Today was a banner day for the Northwest Progressive Institute’s 2020 legislative priorities. Three key policy bills on our list — all still alive thanks to Senate action earlier in the session — each received votes today to advance out of their committees of origin in the House of Representatives. To get to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk, these bills will need to be voted upon by the full House.
Here’s an overview of each bill.
Comprehensive sexual health education
Senate Bill 5395, which has attracted significant Republican opposition in the House, advanced on a vote of nine to eight after failing to get out of the House Education Committee last year. The bill was heard in committee last Thursday, with right wing parents showing up en masse to condemn it.
It has thankfully moved forward and remains alive ahead of tomorrow’s cutoff for policy bills enacted by the other chamber to get out of committee.
The bill advanced on a party-line vote, with the committee’s nine Democrats giving the bill a “do pass” recommendation and the eight Republicans voting nay.
Recommending “do pass”: Democratic Representatives Sharon Tomiko Santos (Chair), Laurie Dolan (Vice Chair), Dave Paul (Vice Chair), Steve Bergquist, Lisa Callan, Lillian Ortiz-Self, Monica Jurado Stonier, My-Linh Thai, Javier Valdez
Recommending “do not pass”: Republican Representatives Mike Steele (Ranking Member), Bob McCaslin (Assistant Ranking Member), Mike Volz (Assistant Ranking Member), Michelle Caldier, Chris Corry, Paul Harris, Skyler Rude, Alex Ybarra
Requested by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal and sponsored by State Senator Claire Wilson, the bill is intended to help young people at many different stages of childhood and young adulthood make better decisions about their health and their future. The House Education Committee amended the bill, so it will need Senate concurrence to clear the Legislature.
The original bill’s main provisions, as summarized by the staff of the Senate Democratic caucus are as follows:
- Expand comprehensive sexual health education curriculum to all grade 6–12 schools across the state, phased in over several years;
- Phase in age-appropriate curriculum for K‑5 grades; and
- Allow parents to exempt children from sexual health education classes on request.
Banning single use plastic bags
Senator Mona Das’ SB 5323 also received a vote in its committee of origin today. The House Committee on Environment & Energy, chaired by the incomparable Joe Fitzgibbon, opted to replace the bill with a new version (known in legislative parlance as a striker) that also bans single use plastic bags.
The bill then received a “do pass” recommendation from the committee.
Impressively, the vote was unanimous. It looks like this is the year for this bill!
Recommending “do pass”: Democratic Representatives Joe Fitzgibbon (Chair), Debra Lekanoff (Vice Chair), Beth Doglio, Jake Fey, Jared Mead, June Robinson, Sharon Shewmake; Republican Representatives Richard DeBolt (Ranking Member), Mary Dye (Assistant Ranking Member), Matt Boehnke, Keith Goehner
NPI Vice President-Secretary Diane Jones testified in support of SB 5323 at its hearing last Thursday, explaining that 69% of Washingtonians surveyed by NPI’s pollster PPP expressed support for a statewide ban on single use plastic bags.
We are delighted to see the bill move forward with bipartisan support.
The striking amendment substantially changes the original bill. The new language differs from the original as follows, according to House nonpartisan staff:
- Requires bags used at retail establishments to comply with labeling requirements for compostable and noncompostable bags and products established in state law in 2019, rather than creating a second set of standards for the labeling of compostable bags;
- Exempts mailing pouches and sealed envelopes from requirements on carryout bags provided to customers by retail establishments;
- Modifies the recycled content requirements for reusable film plastic bags to require a minimum of 20% recycled content until July 1, 2022, and a minimum of 40% thereafter;
- Requires reusable film plastic bags to display the mil thickness in print on the exterior of the bag, in addition to the postconsumer recycled content;
- Provides that enforcement of bag restrictions must be based on complaints filed with the Department of Ecology (Department) or with local jurisdictions, and provides for the Department to establish a forum where local governments may file complaints for enforcement purposes by the Department or where local governments may review complaints filed with the Department for purposes of conducting education and outreach;
- Authorizes educational elements regarding carryout bag restrictions and the benefits of reusable bags to be created by local governments, and requires Department or local government training of employees as part of the educational element to occur no later than October 1, 2020;
- Amends the preemption provisions to provide that (1) carryout bag ordinances not enacted as of April 1, 2020, are preempted; (2) carryout bag ordinances enacted as of April 1, 2020, are preempted effective January 1, 2021; and (3) local governments that have established a pass-through charge of ten cents are not preempted with respect to the amount of the pass-through charge; and
- Requires the Department to submit a report to the Legislature by October 1, 2023, addressing the effectiveness of the pass-through charge and the cost of authorized bags to retail establishments relative to the pass-through charge, evaluating the 2.25 mil reusable plastic bags, and making recommendations for revisions to the Act.
As with SB 5395, the Senate must sign off on these changes for the bill to leave the Legislature. The Senate can refuse to do so, in which case the House would be asked to recede from its amendments. If the House chose not to recede, then a conference committee would be appointed to negotiate a final version.
Death penalty abolition
At the same time the Education and Environment Committees were meeting to consider the aforementioned bills, the House Public Safety Committee was meeting to discuss Senate Bill 5339, prime sponsored by Senator Reuven Carlyle. This bill repeals Washington’s now inactive death penalty statute, ending the practice of putting people to death for the crime of murder.
The Senate has passed this bill for three consecutive sessions, but it hasn’t received a vote on the floor of the House. However, it did get a vote of confidence from the Public Safety Committee, chaired by Representative Roger Goodman.
The committee rejected three Republican amendments, all sponsored by Jenny Graham, prior to taking a final vote to advance the bill.
Graham is a vocal proponent of executions who fervently — and wrongly — believes that abolishing the death penalty will result in convicted murderers getting out of prison and hurting more people.
There is no evidence — I repeat, no evidence — that eliminating the death penalty encourages people to commit more crimes, but Graham and others continue to disingenuously argue that the prospect of an execution is a deterrent.
The committee did not change the bill. If the full House approves it as is, it can go to Governor Inslee’s desk for his signature without further action in the Senate.
The party-line vote was as follows:
Recommending “do pass”: Democratic Representatives Roger Goodman (Chair), Lauren Davis (Vice Chair), Sherry Appleton (Second Vice Chair), John Lovick, Tina Orwall, Mike Pellicciotti, Eric Pettigrew
Recommending “do not pass”: Republican Representatives Brad Klippert (Ranking Member), Robert Sutherland (Assistant Ranking Member), Jenny Graham, Dan Griffey
In 2018, NPI unveiled research showing that Washingtonians of all political ideologies support abolishing the death penalty and replacing it with a form of life in prison. Amazingly, even Trump supporters favor, by a slight plurality, life in prison alternatives, as do an outright majority of Republicans.
We will continue to lobby in support of all three of these bills and track their progress in the remaining days of the 2020 legislative session.