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Senate passes transportation bills after controversial ruling. House passes minimum-wage increase

Posted 3/5/3015

Lawmakers are working to act on dozens of bills this week ahead of the next deadline coming up March 11, the last day on which each chamber can consider its own bills.

Action on a transportation plan in the Senate stalled last Friday when Democrats raised the question of whether it would take a two-thirds majority vote to advance the legislation, according to a Senate rule passed at the beginning of this session. The rule provides that any measure that creates new taxes would need a two-thirds majority to move it to a final vote. Final passage would still only require a simple majority.

On Monday, the presiding officer of the Senate, Lt. Governor Brad Owen ruled that a two-thirds vote would, indeed, be necessary. Democrats then challenged the constitutionality of the two-thirds requirement itself, and Owen struck it down. Senate Republicans, who passed the rule in January at the beginning of the session, have not commented on whether they would challenge Owen’s ruling.

The Senate then passed Senate Bill 5987 by a 27-22 vote. The bill provides for some $15 billion in transportation spending and includes an 11.7-cent per gallon gas tax increase. Senators also passed Senate Bill 5988, to allocate the money to specific projects by a vote of 41 to 8. Among the projects included are the west side of the 520 bridge, the North Spokane Corridor freeway and widening Interstate 405 from Bellevue to Renton.

Both bills were referred to the House Transportation Committee after passage.

House Democrats voted on Tuesday to raise Washington’s minimum wage to $12 an hour over the next four years. House Bill 1355, passed by a party-line vote of 51-46, would add a series of 50-cent increases to the current $9.47 state hourly minimum wage (already the highest in the nation) to bring it to $12 by January 1, 2019. Beginning in 2020, the wage would be adjusted annually for inflation.

Also on Tuesday, the House passed House Bill 1356, to require all businesses with more than four full-time equivalent workers to give their employees at least five days of paid sick and safe leave. The leave time could be used if a worker is sick, needs to care for a sick family member or to deal with an emergency situation at home. The bill passed along party lines by a 51-46 vote.

Follow these and other key bills in the legislature on www.washingtonvotes.org and check us out on Facebook and Twitter and use #waleg.

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