The first several weeks of the session have been devoted to introducing and holding hearings on bills, now heading into week 6 we are moving into the next phase of session as we approach the first major cutoff. Next Friday, February 17th is the policy cut off, where all bills that are not necessary to implement the budget must be out of their house of origin policy committee in order to stay alive this session. One week later, February 24th, is the fiscal cut off where all bills must be out of their respective fiscal committees. Then the legislature will head to the floor where both the House and the Senate will debate and vote on bills. All bills must be voted out of their House of Origin (House or Senate) by March 8th. As a reminder all bills that are deemed necessary to implement the budget, this includes all revenue proposals, are not subject to these cut offs.
On Tuesday House and Senate Democratic leadership gathered to discuss their priorities for the week which included, housing, workforce issues, behavioral health, public safety, childcare, and budget discussions. To view the Democratic leadership video, click here. House and Senate Republican leadership also gathered to discuss the week’s priorities. The top concern for Republicans this week was the vehicular pursuit legislation (SB 5352/HB 1363), which is currently being held in committee. Other issues discussed included housing and nurse staffing legislation. To view the video, click here.
This week the legislature continued to focus on priority issues including addressing the Blake decision. 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 so the legislature must address the issue this session. On Monday, the Senate Law & Justice Committee heard a suite of four proposals aimed at addressing drug possession and substance use disorder, including SB 5624 (Dhingra, D-45) which would decriminalize possession and SB 5035 (Padden, R-4) which would make possession a Class C Felony. Ultimately, the Thursday executive session moved one bill, SB 5536 (Robinson, D-38) which increases the penalty for knowing possession of a controlled substance to a gross misdemeanor and creates a pretrial diversion program for individuals charged with possession of prohibited substances. For more information on what is happening this legislative session in Washington state on this issue, including an interview with Senator June Robinson and Representative Dan Griffey on the Blake issue, watch this deep dive video.
Next week the legislature will focus on voting bills out of their policy committees as we approach the Friday cutoff. In the upcoming weeks budget debates will begin to unfold. Following the March revenue forecast each chamber will release their respective Operating, Capital, and Transportation budget proposals. After the House and Senate release their proposals, negotiations will begin to take place and at that point we will start to see a more clear picture of the budget.
We continue to work to get the final language for introduction of the Thermal RECs bill, and are working with Representative Hackney to get that introduced before the first cutoff.