Legislative deadline brings busy time
JORDAN SCHRADER; Staff writer
Bills flew fast and furiously in the final days for the state Senate and House to consider policy bills filed by lawmakers in their own chambers.
Proposals that didn’t advance by the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline will have to wait until next year, unless they deal with spending or taxes.
Rep. Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup, couldn’t drum up the votes for a bill that would have required pharmaceutical drug companies to set up a system for disposing of their customers’ unwanted medicine.
She blamed intense lobbying by drug companies.
In the Senate, the voter-approved requirement for a two-thirds majority of legislators to approve taxes killed off a proposed pilot program for funding state Supreme Court races with public funds. The money, for qualifying candidates whose campaigns agreed to limit spending and met a test for viability, would have come from a $3 filing fee on court documents.
The House began contentious debate Tuesday night over the temporary suspension of tax-limiting Initiative 960, with opposition Republicans maneuvering to delay a vote.
Making full use of their limited power, the GOP minority asked to indefinitely postpone action on the bill, a move that allowed each legislator up to 10 minutes of speech time. The House has 61 Democrats and 37 Republicans.
Debate stretched into the evening Tuesday, with the House not expected to vote on the bill until today.
BILLS THAT REMAIN ALIVE
Among the bills that did make it out of their house of origin over the holiday weekend and Tuesday, and now move to the other chamber:
The Senate voted 29-19 to give the state’s three largest four-year universities the authority to set tuition for six years, starting in 2011-12.
Governing boards at the University of Washington, Washington State University and Western Washington University would be allowed to raise resident undergraduate and graduate tuition by up to 14 percent per year under Senate Bill 6562. The compound annual average increase is capped at 9 percent over the preceding 15 years; that means tuition can’t be raised by the maximum amount each year.
If the proposal becomes law, the authority to determine how much students pay would be contingent on performance requirements, such as degree production in high-demand fields, and the state maintaining its State Need Grant and Work-Study program funding in full. The universities also would be required to waive tuition fees for some eligible in-state students.
The Senate voted 28-20 that voter petitions should be public records.
The names and addresses of people who sign to put initiatives and referenda on the ballot would be publicly available under Senate Bill 6754. The Supreme Court is due to consider the dispute over whether signatures of Referendum 71, the challenge to the “everything but marriage” law, should be public.
The Senate voted 29-19 to require paid signature gatherers and the businesses that employ them to register with the state.
Supporters said Senate Bill 6449 would make sure signatures are gathered fairly and legally. Opponents called it an unconstitutional impediment to the initiative and referendum process that would keep petitions from being left out in places of business.
The House voted 74-21 to set up an automated computer system to track people who buy cold medicines used to make meth.
Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy, proposed House Bill 2961 to extend regulations that already limit how much Sudafed and other drugs a customer can buy and requires customers’ names to be recorded.
Special Commitment Center: The Senate voted unanimously to limit use of computers by sexual predators housed at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island.
Senate Bill 6308 would allow use of computers and the Internet only if it would be beneficial to inmates’ treatment. Inmates still could use simple word processors that cannot access the Internet. Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, said 16 inmates at the commitment center have been charged in the past three years with viewing child pornography while in custody.
The House voted unanimously to ban shackling pregnant inmates while they’re giving birth. House Bill 2747, proposed by Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, also outlaws shackling women during postpartum recovery and restricts how they are restrained during the third trimester of pregnancy.
Maks Goldenshteyn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.