With the Legislature set to convene a special session May 13, Gov. Jay Inslee, House Democrats and the Republican-dominated Senate majority will be tasked with working toward a budget deal. But that likely won’t be the only contentious matter the parties take up next month.
A budget agreement, Inslee said Sunday, is “the tree that all the limbs come out from.” But the coming monthlong session, he said, will provide space for a range of nonbudgetary items —from changes to drunken driving laws to a transportation revenue package — to seek the light.
While Senate leaders say they will push to keep the focus on the budget, they too have a set of priorities, such as changing workers’ compensation rules to giving school principals more hiring power.
Here’s a look at some key bills that have made it through the legislative process and others that may see new life in the new 30-day session:
SIGNED INTO LAW
Climate change: Inslee earlier this month 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 both the state’s ongoing efforts to cut carbon emissions and similar endeavors elsewhere. (SB 5802)
Alcohol tasting: A bill to allow students age 18 and older to taste alcohol in college classes was signed into law by Inslee last week. The new law will allow students in programs such as culinary classes to taste but not ingest alcohol as part of their studies. (SB 5774)
AWAITING INSLEE’S SIGNATURE
Firearm offender registry: A bill to require felony firearm offenders to register with their county sheriff subject to the discretion of a judge awaits Inslee’s signature. The information will not be publicly available. (HB 1612)
Social media passwords: A bill that would prohibit employers from asking employees and job seekers for access to personal social media accounts has advanced to Inslee’s desk. (SB 5211)
Wrongful convictions: A measure to pay $50,000 per year of imprisonment stemming from a wrongful conviction has been passed awaits the governor’s signature. 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)
Mental health: Lawmakers made it easier to keep some suspects detained after they are deemed incompetent to stand trial (HB 1114). They moved up implementation of a delayed policy making it easier to detain mentally ill patients who could be dangerous (SB 5480). They gave counties some authority to contract for mental-health evaluations of jailed offenders (SB 5551).
Veterans raffle: Lawmakers canceled a raffle to raise money for grants to veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The game had fallen short of expectations. Budget proposals include money for the grants. (HB 1982)
Preschool: Legislators expanded a standards system for preschool programs as part of a bill that originally would have funded a major expansion of preschool with money from marijuana revenue. (HB 1723)
NOT PASSED — GOV. INSLEE PRIORITIES
Transportation revenue: A proposal to raise the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon to help pay for maintenance of existing roads, as well as for a handful of pending big-ticket projects, has the support of House Democrats but faces skepticism from the Republican-dominated Senate majority. The plan would also allow local governments to raise taxes and fees to help pay for mass transit. Inslee said Sunday it should be on the table during the special session. (HB 1954, HB 1955)
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. Supporters say it would ensure that women continue to have access to abortions when related parts of the federal Affordable Care Act take effect in 2014. Opponents say it would infringe on religious freedoms. (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 died in the Senate Higher Education Committee, where it did not receive a vote. Inslee said Sunday that the bill should be in play during the special session. (HB 1817)
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. Supporters plan to pursue a ballot initiative. Inslee says lawmakers should pass it during the special session. (HB 1588)
DUI laws: A proposal to increase jail time for repeat drunken driving offenders and to bar some of them from drinking is being hashed out by a group of lawmakers from both parties in both chambers. Inslee said Sunday that a deal was close and that he hopes to get a bill through the Legislature during the special session. (HB 2030, SB 5912)
NOT PASSED — SENATE MAJORITY PRIORITIES
Workers’ compensation: A package of bills to make workers’ compensation rules more business friendly advanced from the Senate but stalled in the House. Senate majority leaders say the measures will be among their top priorities during the special session and should factor into the budget debate. (SB 5112, SB 5127, SB 5128)
Third-grade reading: A measure to require third-graders with inadequate reading skills to be held back if they don’t improve passed out of the Senate but failed in the House. Senate leaders say it should be revived during the special session. (SB 5237)
Principal veto power: A bill to give veto power to principals over teachers assigned to their schools passed the Senate but died in the House. Under that bill, teachers without a school assignment could be deployed as substitutes or used in nonteaching roles and could eventually be fired. Senate leaders said the bill will be among their nonbudgetary priorities during the special session. (SB 5242)
Paid family leave: A measure to repeal an unfunded law giving Washington state parents five paid weeks off to care for a new child if a task force can’t find a way to pay for it by the end of 2015 passed the Senate but was not taken up by the House. House Democrats have said they don’t want to repeal the underlying law, but Senate leaders say it should be on the table during the special session. (SB 5903)
NOT PASSED — LONG SHOTS
Flame retardants: The House and Senate passed different versions of a measure to ban two chemical flame retardants from children’s products — and, in the case of the House, from upholstered furniture — starting in 2015. (HB 1294)
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. It would encourage court challenges to push cities, counties and school districts to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are underrepresented. (HB 1413)Staff writer Jordan Schrader contributed to this report.