Washington state legislators assembled Jan. 9 for an action-packed session this year.
This session is known as a “long” session, lasting 105 days through April 24. Beyond negotiating the state’s biennial budget for 2023-2025, lawmakers will also tackle major bills on drug possession, the housing crisis, police vehicular pursuits and a proposed ban on assault weapons (typically defined as semi-automatic firearms, such as an AR-15 style rifle) that loom on the horizon.
Here’s some of the more notable efforts of local legislators from the 31st Legislative District, which includes Auburn.
Rep. Eric Robertson will ask the Legislature to update the standard for police vehicle chases and give truckers more guaranteed rights to use restrooms at the places they pick up from and deliver to.
Legislators in 2021 passed HB 1054, limiting officers to only initiate vehicle pursuits if they have probable cause someone in the car has committed a violent, sex, or escape offense. (Reasonable suspicion remained the standard for DUIs.) Police agencies prior to that law had wide latitude to set their own rules on vehicle chases.
This year, Robertson’s HB 1053 — sponsored alongside Rep. Alicia Rule (Blaine-D) — would allow officers to engage in a pursuit as long as there’s reasonable suspicion someone in the car has committed a criminal offense.
Officers would have to notify their supervisors immediately when starting a pursuit, but wouldn’t need to receive authorization. They would still need to consider alternatives to the pursuit.
It would retain the requirement created in HB 1054 that “the safety risks of failing to apprehend or identify the person … are greater than the safety risks of the vehicular pursuit.”
Robertson, a retired Washington State Patrol trooper, said in a statement that he’s glad to find “common ground” that will return discretion to law enforcement officers to engage in pursuits while maintaining some of the standards introduced in the 2021 bill.
Also keep an eye on SB 5533, the effort introduced by Democrats to take a look at vehicle pursuits. It would convene a work group to develop a pursuit policy for police.
Robertson has also sponsored HB 1457, which would in most cases require shippers or receivers of cargo from motor carriers to let those carriers use their restrooms.
TAX CREDITS AND RETIREMENTS
Rep. Drew Stokesbary’s bills include many make tweaks to the state tax and retirement codes.
HB 1000 would expand the working families’ tax credit and double the refund amounts for families with qualifying children.
HB 1003 would expand access to “dual credit” programs by subsidizing all duel credit costs and fees for students that are already eligible for college financial aid because of family income, and paying those students a stipend for enrolling. The program will encourage students to begin earning college credit while in high school, Stokesbary said.
Several, like HB 1055, 1056, 1057 and 1336, would make adjustments to the state pension system. 1055, for instance, would bring 911 dispatchers into the public safety employee’s retirement plan, which includes first responders like cops and firefighters.
HB 1328 would give school districts additional funding to help students catch up from learning delays from the pandemic; though the funding would instead go to families of students if the schools don’t meet their own self-set testing goals. HB 1373 would prohibit encampments near schools, parks and playgrounds and set aside funding to remove them and create alternatives, and HB 1380 would give police departments funding to offer recruitment and retention bonuses for police officers.
HB 1429 would prohibit public school employee strikes and add new standards for how collective bargaining negotiations are managed. And HB 1446 would allow cities and counties to create a sales and use tax that could be used solely for employing more commissioned law enforcement officers, or for other criminal justice purposes if the jurisdiction has more officers per capita than the national rate.
HOUSING, GRAFFITI AND EMERGENCY POWERS
Sen. Phil Fortunato has filed nearly a dozen bills covering topics from COVID-19 to highway funding and gubernatorial powers.
His SB 5014 would bar any state agency from adopting a rule to enforce an emergency order from the governor unless that agency gets approval from the legislature first.
Also on government: SB 5015 would reestablish the state productivity board, tasked with financially awarding state employees who help save money in state operations. And SB 5139 would prevent any state agency or subdivision, or any employers, schools or transportation providers from requiring COVID-19 vaccination.
SB 5027 would incentivize the construction of under-1,700 square foot single-family homes for low income households, and SB 5178 would double the restitution fees for people who litter, and direct a large portion of highway littering payments for the removal of large debris like pallets, furniture and tires, and general cleanup of highways.
Other bills include: SB 5136, which would exempt clothing, some food products and children’s products like diapers, cribs and sippy cups from the sales and use tax; SB 5138, which would codify into law that illegally parked vehicles on public property or right-of-ways are not homesteads; and SB 5140, which would require the Secretary of State to run security tests of the voter registration system including a stress test of the risk of people voting multiple times.
SB 5461 would establish a statewide graffiti removal grant program, and allow courts to order people convicted of criminal graffiti or minor malicious mischief of state department of transportation property to undergo a monthlong period of restitution removing graffiti from the property. SB 5552 would allow the military to perform training exercises on state parks.
The deadline to read most bills into the record in their original side of the legislature is Feb. 17, and the last day to pass them out of that side to the other is March 8. The last day allowed for the session is April 23. Along the way, we’ll keep you abreast on what local legislators are, and aren’t, accomplishing.