Washington State Capitol in Olympia
Washington State Capitol in Olympia

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.

SB 5395 passed the Sen­ate ear­li­er this month.

Banning single use plastic bags

NPI press conference in support of Reusable Bag Bill
NPI Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Andrew Vil­leneuve leads a press con­fer­ence announc­ing the release of new research show­ing strong sup­port for a plas­tic bag ban (Pho­to: Car­olyn Barclift/NPI)

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

Time for abolition in Washington State
Time for abo­li­tion in Wash­ing­ton State: End the death penalty

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.

Gra­ham’s sis­ter was one of the vic­tims of Gary Ridg­way, the Green Riv­er Killer, who is locked up in Wal­la Wal­la in the Wash­ing­ton State Pen­i­ten­tiary.

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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