One new law requires state agencies find ways to offset the cost of new rules to the bottom line of smaller outfits. Another law seeks to simplify getting a city business license by having the state Department of Revenue process the requests.

Washington’s maturing marijuana industry got a bipartisan tweaking. Senate Bill 5131 revises rules for producers and retailers, bars ads on buses and bans outdoor ads containing depictions of marijuana plants, marijuana products, or images that might be appealing to children. Also, under House Bill 1250, retailers will be able to give customers a free lockable storage box for their marijuana products in order to keep them from being found and consumed by children.

Starting next year women are going to be able to get a year’s supply of birth control pills. Under House Bill 1234, a health plan issued or renewed on or after Jan. 1 that includes coverage for contraceptives must cover a 12-month refill in most cases. In 2016, the Republican-led Senate bottled up this legislation. This year, it passed without a squabble.

And a supermajority of lawmakers passed a bill they hope reduces injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving. Their bill — which Inslee has said he’ll sign — bars use of a personal electronic device while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle starting Jan. 1, 2019. That means no texting or checking emails even while at a stop light.

You can find all the bills signed into law at www.governor.wa.gov. Reading them is something to do to pass the time in special session.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

More in News & Comment

Bellevue Votes to Permanently Ban Safe-Drug Sites

Leaders say the sites make “no sense” for their city.

What Jenny Durkan’s Time as U.S. Attorney Says About Her As a Candidate

She made some progressive reforms. But she also leaned on activists and declined to prosecute anyone involved in the WaMu collapse.

Beds at Recovery Place, a new substance abuse and mental health treatment facility in Seattle. Photo by Sara Bernard
In Effort to Tackle Opioid Epidemic, New Facility Will Host Detox and Mental Health Services in One

The facility is designed to address drug addiction and the root causes of homelessness.

Sebastian Burns, left, and Atif Rafay, right, when they were arrested at age 19. Contributed mug shots
‘The Confession Tapes’ Re-Opens the Triple-Murder Case of Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay

King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg says the show is bunk. The creators disagree.

Flickr/Chris Sampson
Union: Airline Caterer Kept Paying Sub-Minimum Wages After It Was Hit With $300K Fine

And because of a new settlement, the city is unlikely to go after wages the workers say they are entitled to.

Nikkita Oliver at a campaign’s-end press conference at Washington Hall on August 15. Photo by Sara Bernard
Nikkita Oliver Will Moderate a Mayoral Debate On Oct. 29

Oliver announced plans to hold a debate during her concession speech in August.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal
What to Look For Next Week When the State Supreme Court Hears the Latest McCleary Case

As each side argues over school funding, the schools chief pushes for more special education money.

Most Read