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March 19, 2013 at 3:42 PM
The House committee overseeing the state’s marijuana law today heard feedback about a bill that would change state regulations.
Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, introduced House Bill 2000 to modify Initiative 502, a voter-passed measure allowing the sale and possession of marijuana for adults. He said he introduced the bill to preempt the “myriad of problems” the Washington State Liquor Control Board will face while implementing the initiative, especially given the lack of marijuana regulation the state has long had.
“We really have done nothing to regulate marijuana in Washington state,” Hurst said. “I could walk to downtown Olympia and find someone to sell him marijuana within five minutes.”
HB 2000 would change where businesses could legally sell marijuana. Under I-502, marijuana can’t be sold within 1000 feet of certain public facilities, including schools, parks, playgrounds and transit centers. HB 2000 would cut that distance to 500 feet, except near schools.
March 13, 2013 at 6:41 PM
OLYMPIA — The Washington State Dream Act was approved by the state House on Wednesday, bringing undocumented students one step closer to being eligible for the State Need Grant.
The measure was approved 77-20, with unanimous Democrat support and a split vote on the Republican side. It was the last piece of House legislation to make it through before the session’s cutoff.
House Bill 1817 would qualify all students who graduated from a Washington high school or earned a diploma-equivalent in the state for the State Need Grant — the state’s largest financial-aid program — as long as they meet other grant requirements. The students must also remain in the state after earning their diploma, until they attend college.
Bill sponsor Rep. Zack Hudgins urged fellow legislators to pass HB 1817 for the good of Washington. He said regardless of where students are born, they are capable of having a big impact on the state’s economy.
“[Undocumented students] are the ones who will sell our apples and pears and airplanes,” said Hudgins, D-Tukwila. “These kids have no choice in where they are born, but they do have a choice in how hard they work.”
The issue now goes to the Senate for consideration. Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, introduced a similar bill the Senate, but it died without receiving a hearing. And on Wednesday, a maneuver by supporters to pass the Dream Act by tacking it onto other legislation failed.
Several House Republicans spoke in favor of the bill Wednesday, arguing it would benefit their constituents and strengthen their communities. Rep. Bruce Chandler, R-Granger, said receiving an education will allow undocumented students a chance to participate fully in their communities.
But fellow Republican Rep. Larry Haler, of Richland, spoke against passage – not because he disagreed with the intent of the bill, but because of the budget.
“Currently we can’t fund 32,000 young men and women who meet the eligibility of the State Need Grant,” said Haler, R-Richland. “Sometime in the future, a few years from now, we might be able to afford it.”
Rep. Overstreet, R-Lynden, argued that the bill shouldn’t be passed because people in the county illegally shouldn’t have access to a state-funded education. He said representatives shouldn’t vote on the bill based on emotion or compassion, they should vote based on laws already in place.
March 12, 2013 at 5:26 PM
For many people, flash mobs are a delightful fad. Videos of performers breaking into dance in train stations, parks and shopping malls are popular on YouTube. But Washington state senators are worried the trend could take a more sinister form: flash robs.
Sen. Mike Carrell said he introduced a bill in response to a group of teens staging a flash rob at a Portland Nordstrom last April. The Lakewood Republican said there haven’t been any flash robs in Washington, and he hopes the legislation will prevent them from occurring.
Under Senate Bill 5178, groups of at least six people who steal at least $500 in merchandise can be charged with organized retail theft. The group must also have used electronic communication – emails, text messages or social media – to organize the theft.
March 11, 2013 at 7:35 PM
OLYMPIA — The state Senate today approved 29-20 a bill to limit a recently implemented Seattle sick leave law.
Democratic Sens. Tracey Eide of Federal Way, Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, Brian Hatfield of Raymond, and Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, joined the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus to support the measure.
The bill will now go to the Democrat-run House, where it is unlikely to gain traction. House leaders are instead focused on expanding sick leave.
The Seattle law, which has been in effect only since September, requires companies to offer paid sick leave if they have at least five employees and do business in Seattle.
Senate Bill 5726 would make it illegal for local governments to require employers to offer paid sick leave unless the business is physically located within the local government’s jurisdiction or 85 percent of the hours worked for that employer are worked in the area.
Bill sponsor John Braun, R-Centralia, said the Seattle law places unnecessary hardships on businesses that aren’t even located in the Seattle.
“[This bill] is about giving our employers their best chance,” Braun said.
Minority Leader Ed Murray said he views the bill as a direct attack on Seattle and its decision-making authority. He urged other senators to think twice before passing legislation to limit the jurisdictions of local governments.
“This is a divisive discussion aimed at further dividing the state, and it’s not respectful,” said Murray, D-Seattle. “I don’t think this is a good way to bring legislators together.”
Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said the bill is a matter of public health and safety. She said she doesn’t want childcare workers, food servers and hotel employees to come to work sick because they might spread their illnesses to her or her family. Many employees don’t have a choice in the matter, she said, because they don’t have the financial freedom to take an unpaid sick day.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles agreed.
“I’m sure everybody here has gone into a restaurant and had the server sneeze,” said Kohl Welles, D-Seattle. “That’s happened to me before, and it really gives me the creeps.”
March 7, 2013 at 7:23 PM
As part of this week’s bill-passing marathon, the Washington state House approved a flurry of election-related bills during Thursday’s floor session.
Despite heated Republican opposition, representatives passed the Washington Voting Rights Act of 2013. House Bill 1413 would make it easier for minority individuals or groups that are disenfranchised in at-large elections to require jurisdictions to shift to district-based elections for certain local races. Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mount Lake Terrace, said the bill was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement.
“Every vote should count, every voter should have a voice,” Moscoso said. “That’s what my parents taught me at a very young age, and that’s the intent of this bill. Being the first Latino male in the Legislature, I realized it was my responsibility to advocate for this area of voter rights.”
Several Republicans spoke against the bill, including Rep. Brad Hawkins, R-Wenatchee, and Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla. Hawkins argued that creating smaller districts would make it harder to recruit talented public officials. Walsh said politicians can do a good job of representing constituents who don’t share the same ethnic background.
“I like to think I represent everyone in my district,” Walsh said, but way of example. “I don’t care what your color is. I don’t care what your creed is.”
House Bill 1267, sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, would allow people to register to vote closer to the election date. Under the original bill, voters would be able to register online eight days before an election or in person at the county auditor’s office before 5 p.m. on election day. But, Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden, said that late in person registration could create problems for county auditors. Fitzgibbon amended the bill to allow online and in-person registration eight days before the election and mail in registration 28 days before election day.
The bill was approved 62 to 33.
The House passed another voter registration bill, House Bill 1279 allowing the Department of Licensing to pre-register 16 and 17-year-olds to vote when they apply for drivers licenses or identification cards. Rep. Steve Bergquist, D-Seattle, introduced the bill to increase voting in young adults.
Bergquist, a social studies teacher, said his bill would be a great way to get high school juniors and seniors interested in politics and help students feel like they have a stake in their community.
“This bill is all about education and access,” Bergquist said.
But Buys said the database of pre-registered 16 and 17-year-olds could be accidentally combined with the list of legal voters, leading to those unqualified teenagers to be sent ballots. He also said the measure was unnecessary because voters typically know when elections are coming up and can register to vote then. Despite his concerns, the House passed the bill 55 to 42.
Legislators also approved House Bill 1103 to create a uniform ballot design and a fund to replace vote counting equipment. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim.
The House also unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, that would make sure judicial races are decided in the general elections, not primaries. Under current state law, all candidates appear on the August primary ballot. But if a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, he or she appears on the general election ballot unopposed. House Bill 1474 would require that the top two vote-getters advance to the general election.
All the election-related bills approved by the House now go to the Senate for consideration.
March 6, 2013 at 8:59 AM
OLYMPIA — The state House passed a bill Tuesday that aims to prevent alcohol-related deaths by encouraging minors to report cases of alcohol poisoning.
If enacted, House Bill 1404 would prevent minors suffering from alcohol poisoning from being prosecuted under minor-in-possession charges if they need medical attention. Minors helping alcohol-poisoning victims would get the same protection. Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, said young people frequently make mistakes, including drinking before they’re 21. He argued that mistake shouldn’t lead to a bigger one: a preventable death.
“At the end of the day it’s about protecting young people across the state and saving lives,” Liias said.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, said he had qualms about the bill and introduced amendments to narrow the definition of alcohol poisoning and require that those suffering alcohol poisoning call 911 instead of only seeking medical attention. Both amendments were voted down. Klippert then urged his colleagues to vote against the bill, arguing the legislation would encourage underage drinking.
“This bill just sends the wrong message,” Klippert said.
But a fellow Republican, Rep. Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla, spoke in a favor of the bill.
“If this bill saves one life, just one teenage life, then it deserves a yes vote,” Walsh said.
The bill passed 72-24, and now moves to the Senate.
March 5, 2013 at 11:09 AM
OLYMPIA — The state Senate tackled the issue of sex trafficking Monday, passing two bills increasing penalties for the crime.
Senate Bill 5488 would add a $5,000 fine to additional penalties for advertising sex with minors online. The legislation also would repeal a law passed last year requiring online classified advertising companies to verify the ages of people in sex-related advertisements. Backpage.com filed a lawsuit against Washington state, arguing the law violated the First Amendment. A federal judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional.
Bill sponsor Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said she’s disappointed the Legislature has to repeal last year’s law, but she thinks SB 5488 will discourage advertising sex with minors in a manner that complies with the United States Constitution.
