Thursday was the cutoff date for proposed bills to clear the House and Senate committees with the chance of getting passed. For some legislation, that cutoff is literal.
The House Education Committee was in the process of voting on a bill requiring bond training for school board members when the Zoom meeting ended Thursday morning. District 19 Rep. Joel McEntire was in the middle of his vote when the call ended. A normal committee hearing might have been able to finagle a way to finish voting, but the computer-enforced time limit killed the bill.
“In statute, we need to have it done by the exact moment the clock ticks zero or it’s done,” McEntire sad.
McEntire and Rep. Jim Walsh, a ranking member of the education committee, referenced that small education bill as an example of how hectic the push can be to meet the cutoff deadline. Smaller bills and pet projects from politicians across the spectrum failed to gain traction as the Legislature enters the second half of this year’s session.
A big takeaway for District 19’s Republican legislators is that the push to limit a governor’s emergency power decisions still is alive. A Senate reform bill with bipartisan support made it out of the State Government and Tribal Affairs committee Wednesday.
Walsh said he wasn’t thrilled about the specifics of that bill, but he expected it would go through lengthy amendments and negotiations in order to get widespread support for a floor vote.
“All we need is one vehicle to make it through to keep this going, and that somewhat toothless Senate bill did make it,” Walsh said.
Not every bill that got stuck in committee this week is done for the rest of the session. Measures can be reintroduced if they are deemed necessary for the state budget or can be successfully amended onto more successful bills.
Redistricting Votes in Both Chambers
The last-minute chaos surrounding last year’s redistricting process led to two votes in the Legislature last week.
The Washington State Redistricting Commission uses the once-a-decade Census data to create new maps for Congressional and state legislative districts. This year’s committee reached a verbal agreement on the maps moments before the Nov. 15 deadline, but the final maps weren’t publicly available until well after that date.
Sen. Jeff Wilson was the lead Republican co-sponsor on the bipartisan Senate Bill 5560 that looks to add more transparency to the process. The bill passed the Senate without opposition Wednesday.
“This is something where both sides of the aisle agree to put this legislation out for the good of the order,” Wilson said. “Why wait to have problems with the next 10-year Census and redistricting?”
The bill requires a full redistricting plan, including maps and census block-level descriptions, be made publicly available 72 hours before the commission votes to approve it. Any amendments made to that version of the plan need to be discussed during an open committee session at least 24 hours before the final vote.
In the other chamber news Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a lightly amended version of the maps that came out of the redistricting committee. The new maps were approved on an 88-7 vote, well in excess of the two-thirds majority required to amend redistricting maps.
The maps will go to the Senate for consideration over the next two days. Washington has a Feb. 8 deadline for the legislature to pass any map amendments.
Senate Bill Would Exempt Homeless Camps From SEPA Clearance
Two of Southwest Washington’s senators are keeping an eye on a bill that would exempt new homeless camps from the environmental clearance process.
Senate Bill 5428 was first introduced during last year’s legislative session and returned to the table in January. The bill allows some temporary shelters and transitional campsites to be built without having to go through the State Environmental Policy Act review.
Campsites could earn the exemption if they are in a jurisdiction that has declared a state of emergency over homelessness and would have 200 occupants at the most.
Wilson and Sen. Ann Rivers both mentioned the bill as something they were keeping an eye on this month. Wilson had two proposed amendments that would require site hosts to develop plans for final cleanup and handling medical waste before they received a SEPA exemption.