Last December, Sen. Rodney Tom announced that he would leave his caucus to helm a majority consisting of himself, another like-minded Democrat and 23 Republicans.
The Medina lawmaker said the new coalition would focus on a discrete set of goals.
“This is about jobs, education and the budget,” Tom said.
House Democratic leaders don’t deny the importance of Tom’s core issues, saying they stand ready to work with the upper chamber in the coming weeks. Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, however, sounded a more discordant tone.
“It’s a right-wing Republican agenda, as you’ve seen with the bills they’ve passed,” Murray said. “I keep waiting for the moderate part of that agenda to show up.”
With the session halfway gone, the biggest fight remains on the horizon: how to plug an estimated $975 million budget hole while adhering to a state Supreme Court decision requiring more money for public schools.
Beyond that, a wide range of measures, from expanding abortion coverage to strengthening gun laws to making workers’ compensation rules more business-friendly, have sparked fierce debate between — and at times within — the parties and caucuses.
With the caveat that no bill in Olympia is truly dead until the session has been gaveled to a close, here is a look at bills that have survived and those that haven’t.
Workers’ compensation: The Senate has advanced a package of bills to make workers’ compensation rules more business-friendly. Most prominent is one to overhaul the voluntary “compromise-and-release” settlement agreement system for injured workers first approved by the Legislature in 2011. House Democratic leaders and Gov. Jay Inslee have said they oppose the changes. (SB 5128)
Firearm offender registry: House lawmakers advanced a bill to require firearm offenders — people convicted of felony firearm offenses — to register with the county sheriff. Unlike a registry for sex offenders, the information would not be publicly available. (HB 1612)
Abortion insurance: Most insurers would be required to cover abortions under a measure that has advanced from the House. Supporters say it would ensure that women continue to have access to abortions when the federal Affordable Care Act comes into effect in 2014. Opponents say it would infringe on religious freedoms. (HB 1044)
Repealing paid family leave: A Senate measure to repeal a long-unfunded program giving parents five paid weeks off to be with a new child advanced from committee but never received a floor vote. Sponsors say they are revising the measure, which could be tied to the budget. (SB 5159)
Mental health: The House approved several mental health reforms that together would cost the state an estimated $23 million over the next two years. One bill would make it easier to involuntarily detain people who have been declared mentally incompetent to stand trial (HB 1114). Another measure would begin using less-strict standards for committing patients in July 2014 instead of a previously approved date of July 2015 (HB 1777).
Also moving forward is a proposal to let county officials outsource mental health evaluations to reduce the backlog of people awaiting evaluation at local jails (HB 1627).
Sex trafficking: The Senate passed a measure to fine pimps an extra $5,000 if they use an online ad to prostitute a minor (SB 5488). Meanwhile, the House passed a measure to allow judges to vacate prostitution convictions for victims of sex trafficking (HB 1292).
Payday loans: A proposal to create a new type of small high-interest loan similar to a payday loan passed out of the Senate. (SB 5312). Opponents of the plan say it is an attempt to get around payday loan restrictions the Legislature passed in 2010.
Amending I-502: A House bill to require those seeking to grow, process or sell cannabis to pay for the opportunity to obtain the necessary license has not received a hearing but is alive because it could be considered necessary to implement the budget. It would also let cannabis businesses be located closer to schools, daycares and parks. A two-thirds majority in both legislative chambers is required to amend the initiative. (HB 2000)
Medical marijuana tax: A House measure to impose a 25 percent sales tax on medical marijuana — and so to undermine a potential black market once the sale of state-taxed recreational marijuana starts at the end of this year — hasn’t advanced from committee. Because it could be considered necessary for the budget, it’s still alive. (HB 1789)
Grading schools: The Senate has advanced a measure to assign A-F letter grades to schools based on factors including improvement of student test scores. Supporters say it gives parents a clear sign of how a school is doing. Opponents insist it would be punitive and often unfair. (SB 5328)
Third grade reading: The Senate has advanced a measure to recommend that third-graders with inadequate reading skills repeat a grade, attend summer school or otherwise improve their reading before enrolling in fourth grade. The measure also would authorize K-3 teacher training to help improve students’ reading. (SB 5237)
Teacher reassignment: The Senate approved a plan to give principals veto authority over which teachers are assigned to their school. Most Democrats and the state teachers union opposed the idea of giving principals that authority, which was one of the central issues in the Tacoma teachers strike of 2011.
