With the start of another year comes the promise of another session of the state Legislature and the prospect — no, make that a guarantee — of more laws.
A lot more laws.
Remember 2014 and seemingly nothing but irreconcilable political differences between the Democrat-run House and Republican-controlled Senate? The two chambers managed to agree on 229 bills to send to Gov. Jay Inslee.
And remember how Inslee proclaimed it would be a ‘hold steady’ year? He signed 225 of those bills into law.
Already, nearly 100 pieces of legislation are drafted and in the queue for consideration when the 2015 session gets started on Jan. 12.
Here’s a sample of what may engage, and distract, lawmakers this year.
Schools rule: Republicans are trying again to set aside money for elementary and secondary schools before giving any to the rest of state government. House Bill 1001 is better known as the “Fund Education First” bill.
High bar for taxes: It’s back, the idea of amending the state constitution to require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes. It was a law, but the state Supreme Court tossed it out. Inserting it in the constitution might do the trick, but that’s unlikely to happen this year.
Abortion rights: The Senate Democratic Caucus is united behind a bill to require coverage for abortion services in employer-provided health plans. Senate Bill 5026, with its 75-word title, is an upgraded version of the Reproductive Parity Act that’s failed before.
Prime-time for pot’s cousin: With a legal marijuana industry in place, there’s a bipartisan push to do the same for hemp. Under SB 5012, Washington State University would study the feasibility of such a venture.
The value of hives: Under an existing tax break, apiarists won’t pay taxes on wholesale sales of honey bee products through 2017. SB 5017 would make the break permanent so beekeepers don’t ever get stung by the taxman.
Securing justice: A House bill seeks to ensure that protection in courthouses is the law, not a luxury. The bill would require cities and counties provide security for municipal and district courts – and to pay for it, too.
There ought to be an app: When lobbyists report their dealings with lawmakers to the state Public Disclosure Commission, they turn it in on paper. HB 1058 would force lobbyists to file electronically and make it easier to see how influence is being peddled.
Make room for mopeds: Didn’t see this one coming. A group of lawmakers want to allow mopeds in designated bike lanes. HB 1057 would let cities and counties decide whether motorized bikes may travel in lanes “separated from vehicle lanes by a painted line.”
Assimilate: A bipartisan band of House members figures if state Supreme Court justices want to act like lawmakers (and order them around on matters like school funding) they should be elected like lawmakers. Their bill, HB 1051, would turn judicial contests into partisan races and have justices state their party preference on the ballot.
Free the foe-less: Voters could soon face fewer decisions in primaries. Today, all partisan offices appear on the ballot regardless of the number of candidates. HB 1023 says no primary would be held if only one candidate files for the position.
That could free up space on the ballot. It also could enable incumbent lawmakers to spend less time campaigning and more time dreaming up legislation to introduce when next year rolls around.
Jerry Cornfield is a political reporter who covers Olympia for The Daily Herald in Everett, which is among the Washington state newspapers in the Sound Publishing group. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.