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April 20, 2015

Less than a week remains before the end of the 2015 regular session of the legislature on Sunday, April 26th. During these last days, the main task of the legislators is to pass a budget.  Usually budget negotiations occur between key budget leaders behind closed doors.  Given the differences between the House and Senate proposed budgets, most observers think a special session will be necessary to come to an agreement on a final budget.

A special session is called by the Governor any time after the regular session ends.  Sometimes it is called immediately, or the Governor may wait and call it a few days or even a few weeks later.  A special session has to be called for 30 days, but legislators can conclude it any time before then.  In the past, special sessions have lasted from a few hours to the entire 30 days.

During this last week, while the budget meetings are going on, legislators are busy resolving differences and coming to agreement on bills that have passed both chambers, but were amended in one or both chambers.  This is necessary before legislation can be sent to the Governor.  Some hearings to plan for interim activities prior to the beginning of the 2016 legislative session also occur.

Below is a recap of the bills that were included in the bulletins this year.  One of the bills you advocated for on Catholic Advocacy Day last month, HB 1720, which will improve indoor air quality in homes undergoing weatherization, has made it all the way to the Governor's desk. Thank you for helping to improve the lives of people with low incomes – another example that advocacy works!

The next bulletin will contain the highlights of the final budget when it is passed – whether in the regular or special session.

WSCC Legislative Update – 2015

BILLS WSCC SUPPORTS:

HB 1127 funds training for agricultural workers to improve their skills and safety. The bill passed the Legislature.  

HB 1139 would have established a working group to study the trafficking of youth passed the House, but it "died" in a Senate committee.

HB 1174 would have decreased children's exposure to toxic chemicals.  It passed the House, but did not receive a vote in the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee, and is considered "dead" for the session.

HB 1295 would have required high-needs schools to offer breakfast after the beginning of the school day.  HB 1295 passed the House, and was heard in the Senate Early Learning Committee, but "died" in the committee.  It may be funded in the budget.

HB 1355 would have raised the minimum wage to $12 over four years.  It passed the House, and was heard in the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee, but was not voted out of the committee, and is considered "dead" for the session.

HB 1390 would have enacted reforms concerning Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) to make it easier for people who have served a prison sentence to reenter the community. HB 1390 passed the House.  The Senate Law and Justice heard the bill, and amended it removing many of the reforms.  The bill "died" on the Senate floor calendar.

HB 1436 would have created an Office of Homeless Youth Programs to coordinate a spectrum of funding, policy, and practice efforts related to homeless youth. The Senate Human Services, Mental Health & Housing Committee held a hearing on HB 1436, but it was not voted out of committee.

HB 1449, which passed the House, creates additional protections to prevent oil spills and improve rapid response to spills. HB 1449 also passed the Senate after being amended.  Both chambers must agree on the bill before it can be sent to the Governor.

HB 1560, which would have designated March 31st as Cesar Chavez Day in our State passed the House, but "died" on the Senate floor calendar.  

HB 1642, which would have funded community-based and statewide substance education programs designed to reduce initiation of substance use by children and youth, "died" in its original committee.

HB 1720 improves indoor air quality in homes undergoing weatherization owned by people with low incomes.  HB 1720 passed the Legislature, and has been delivered to the Governor.

HB 1739, which would have eliminated the death penalty in Washington State, was heard in the House Judiciary Committee, but was not voted out of committee.  The Senate version, SB 5639, never received a hearing.

HB 1745 would have protected for minority groups equal opportunity to participate in elections. The bill passed the House, but "died" in the Senate Rules Committee.

HB 1875 would have increased the amount of vocational training from 12 to 24 months for recipients of WorkFirst/TANF, subject to the amount appropriated. HB 1875 passed the House, but "died" in the Senate Ways and Means Committee without receiving a hearing.

HB 2113 would have created a legislative task force on poverty to develop a comprehensive plan for more effective and efficient poverty relief solutions through identification of pathways out of poverty.  The bill was voted out of the Early Learning & Human Services Committee, but "died" in the House Rules Committee.

SB 5289 would have required parental notification for a minor considering an abortion.  The bill passed the Senate Law & Justice Committee but it was not brought up for a vote by the entire Senate.

SB 5404  which creates an office to coordinate a spectrum of funding, policy, and practice efforts related to homeless youth passed the Legislature, and is on its way to the Governor's desk.

SB 5880, which would have required mandatory training programs for certain employees to identify and report victims of human trafficking, never received a vote in committee.

SB 5883 would have directed the state to develop an anti-trafficking notice and require all establishments with public restrooms to prominently display the notice. SB 5883 was incorporated into SB 5884.

SB 5884 would create the Washington State Clearinghouse on Human Trafficking to share and coordinate statewide efforts to combat the trafficking of persons. The bill passed the House and Senate, but with different amendments.  SB 5884 must be reconciled between the two chambers, before it can be sent to the Governor.

SB 5919 would have slightly modified the state's assisted suicide law to assure patients have complete information. The House Health Care Committee heard the bill, but did not vote on it.

BILLS WSCC OPPOSES:

HB 1647 would have required all private health insurers in Washington State to cover abortion services, if they offer maternity care. The House passed HB 1647, but the bill "died" in the Senate Health Care Committee.

SB 5899 would have abolished payday loans by replacing them with consumer installment loans but the bill would not adequately protect consumers and low income families. The bill passed the Senate, but did not pass the House.  It is most likely "dead" for the session, but may receive consideration in the budget.

Click here to view previous WSCC advocacy bulletins.  Click here to view this bulletin on the WSCC website.

The Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic Bishops of Washington State.