Climate change: A stripped-down version of a measure championed by Gov. Jay Inslee to study the best practices for reducing greenhouse gas emissions has advanced from the Senate. Under the bill, an outside consultant would review both Washington state’s ongoing efforts to cut carbon emissions and similar endeavors elsewhere. (SB 5802)
Powell response: The Senate passed a proposal that would prevent people who are under investigation for murder from being granted custody of their children. (SB 5162) Another bill would require social workers to consult with law enforcement when a parent who is the subject of a criminal investigation requests visitation with a child. (SB 5315)
The measures were prompted by the murders of Charlie and Braden Powell by their father, Josh Powell, who was suspected of killing his wife, Susan.
Dream Act: The House advanced a measure to make young illegal immigrants eligible for college financial aid. The bill follows a law approved 10 years ago making illegal immigrants eligible for in-state tuition under certain circumstances. (HB 1817)
Nonparental visitation: Grandparents-rights advocates are championing a measure that has advanced from the House to make it easier for a third party enjoying substantial a relationship with a child to get visitation rights. Opponents say it threatens parental rights. (HB 1934)
Rendering criminal assistance: A measure that has advanced from the Senate would prevent those who help a fugitive remain at large from defending themselves by saying they didn’t know the details of the person’s crime. It is in response to the 2009 slaying of four Lakewood police officers. (SB 5059)
Social media passwords: The Senate has advanced a bill that would prohibit employers from asking employees and job seekers for the credentials to personal social media accounts. (SB 5211)
Background checks: The most prominent gun-control measure of the session, to expand mandatory background checks to private gun transactions, came a few votes short of advancing from the House. A similar Senate bill didn’t get a hearing. (HB 1588)
Tax amendment: After the state Supreme Court struck down a voter-approved rule making it difficult for lawmakers to raise taxes, a state Senate committee voted to enshrine it in the constitution. It didn’t make it to the Senate floor, where it would require a two-thirds majority. (SJR 8205)
Bridge naming: Rep. Jan Angel’s two proposals to auction off the naming rights to public facilities— such as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge or potentially the state Legislative Building — never made it out of committee. (HB 1050 and HB 1051)
Billboards: A proposal to let cities and towns grant permits for digital billboards along state highways died in both the House and the Senate. (HB 1408)
Drones: A House bill to require a search warrant before law enforcement can use drones in most nonemergency situations advanced out of committee but never made it to the floor for a vote. (HB 1771)
Training wage: A Senate bill to allow small businesses to pay a lower “training wage” to up to 10 percent of their workforce for up to 680 hours per worker advanced from committee but never received a floor vote. (SB 5275)
Welfare drug testing: A measure to add a potential drug-testing requirement to those seeking family welfare benefits in Washington state received a public hearing in the Senate but did not advance out of committee. (SB 5585)
Parental notification: A bill to require minors to notify their parents before terminating a pregnancy did not advance out of committee. The measure would have denied a pregnant minor an abortion unless she’d given at least 48-hours’ notice to a parent or legal guardian. (SB 5156)
Divorce waiting period: A Senate bill to extend the waiting period for finalizing a divorce from 90 days to one year received a public hearing but never made it out of committee. (SB 5614)
Marijuana convictions: A House bill to make it easier to get misdemeanor marijuana convictions erased from a criminal record advanced from committee but never received a floor vote. The bill would have applied to those 21 or older at the time of their offense who possessed less than an ounce of marijuana – activity that’s legal under I-502. (HB 1661)
Death penalty: A bill to abolish the death penalty received a public hearing but never made it out of committee. (HB 1504)
Helmet law: A proposal to let adult motorcyclists ride without helmets received a hearing in a Senate committee, but never was brought up for a vote. (SB 5143)Staff writer Melissa Santos contributed to this report.