Washington State Legislature

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Washington lawmakers are approaching the halfway mark of their 105-day session. Hot issues include marijuana, mental health, oil trains and cap-and-trade.

But the heavy lift for lawmakers will be writing a new two-year operating budget that increases funding for public schools. Both House Democrats and Senate Republicans will unveil dueling budget proposals in the weeks ahead.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

 

The congressional wrangling over immigration policy, which threatens to cut off Homeland Security money later this week, is spilling over to the Washington state Capitol in a fashion.

In Olympia, state representatives may take a preliminary vote Wednesday morning on a measure that would direct local police and jails to stop coordinating with federal agencies on immigrant deportations.

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Washington lawmakers are in contempt of court over school funding. But it’s a couple of non-funding issues that could create a partisan rift.

Republicans are back this year with two controversial school reform measures. One would require teacher layoffs to be based on performance, not seniority. The other would make student performance on a statewide standardized test part of a teacher’s annual evaluation.

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In Olympia, legislative budget writers got a shot of good news Friday regarding tax collections.

Washington's chief economist said about $274 million more than previously projected should flow into the state treasury from now through 2017. A strong economic recovery gets credit. This prompted a reaction from the legislature's lead budget writers.

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The sun rose and then quickly set again on a proposal by some state legislators to abolish daylight saving time in Washington state.

Constituent complaints about disrupted sleep and the hassle of changing clocks prompted legislation in both Oregon and Washington.

Staying on Pacific Standard Time year-round would avoid the twice-yearly ritual. But it raises complications if other states keep springing forward, said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, at a committee hearing on Thursday.

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A bill dividing Seattle Public Schools into two separate districts took another step forward in Olympia Thursday after House Education Committee members sent the proposal to the full chamber by a 16-to-5 vote.

Though it doesn't mention Seattle by name, the bill would bar any Washington school district from enrolling more than 35,000 students at the opening of the 2018-2019 school year. Only Seattle Public Schools currently fits that description.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Families of murder victims and opponents of capital punishment spoke out in support of a measure to abolish the death penalty in Washington, saying that a costly and drawn out appeals process only prolongs the pain of the crime.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

Legislative moves to limit school immunization exemptions are drawing vocal opposition from some parents. Opponents of mandatory vaccination crowded a public hearing at the state capitol in Olympia Tuesday, and the scene could repeat itself in Salem Wednesday.

A bill in the Washington legislature would no longer allow schoolchildren to skip vaccinations on personal or philosophical grounds. Religious and medical exemptions would remain.

Austin Jenkins

 

The case of an infant who nearly died from severe abuse has captured the attention of Washington lawmakers. The child’s adoptive parents testified Tuesday in favor a proposed law named in their son’s honor.

“Aiden’s Law” would require Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services to conduct a formal review in near-fatal child abuse and neglect cases.

Rachel La Corte / AP Photo

 

A bipartisan group of Washington state senators is backing an 11.7 cent gas tax increase over three years.

The 16-year proposal was rolled out late Thursday at the Capitol. The higher gas tax would help fund a multi-billion dollar roads and transit package.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Three Washington state senators received a boost in their per diem last month, despite previously saying they wouldn’t take a raise in their daily allowance.

In March 2014, a Washington Senate committee narrowly voted to increase the reimbursement senators get when they’re in session to $120 a day, a $30 increase.

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Washington lawmakers are considering whether to exempt amateur athletes from state labor laws.

The move comes as Washington’s four Western Hockey League teams remain under investigation for possible child labor violations.

Stephan Röhl

Sometimes it's a vengeful ex-lover; sometimes a thief or a hacker is behind it. Either way, explicit, private photos of people keep getting out on the Internet.

A woman from Seattle said she was mortified just over a year ago to discover naked pictures of herself posted to a "revenge porn" website. Kim asked that her last name not be used during testimony to a Washington state Senate committee Monday.

Colin Fogarty

 

Paid sick leave and a boost in the minimum wage are among the top priorities of organized labor in Washington state this year.

Democrats in the legislature have embraced both ideas. But Republicans and business interests remain wary. Adding to the politics is the fact Seattle has already adopted these policies.

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On the eve of the Super Bowl, Washington state lawmakers are considering whether to legalize fantasy sports contests.

This is where sports fans build an imaginary team based on the stats of real players. They then compete in a league with other participants.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

Nearly two years after public radio and the Associated Press investigated lobbyist-paid meals for Washington lawmakers, the issue is still a topic of discussion in the legislature.

A Senate panel Thursday took testimony on two proposals related to gifts of food and beverage.

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SeaWorld is famous for its choreographed dolphin and Orca whale performances. Now a Washington state lawmaker wants to make sure what happens at SeaWorld stays at SeaWorld.

Washington state Sen. Kevin Ranker introduced legislation to prohibit marine mammal shows in Washington.

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It’s long been against the law to text and drive in Washington, but the rules would get much stricter under a proposal introduced Wednesday in the legislature.

The sponsors believe it’s time to update state law to keep up with technology. 

Brianhe / Wikimedia Commons

 

When police are called to a report of domestic abuse, often someone goes to jail.

In Washington state, the mandatory arrest law applies to suspects 16 and older when the officer believes a serious assault has occurred within the last four hours.

A proposal before the Washington legislature would increase the age of mandatory arrest to 18. Police could still arrest 16 and 17-year-olds, but it wouldn’t be required.

Austin Jenkins

 

The Washington House has joined the state Senate in banning openly carried guns in the public viewing galleries.

House leaders made that announcement Monday morning following an incident in the House gallery last week.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Umbrellas, strollers and backpacks were already banned from the public viewing galleries in the Washington House and Senate.

Now Senate leaders have added a ban on openly-carried guns. The House may soon follow suit.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

Guns are allowed in the Washington state Capitol, but state law makes it illegal to carry a firearm in a manner designed to intimidate.

That made for some tense moments Thursday in the spectator gallery of the Washington House.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

Washington state is at a crossroads, according to Gov. Jay Inslee.

Those were key themes Tuesday as Inslee delivered his State of the State address before a joint session of the state legislature.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

 

Republicans control the Washington Senate, but Monday’s start of the 2015 session featured a Democratic insurgency.

It happened when Republicans tried to re-elect Sen. Tim Sheldon as president pro tem of the Senate. Sheldon is a Democrat who in 2012 joined with Republicans to help them take control of the Washington Senate.

Austin Jenkins

Gov. Jay Inslee wants a new capital gains tax to help fund schools and other priorities. But Republicans in the state Senate voted Monday to make it harder to get a tax proposal like that through the legislature.

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School funding, a roads-and-transit package and medical marijuana are among the hot topics as the Washington legislature convenes Monday. Lawmakers plan to meet for 105 days.

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The Washington legislature convenes next Monday for a 105-day session. Transportation funding is one of the top agenda items.

Lawmakers failed to move a roads and transit package last year and pressure continues to build for the legislature to act. But there are also sharp partisan differences.

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Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board has capped the number of free meals lawmakers can accept from lobbyists.

Now the board will consider whether lawmakers must report those meals. A meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2.

Austin Jenkins

In Washington, D.C., there’s a waiting period before members of Congress and their staffers can work as lobbyists.

And unlike Oregon and 31 other states, Washington state does not require a waiting or “cooling off” period to slow the revolving door. 

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To raise taxes, or not raises taxes? That is the question. Washington Democrats have been hinting at yes. Republicans like Senate budget chair Andy Hill say it’s a last resort.

Hill started the toothpaste analogy.

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