April 10-14, 2023

Legislators spent a busy weekend in Olympia passing high-profile bills including those related to advisory votes, SB 5082 (Kuderer, D-48); assault-style weapons, HB 1240 (Peterson, D-21); plastics, HB 1085 (Mena, D-29); and ergonomics, SB 5217 (Dhingra, D-45). Returning Monday, both chambers went straight to work passing still more contentious bills including those related to firearm industry members, SB 5078 (Pedersen, D-43); and domestic violence, HB 1715 (Davis, D-32) in advance of the Wednesday, April 12 deadline for bills to pass the opposite house.

“Shield” Law

On Monday the Senate also took up and passed HB 1469 (Hansen, D-23), the “Shield Law.” The bill will:

  • Prohibit the issuance of out-of-state subpoenas seeking information related to abortion & reproductive health care services.
  • Prohibit out-of-state criminal investigations & arrests seeking communication and other evidence related to abortion & reproductive health care services.
  • Prohibit the Governor from extraditing any person for out-of-state charges regarding reproductive health care services.
  • Provide a cause of action to recoup damages and other legal costs for out-of-state lawsuits related to reproductive health care services.
  • Protect health care service providers from harassment for providing protected health care services.

The “Shield Law” is part of a bold priority package of bills introduced by House and Senate Democrats this session that would regulate health data, HB 1155 (Slatter, D-48); eliminate co-pays and deductible requirements for abortion, SB 5242 (Cleveland, D-49); and block out-of-state disciplinary action against providers of reproductive care, HB 1340 (Riccelli, D-3).

Vehicular Pursuits

Late Monday night, the House debated vehicular pursuits, an issue that dates back to 2021, when a pursuit law was passed as part of a package of police reform legislation. The 2021 law said police cannot chase suspects in cars unless they have probable cause of a violent crime or sex crime. Advocates of the 2021 law say it is saving lives of innocent bystanders, but mayors and police say it has given criminals free reign to evade officers. SB 5352 (Lovick, D-44) modifies the evidentiary threshold by allowing an officer to conduct the pursuit if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent offense, a sex offense, a vehicular assault, a domestic violence offense, an escape, or a DUI. It also limits pursuits to situations where the subject of the vehicular pursuit poses a serious risk of harm to others and the safety risks of failing to apprehend or identify the person are considered greater than the safety risks of the pursuit. The legislation additionally says that officers, or supervisors if available, must notify surrounding jurisdictions if they could be affected by the pursuit. Agencies must also develop plans in real time on how to end the pursuit using other interventions like spike strips. The bill passed on anything but party lines with some Democrats voting no, saying the bill is a roll-back and some Republicans voting no, saying it doesn’t roll the 2021 law back enough. 38 Democrats voted for the measure and 19 voted against, while 19 Republicans voted for the proposal and 21 voted against.

Housing Needs Projections

On March 2, the Washington State Department of Commerce released housing needs projections, which show the state will need to add 1.1 million homes over the next 20 years, and more than half of them need to be affordable for residents at the lowest income levels. Democrats and some Republicans alike have gathered behind HB 1110 (Bateman, D-22), the “middle housing” bill, as a means to build the three-legged stool of supply, subsidy, and stability. “Middle housing” aims to describe housing that is neither single family nor an apartment building – rather duplexes, triplexes, 4, 5, and 6-plexes, as well as backyard ADUs. The bill overrides local zoning laws that currently limit most cities to single-family homes and while the Association of Washington Cities was neutral towards the bill at first, they are, as an association, ultimately supportive of the current version. This bill received a mixed vote, with 27 Democrats and 8 Republicans voting yes, while 2 Democrats and 12 Republicans voted no.

Blake Decision Legislation

After the Washington State Supreme Court struck down the state’s felony drug-possession law, the Blake Decision, during the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed a quick fix to classify possession as a misdemeanor but refer people to treatment before charging them. That law sunsets in July. At 1:30 am Wednesday morning, the House passed their version of the SB 5536 (Robinson, D-38) Blake fix, which differs from the Senate-passed version. One key difference is the Senate voted to increase the penalty to a gross misdemeanor, while the House maintained its current status as a misdemeanor, setting up a concurrence battle next week on this and other elements of the bill.

This coming week, the chambers will spend their time in conference committees, negotiating the differences between what each chamber has passed on bills and budgets, and voting on the final versions.

Upcoming Dates

  • April 23 – Sine Die

Source: Brynn Brady, Ceiba Consulting, Inc. | ceibaconsulting.com