Progress in Olympia: Bump stock ban, conversion therapy ban, Net Neutrality, more

Olympia! (Image: leg.wa.gov)

The public records bill approved in Olympia has received outsized attention this legislative session. We heard here from two of the three 43rd District legislators who joined with their counterparts across the state and the aisle to approve it. But there has also been progress this session on some key issues Capitol Hill voters care about.

The Washington Legislature’s 2018 session is headed to a close March 9. Don’t expect things to drag on through the summer as they did last year.

Even-numbered (non-budget) years tend to end on time, largely because there are no contentious budget battles. This is by design, even years are election years, and legislators are prohibited from collecting campaign contributions during the session. Another larger change this year is the return to one-party rule. The state Senate had been in Republican hands for a few years. That changed after a special election in November gave Democrats control of both chambers, along with the governership.

Dozens of bills of interest to Seattle and Capitol Hill went through the process this year, some look like they’ll become law, others may need to percolate a bit longer. Below, CHS takes a look at some of this session’s progress. With more news from the legislature breaking today, let us know if there some Olympia happenings we missed.

  • Bump Stock Ban: Bump Stocks are accessories that allow a semi-automatic rifle to fire as if it was an automatic rifle, made famous after the Las Vegas massacre. A familiar script ensued where lots of people made noise about getting rid of them, but nothing much happened. Then after Parkland suddenly gun control came back into the discussion. A bump stock ban was the only measure to get any traction in this state this year. The Legislature voted to ban the purchase or manufacture of bump stocks as of July of this year, and to declare them illegal to own as of July 2019. Capitol Hill’s Senator, Jaime Pedersen (D-43) was a co-sponsor of the senate bill. Both of the neighborhood’s representatives, Nicole Macri (D-43) and Frank Chopp (D-43) voted in favor of the ban.
  • Other gun restrictions: One bill did pass that adds domestic violence harassment to the list of crimes that prohibit a person from possessing a gun. All three local legislators voted in favor. Beyond that, not so much. Bills were floated that would have: Enhanced background checks and licensing for people who want to buy large capacity magazines; Restricted gun access to people found incompetent to stand trial and who have a history of violent acts; Banned high-capacity magazines; Allowed local governments to impose regulations on guns that are more strict than state standards. They all died in committee without a vote.
  • Conversion therapy: Washington is set to join the list of states with a ban on therapy to change a minor’s sexual orientation, deeming it “unprofessional conduct” for a licensed health care provider to perform conversion therapy on a patient under the age of 18.

  • Renter rights: Rent control is not to be, at least not this year. Macri floated a bill that would have allowed localities to impose rent control if they wanted to, but it died without a committee vote. She also proposed a law that would have expanded the rights of renters, but it, too, died in committee. Another renter bill that is still afloat would forbid landlords from discriminating against a tenant based on their income source being from something other than employment – for example, government housing assistance. Macri and Chopp both supported the bill.
  • Sound Transit: File this under a step backwards. The Senate has passed a bill that “the valuation schedule for the ST3 MVET (Motor Vehicle Excise Tax)” and the House seems poised to also approve the new math. What does it mean? Lower car tabs. And Sound Transit losing out on an estimated $780 million through 2028.
  • Net Neutrality: The FCC has swept away regulations that had ensured internet service providers couldn’t play favorites and allow some companies faster service through the Internet. The Washington Legislature responded by passing what may be the first state version of a net neutrality bill. The bill passed with overwhelming support, clearing the house 93-5 and the senate 35-14. All of District 43’s Legislators approved the bill. Inslee has said he was supportive of the effort.
  • Homelessness: A bill of Macri’s that would work to help homeless people still has a chance. If approved, it will stabilize the state’s main revenue source used to help homeless people. It would also allow counties to asses, retain and have discretion over spending a surcharge to help battle homelessness. The bill passed the house 51-47, with Macri and Chopp both in favor. It’s now working its way through the senate. Pedersen voted in favor of the bill in committee; it hasn’t yet reached the senate floor. 
  • Gender Pay Equity: A bill that strengthens the law which mandates gender pay equity (not modified since 1943) may still go through, though it’s stalled a bit. The bill was first introduced last year and amended quite a few times during the course of the two sessions. This year, it has passed out of the house, with both Macri and Chopp supporting it. It even made it out of committee in the Senate, but has been waiting in the Rules Committee (typically the last step before a floor vote) since Feb. 8.
  • Initiatives: Pedersen floated a bill that would have allowed for a review period for citizen initiatives, and would have allowed initiatives to be challenged as unconstitutional before they go to the ballot (surely, this isn’t just about Tim Eyman, right?). He first introduced the bill last year. It didn’t pass then, and it’s not looking like its going to pass this time around.
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