The Legislature was a whirlwind of activity Saturday, with the House and the Senate pushing to get bills passed during the session's last scheduled weekend. The Senate will convene at noon today and plans a vote on its tax package; the House is taking today off. Here are actions taken in both chambers Friday and Saturday.
Rules on pregnant inmates goes to Gregoire
State lawmakers have passed a bill that would restrict the use of shackles on pregnant inmates.
The bill would ban the use of restraints on inmates who are in labor or post-delivery recovery. It also would limit restraints on inmates who are being transported to medical care or court proceedings while in the third trimester of pregnancy.
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The measure was proposed after a former inmate sued the state last year, saying her constitutional rights were violated when she was shackled while in labor.
The bill, House Bill 2747, was approved 95-1 by the House on Saturday and now heads to Gov. Chris Gregoire for approval.
Expense accounts may be in jeopardy
The Senate voted Saturday to disallow lawmakers’ own expense allowances after June 2013 – if, for some reason, Democrats’ proposed temporary sales tax increase does not go away as scheduled by mid-2013.
The amendment, which Republican Sen. Joe Zarelli of Ridgefield sponsored, passed on a simple voice vote, and Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom of Medina said his majority party agreed. But it may end up a formality if the Senate Democrats and House Democrats don’t agree that a temporary three-tenths-of-1 percent sales tax is part of the answer to closing a $2.8 billion shortfall.
The House firmly opposes it. The governor doesn’t like it either.
Legislature to work on cell phone bill
The state Senate has refused to go along with the House’s watered-down version of cell phone restrictions for drivers.
The bill coming back from the House would ban phone use by young drivers and would allow police to pull over drivers for text messaging – but not for making phone calls.
Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, had said she would reluctantly go along despite wanting to keep cell phone handsets out of drivers’ hands by making it a primary offense to use them. But she and fellow senators decided instead to fight. Now they will try to work out a deal before the end of the session. House Democrats have said they don’t have the votes for Eide’s tougher version.
Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, said the problem is a last-minute concern by law enforcement that restrictions on teen drivers would cause profiling.
“All of you young folks would be stopped because you look like you’re under 18 years old,” Haugen said.
Protections for criminal justice workers
Washington’s Legislature has passed a measure that would exempt the personal information of criminal justice employees from general public records requests.
The bill would exempt birthdate information and photographs that could be used to locate or identify the employees of criminal justice agencies, including courts and police departments.
The information still would be available to the news media.
The bill was approved unanimously by the House on Saturday afternoon, and it heads to Gregoire for final approval.
Ferry worker benefit gets closer look
Lawmakers want to end a practice of paying some state ferry workers for their travel to and from terminals. The benefit earned one deckhand nearly $73,000 last year.
The House passed a bill Friday that would give the governor a stronger hand in negotiating worker benefits. The aim is to move ferry worker benefits closer to what other state employee union contracts provide.
Two days earlier, the Senate acted on another bill that goes further. That bill aims directly at the ferry worker perk that provides free ferry passage even after workers’ employment ends.
Washington State Ferries paid nearly $6.4 million in reimbursements to 700 of its 1,700 workers last year. One deckhand received $72,950 in travel reimbursements last year. That’s $13,000 more than his yearly salary. Twenty-five other employees collected more than $30,000 each.
Staff writers Jordan Schrader and Brad Shannon and The Associated Press contributed to this report.