We’re more than halfway through the 2014 legislative session that, so far, appears to be living down to everyone’s low expectations. Consensus on major issues, such as funding basic education and a gas tax increase to improve roads and transit, looks unlikely.
With some exceptions, it appears the political parties have designed most of the legislation proposed this session in anticipation of next fall’s general election campaigns.
Passing bills into law seems optional.
There still is time for a second-half legislative rally, however, and a few measures with realistic potential deserve lawmakers’ special attention. We hope bipartisan legislators can pass these bills.
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Senate Bill 5910/House Bill 2062 — This bill would require the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council to submit its revenue forecast by Feb. 20 each year, regardless of whether the Legislature meets for 60 days or 105 days. Waiting until March 20 during biennial budget years practically invites a special session.
HB 1005 — This bill would create more public disclosure about how much lobbyists are spending to influence lawmakers and who they are targeting. The issue arose this year when a complaint to the Legislative Ethics Board singled out five lawmakers who had accepted up to 75 free dinners from lobbyists. It would create an electronic, searchable database for lobbyist information and reports.
HB 1585/SB 5455 and 5521 — Several legislators from both parties have introduced bills this year to ban people younger than 18 from using tanning beds. Seven other states have such a ban and 33 other states regulate their use by minors. The science is convincing about a direct link between indoor tanning and skin cancer.
SB 5969 — This bill requires colleges and universities to award academic credit for military training, provided that training is relevant to the student’s certificate or degree program. The Washington Student Achievement Council reports that only 50 percent of Washington adults have some form of postsecondary credential. This bill supports the council’s 10-year road map goal of reaching for 70 percent.
HB 2486 — It’s expensive to house inmates in prisons, and they are already overcrowded. This measure would lift the 20-year-old ban on spending state money on education in state prisons. Studies show that inmates who engage in prison education programs have a 43 percent lower recidivism rate.
HB 1294/SB 5181 — Protecting young children from the harmful effects of toxic flame-retardants in clothing and furniture should appeal to all legislators. Two firefighters – Rep. Jason Overstreet, a Republican, and Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, a Democrat, are supporting the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act. It would direct the state departments of Health and Ecology to track chemical hazards and provide two years’ notice before a ban. The bill has an added benefit for firefighters who also risk the hazards of toxic smoke in house fires.
HB 1292 — Pimps control about 95 percent of the state’s prostitution, and often force their victims to commit more than sex-related crimes. Young people coerced into the sex industry should have the opportunity to clear their criminal record and remove an impediment to improving their lives.