Lawmakers nearly went down to the wire to pass one of Gov. Jay Inslee’s marquee bills on Wednesday as the House and Senate raced toward their 5 p.m. deadline for passing bills to the opposite chamber.
It was unclear until late morning which chamber would act on Inslee’s climate change study proposal. But by lunchtime, a watered-down version of Inslee’s proposal – which creates a legislative work group and hires a consultant to consider the state’s options for reducing greenhouse gases – had passed the Senate on a 37-12 vote.
The day’s dramatics were then left for the Dream Act, which the House passed as its final action of the day. House Bill 1817 allows students who came to the country as children of illegal immigrants to apply for and receive college help in the form of State Need Grants.
But a similar bill in the Senate was denied a hearing by a majority coalition dominated by Republicans. Lt. Gov. Brad Owen ruled just before the 5 p.m. deadline against a parliamentary maneuver by Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray to draft his own version of the Dream Act onto a separate scholarship bill that was in play.
“We should give all students the opportunity to succeed in our higher education system,” Murray, a Seattle resident, said in a statement after the failed move. “These students grew up here, went to school here, paid taxes here, and we want them to be able to succeed here. Giving these students a fair shot means giving them the same access to our state financial aid programs that all our other students get.”
In contrast, the House passed its Dream Act by a 77-20 margin with about two-dozen Republicans in support.
“I think that this is a perfect bipartisan issue for a bipartisan-led Senate. And I think the chances are pretty good,” Emily Murphy of OneAmerica, an immigrant advocacy group, told The Associated Press.
Republican Sen. Barbara Bailey, who chairs the higher education committee, said she would try to set a hearing for the House bill. “It is worth a discussion,” Bailey said.
Opponents said the measure promises financial aid in a time when the state doesn’t have enough money for all students in need.
Dozens of bills died as the 5 p.m. deadline passed, but Wednesday’s action kept alive dozens more – including Inslee’s climate-study proposal, Senate Bill 5802.
What passed was far short of Inslee’s goal, and Democratic Sen. Kevin Ranker of Orcas Island has called it a gutted version of the original bill. Left out was language that says Washington is vulnerable to climate change on many fronts – from rising sea levels that threaten coastal areas to acidifying seas that harm oyster larvae, shrinking snowpack that imperils irrigation for farms and fish, and changes in temperature that threaten forests.
Ranker said he was treating it as “a work in progress’’ and voted for the bill just to keep it moving.
In a nod to the urgency felt by Democrats, Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale inserted an amendment with an emergency clause, letting the bill take effect as soon as Inslee can sign it.
Ericksen said he wants the state to get started immediately on a methodical study of what it could do to lower carbon pollution and what approach provides the best results.
The measure now goes to the House where Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, pledged to schedule it for hearings quickly in the Environment Committee.
In other activity, the Senate passed a bill that prevents employers from asking workers to provide passwords to their Facebook or other social media accounts as a condition of employment.
Other bills approved in the Senate before the deadline included:
- Legislation to make it easier for prosecutors to convict people for providing criminal assistance. Republican Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood says people involved in aiding criminal suspects could be charged even if they don’t have specific knowledge about the exact crime that occurred. The bill is in response to the 2009 slayings of four Lakewood police officers.
- A plan to place rules on the circumstances under which state agencies can give out cellphones to their employees. Republican Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver says the plan will save the state and taxpayers money.
- A $124 penalty for drivers who improperly park in spaces reserved for electric vehicles.