“I’m actually rather sad that we had to have this bill introduced this year,” Kohl-Welles said.
Senate Bill 5669, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane, would require those convicted of trafficking minors or patronizing underage prostitutes to register as sex offenders. Traffickers would also be eligible for criminal profiteering charges.
“I feel like we have an obligation to be as strong as we can in going after traffickers,” Padden said.
Both bills passed through the Senate unanimously and will move to the House.
February 21, 2013 at 8:57 PM
OLYMPIA — A bill regulating the use of unmanned drones in Washington state cleared the House Public Safety committee Thursday after heated public testimony about privacy rights and crime prevention.
House Bill 1771 sponsored by Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, would require agencies using or buying drones to get approval from the Legislature or local governments. Drones could only be used with a warrant or in emergencies. The legislation doesn’t address private use.
Taylor said law-enforcement officials urged him to offer the bill as they are interested in using drones, but uncomfortable with the lack of rules governing them. Bill co-sponsor Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane, said he signed on because of public concerns about violations of privacy.
“This issue is really about freedom,” Shea said.
Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union testified in favor of the bill, arguing that drones need to be used responsibly. Michael German said the government shouldn’t stop law enforcement from using new technology, but lawmakers need to be aware of the “unprecedented capabilities” drones offer in tracking people.
“It’s an awful lot of tracking in our daily lives that we want to make sure is only happening when it’s absolutely necessary,” German said.
But Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, questioned whether a law regulating drones is necessary, given that surveillance from helicopters is largely unregulated. James McMahon, executive director of the Washington State Association of County Officials, said he opposed the bill for the same reason. But Shankar Narayan, an ACLU lobbyist, argued that drones are becoming more accessible than helicopters and will soon be used frequently.
Mitch Barker, executive director of the Washington State Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, called the legislation unnecessary. He said he doesn’t know any law-enforcement officer who would use a “dragon-sized” camera to track people without a warrant.
“This bill would eliminate [unmanned drones],” Barker said. “And if that’s the point, the bill should just state that.”
February 21, 2013 at 2:42 PM
OLYMPIA — Washington students are one step closer to having a larger role in decisions made by public university officials.
House Bill 1331, which allows student governments to form committees advising school administrations, passed the House on Wednesday, 95-1. Bill sponsor Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, said student input is becoming increasingly important, given rising tuition.
“As students are spending more on education, they deserve a seat at the table where these decisions are being made,” Riccelli said.
State statutes currently allow university students to form student governments that act as liaisons between student bodies and administrators. Student governments are already involved in setting and allocating activity fees, which fund services ranging from on-campus gyms to health centers.
Under the House bill, students could form a committee to advise the administration on issues affecting student access to education, including tuition levels and fees. The administration would then be required to provide the committee with all non-confidential information that students could use to make recommendations.
The University of Washington already has such a committee –- the Provost Advisory Committee for Students (PACS), which was implemented during the 2011-2012 school year. Margaret Shepherd, a lobbyist for the university, said University of Washington administrators support HB 1331.
Student representatives Angie Weiss, with the Associated Students of the University of Washington, and Tristan Hanon, with the Associated Students of Washington State University, also support the bill. Hanon said his student government has no trouble communicating with WSU President Elson Floyd, but he wants to preserve the right for students to come.
“I don’t want that to change, and I feel like this bill cements that precedent,” Hanon said.
The legislation must now move through the Senate before being sent to the governor’s desk. Sen. Barbara Bailey, an Oak Harbor Republican who chairs the Higher Education Committee, said the bill will be given a hearing within the next few weeks. She said she won’t form opinions until after she hears public testimony, and is unsure how the bill will fare on the Senate floor.
February 18, 2013 at 10:23 AM
Legislative items to watch this week: unmanned drones, marijuana convictions and unemployed veterans
This week the state Legislature will once again consider a diverse assortment of topics. Various committees will hold hearings on bills covering unmanned drones, marijuana convictions and unemployed veterans.
Two weeks after Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn grounded the Seattle Police Department’s unmanned drown program, the House and Senate will hold hearings on legislation to outline regulations on the aircraft. Senate Bill 5782 will be heard by the Law & Justice Committee on Wednesday. House Bill 1771 will be heard by the Public Safety Committee on Thursday.
The House Public Safety Committee will further explore the implications of Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana use, in a Wednesday meeting. Representatives will consider House Bill 1661 removing misdemeanor marijuana convictions from people’s criminal records. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien.
Legislators in the House will hear a bill aimed at bolstering the state’s economy and putting veterans to work with bills that provide tax cuts for businesses hiring unemployed workers. House Bill 1615, proposed by Port Orchard Republican Jan Angel, will go before the Finance Committee on Friday.
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