By Jerry Cornfield, Herald Columnist
Inquiring minds and cranky cynics want to know if state lawmakers accomplished more in the special session than simply making a down payment on the budget deficit and putting the rest of the problem on layaway.
Many members used the time to draft bills on matters other than the budget to be considered when the 147 legislators regroup in January for the regular 2012 session. As of this morning, proposals for 74 new laws and one amendment to the state Constitution are in the queue for action.
Some topics are frequently found on the political docket while others are new, inspired by events in the state or the nation in the past year.
Here’s a sample of what lawmakers hope to pass next year.
Lights and Wipers: This old favorite would require those driving on a state highway to turn on their headlights “at any time when the vehicle’s windshield wipers are in use due to snow, rain, fog, or other sight-limiting atmospheric conditions.”
Abortion: Dubbed the “Woman’s Right to Know Act,” this bill prescribes physicians inform a woman on the nature and risks of terminating a pregnancy at least 24 hours before a scheduled abortion. And the woman must certify in writing the doctors provided her videos on the procedure and information detailing “the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed, and that the abortion will end the life of the unborn child.”
Teen Voters and Same-Day Voting: Two efforts are under way to boost participation in elections. One idea is to allow people to register on Election Day then vote. The second invites teenagers to register as voters when they turn 16 — but they won’t be allowed to cast a ballot until they are 18. Thirty-four Democrat and Republican House members see this as way of getting youth into the voting pipeline.
Penn State fallout: The headline-grabbing case of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is motivating lawmakers in Washington. Thirteen Democratic and Republican senators are behind an effort to require college employees to inform authorities when they see or hear of any incident of possible child abuse or neglect.
Guns and Rhodies (and Cows, too): Twenty-five lawmakers are pushing a bill to sell special license plates bearing the logo of the National Rifle Association with proceeds to be spent on firearm safety and hunter education programs. Others want to allow license plates carrying the 4-H logo. And another contingent wants to sell plates depicting the state flower, the rhododendron. A portion of proceeds from those sales would go to the Meekerk Rhododendron Gardens on Whidbey Island.
Initiative Payment Plan: A bipartisan effort is under way to make sure no initiative which will cost the state money gets on the ballot unless it also contains a way to pay for itself. Lawmakers become frustrated when voters tell them to do things like increase training for long term care workers (Initiative 1183) and keep class sizes small (Initiative 728), without also telling them how to pay for those efforts. If lawmakers pass this proposed constitutional amendment, it will be placed on the November ballot where its fate will be in the hands of those darn voters.
Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or email@example.com.