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Supplemental budget, veteran and homeless bills pass as session ends. Bills on other big issues fail

from Washington

Posted 3/14/2014

The House and Senate gavels came down simultaneously at seven minutes to midnight on Thursday, as the legislature adjourned “sine die” (Latin for “no more meeting days”) to the cheers of lawmakers and staff who had been working at a fast pace to finalize and pass legislation.

Lawmakers passed a compromise supplemental operating budget (SB 6002) that adds about $155 million in spending to the $33.6 billion 2013-15 budget, including $58 million more for school supplies and technology, $22 million more for mental health programs and $25 million for the Opportunity Scholarship fund. The bill passed by large bi-partisan votes, 83-15 in the House, and 48-1 in the Senate.

Lawmakers decided to continue to impose a $40 registration fee on real estate transactions to help fund homeless programs (SB 5875), and passed SB 5318 to make in-state tuition rates available to veterans sooner. Earlier in the session, lawmakers approved a bill to allow financial aid for student illegally brought to the United States as children. They also passed measures to ban minors from using tanning beds, to seal juvenile criminal records, and to regulate the use of airborne drones by public agencies.

Bills dealing with other issue failed. For the first time since 1996 lawmakers could not agree on a supplemental capital construction budget (SB 6020), or a transportation package. SB 5880, to include student test scores in teacher evaluations, would have kept $40 million in federal funds for Washington schools, but failed to pass. HB 2795, to impose a 75 percent tax on e-cigarettes and so-called “vaping” products, and SB 5887 to merge the medical and recreational marijuana systems in the state also went down to defeat.

Bills to impose mandatory abortion coverage by health insurance plans, increase the state minimum wage to $12, and two gun-related initiatives also did not advance. The gun initiatives, Initiative 594, to expand background checks, and Initiative 591, to keep current background check procedures, will both go to voters on the November ballot.

Lawmakers also declined to pass a bill to provide a state-funded COLA for school district employees, deciding instead that the step increases in state-funded teacher salaries and increases in local school levies were enough to provide teacher pay raises.

Legislators finished the scheduled 60-day session on time and, in sheer volume terms, accomplished a lot. This session, a total of 1,753 new measures (960 in the House, 793 in the Senate) were introduced. These include bills, joint resolutions, joint memorials, concurrent resolutions, and initiatives to the legislature. For the 2013-14 legislative cycle, the total number is 3,483 measures.

The legislature passed 237 measures this session: 122 House bills and 115 Senate bills. For the 2013-14 cycle, lawmakers passed 635 measures in all (329 House bills and 306 Senate bills).

Bills that have passed the legislature are forwarded to the governor. The governor has 20 days not counting Sundays, that is, until April 5th, to act on them. He has four choices. He can sign a bill, veto it entirely, veto parts of it or let it become law without his signature. News will report on bills that become law as they are acted on.

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