Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Hot issues die in Legislature" - an explanation

We just passed an important date on the Washington State legislative calendar. It includes Monday's cutoff date, when bills had to have been voted out of their house of origin (either the House of Representatives or the Senate) in order to make it further, unless the bill impacts the budget. 

However, it still pays to keep watch until at least April 12, the 93rd day of the Legislative session, as the website explains:

"After the 93rd day, only initiatives, alternatives to initiatives, budgets and matters necessary to implement budgets, messages pertaining to amendments, differences between the houses, and matters incident to the interim and closing of the session may be considered."

You can read about the legislative process by clicking here.

This article from The Daily Olympian, posted on Washington State Wire, gives an overview of what happened -- and didn't happen -- on Monday:

Hot issues die in Legislature - Under the Dome - The Olympian - Olympia, Washington

Hot issues die in Legislature

DEADLINE: Bills had to be approved in first chamber Monday night

JORDAN SCHRADER; Staff writer | • Published March 08, 2011
There was no debate over abortion or illegal immigration.
No one made fiery speeches about the initiative process.
No outrage was voiced over red-light cameras.
Any of those hot-button issues could have come up on the House or Senate floor this year, but that became much less likely at 5 p.m. Monday when a key deadline came and went.
Although no idea is ever dead in the Legislature beyond the hope of revival, most bills had to be approved by either the House or the Senate by Monday to move forward this year.
Some lawmakers were disappointed. Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington, knew she wouldn’t be able to get rid of automatic traffic cameras as she first proposed, but had hoped for some more modest changes in laws governing how cities use the cameras, and had been in talks with GOP Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville and majority Democrats.
“We thought we had a deal,” Stevens said, “but the clock ran out, and it didn’t pass.”
Opponents of traffic cameras in the House were ready to try to put a host of restrictions on cities wanting to use the cameras, including requiring local voters to sign off.
They would have sought to attach their proposals to a bill Rep. Connie Ladenburg, D-Tacoma, introduced to try to standardize camera use across the state. But Democratic leaders didn’t allow the bill to come to the floor, citing the time-consuming amendments.
“It just kind of got bogged down,” House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said.
Nor did the Democrats who run the Senate allow a floor vote on Becker’s standardization bill, which is similar to Ladenburg’s.
Becker’s bill was also complicated by a disagreement among Senate Republicans over whether one provision in the bill would expand camera use. Stevens thought it would; Becker said it merely standardized practices across cities.
Cities opposed more sweeping changes such as public votes and extra time before lights turn red. Rep. Chris Hurst, D-Enumclaw, said cities were trying to protect a “cash-cow program,” but were “cutting off their nose to spite their face” because it’s likely that if the Legislature doesn’t act, some camera opponents will seek to eliminate them via the ballot.

Republicans made a last-minute push to bring a couple of controversial bills to the Senate floor but couldn’t find enough support from Democrats. One of the bills, sponsored by Haugen, would have made drivers give their Social Security numbers or other proof they are in the country legally before they get a driver’s license that can be used as identification – as all but one other state does.
The other would have repealed a year-old rule passed by the Legislature that prevents borrowers from taking out more than eight loans in a year from a payday loan company.
Anti-poverty advocates say the cap on loans protects against predatory lenders, while lawmakers including Rep. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma, say it’s forcing borrowers into an unregulated Internet market.
The procedural questions of whether to take up those bills both failed by two votes.
In the House, lawmakers never took up a bill that could have brought questions of abortion front and center.
Advocates for reproductive and abortion rights backed a bill forcing pregnancy centers run by opponents of abortion to disclose that they don’t provide abortions and other medical services for pregnant women. They say the centers are deceiving women; supporters of the centers say the rules trample on their free speech rights.
Other bills beat the deadline. The Senate voted Monday to allow King County Metro Transit to charge car owners $20 a year for two years to fund threatened bus service, over the objections of Republicans.
Senate Bill 5457 would not apply to Pierce or Snohomish counties, as originally conceived. If it passes the House, approval of the tax would require a two-thirds vote of the King County Council.
Senators also advanced a regulation on eminent domain that has failed to gain traction in the past.

Their goal is to close a door opened six years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the 2005 Kelo v. City of New London (Conn.) decision, the court ruled that governments can condemn property to help a private developer.
In effect, said Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, governments would be saying, “You’re taking good care of your land, but we think somebody else would make us more money with it.”
Under Senate Bill 5077, governments in Washington would be barred from using eminent domain for economic development. The bill passed 45-4 and heads to the House.
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826

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