Tonight, the Washington State House of Representatives is engaged in a lengthy, serious debate about Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5395, the comprehensive sexual health education legislation requested by Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. ESSB 5395 is one of NPI’s top legislative priorities for the 2020 session and has drawn fierce, heated opposition from Republicans.
The bill passed the Senate on a party-line vote several weeks ago and has been winding its way through the House after dying in committee last session.
This evening, ESSB 5395 finally reached the floor of the House.
Republicans, hoping to kill the bill, filed more than a hundred amendments against it, which you can see on the bill’s summary page. Speaker Laurie Jinkins decided to bring the bill forward anyway, and the House is knee-deep in consideration of amendments as of this hour, with no end in sight.
Rank and file Republican members of the House — furious at the prospect of the bill overcoming the obstacles they’ve thrown in its path — are refusing to abide by the rules and procedures negotiated between the House Democratic and House Republican caucus leadership for the bill’s consideration. That has resulted in multiple pauses during the course of the debate. (When the House pauses floor proceedings, the Speaker declares the chamber temporarily at ease.)
Republicans know that Democrats have the votes to pass the legislation if it gets a final vote on the floor, which is why they’re desperate to prevent the bill from getting to that point. They’re evidently hoping to drag out these proceedings long enough that Democrats just get disgusted and give up.
To prevail, the Democrats will have to outlast the Republicans. That could mean remaining on the floor well into the wee hours of the morning.
If that is what it takes, then so be it. Young Washingtonians need this legislation.
Republicans keep arguing that the people of the state are on their side in opposing this legislation, citing constituent emails and other nonscientific metrics of popular opinion. In floor debate tonight, Republican Representative Brad Klippert argued that Democrats should “listen to the people”.
“What are the majority of the people saying?” Klippert asked rhetorically.
Well, Representative Klippert, a large majority of the people of this state support this bill. We know because we asked nine hundred likely Washington voters (a rather large sample) for their views on EESB 5395 last autumn. And 67% of them told us they supported the bill, with 49% saying they strongly supported the bill.
Here’s the question we asked, and the responses we received:
QUESTION: The Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction has asked the Washington State Legislature to adopt legislation requiring all Washington state schools to teach inclusive, evidence-informed, scientifically accurate, comprehensive sexual health education, which must include “affirmative consent” curriculum. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this legislation?
- Support: 67%
- Strongly Support: 49%
- Somewhat Support: 18%
- Oppose: 22%
- Somewhat Oppose: 7%
- Strongly Oppose: 15%
- Not Sure: 11%
Our survey of nine hundred likely 2019 Washington State voters was in the field October 22nd-23rd, 2019. The survey used a blended methodology with automated phone calls to landlines and text messages to cell phone only respondents. As mentioned, the poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling for NPI, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% confidence level.
As ESSB 5395’s prime sponsor Senator Claire Wilson has said, knowledge is power. Young people shouldn’t have to rely on savvy peers or the Internet to learn how to take care of themselves, understand their bodies, and maintain appropriate relationships built on consent and honest communication.
As our research demonstrates, the vast majority of Washington voters agree with Senator Claire Wilson and proponents of ESSB 5395.
The opposition to this bill may be vocal and passionate, but opponents of this legislation do not speak for a majority of Washingtonians.
The Washington State House of Representatives must pass ESSB 5395.
We at NPI thank Speaker Laurie Jinkins for her commitment to the young people of Washington. Choosing to move forward with a floor debate in the face of the House Republicans’ desperate tactics couldn’t have been an easy decision. But a successful vote in support of this bill will be a great outcome for Washingtonians.