The legislative session passed its last major hurdle before the end of session – Wednesday was the cutoff for bills needing to pass out of their opposite house. All that is left is for bills that were amended to be approved or rejected by their original house. That, and all of the big stuff the legislature has not yet gotten to. With three budgets yet to be negotiated, it’s becoming harder to assume an on-time adjournment and looking more and more likely that we’ll be here for extra innings.
Bills that didn’t make it past the cutoff include eliminating the death penalty, the ban on plastic bags, the controversial data privacy bill, and our public records legislation.
Overall, the Senate has fewer than 100 bills to review and decide whether to concur with amendments made by the House. Of those, they’ve already done 23, with six of them in dispute. Of those six, only the bill addressing opioid use will go to conference. On the rest, the Senate is asking the House to recede from their amendments. In the House, there are similar numbers, with about half already being acted upon, and only four in dispute. A conference committee is being appointed for the sexual assault evidence kit collection bill, but the rest are requests for the Senate to recede from their amendments.
Bills still needing concurrence include the bill asking for permanent daylight savings time, and bills relating to drug cost transparency, impaired driving, behavioral health facilities, the Washington State Bar Association, adolescent behavioral health, statewide wolf recovery, government continuity, clean energy, voter registration deadlines, and tiny houses, to name a few. With sine die scheduled for a week from Sunday, they have plenty of time to pass these bills if they so choose.
The tax bills that were introduced weeks ago are finally having their time in the limelight. On Friday, the House Finance Committee voted out bills that would create a new capital gains tax; impose a business and occupation (B&O) surcharge on the income from various services; create a graduated, rather than flat rate real estate excise tax (REET); and change the nonresidential retail sales tax exemption to an annual remittance rather than a point of sale transaction.
All told, if the bills were to pass, the state would collect an additional$4.5 billion in new revenue over the next four years. Similarly, the Senate Ways and Means Committee passed bills that tax insurance premiums to fund fire suppression, narrow tax preferences, establish a graduated REET, and change how oil is taxed to fund the Model Toxic Control Account. Budget negotiations and political will will ultimately determine which, if any, of these bills become law.
In addition to the budgets, one other major piece of business remains for the House of Representatives. Speaker of the House Frank Chopp has announced that he will resign as speaker after session regardless of whether a new speaker has been selected. The new speaker will be nominated by the majority party but elected by the entire body. While we don’t yet know who the new speaker will be, all of the names floating about are women, meaning that whoever gets the title will be the first woman in Washington state history to do so. Speaker Chopp has held the position since 1999, so significant change is coming to the House.