Range of bills to get new life in special session

OLYMPIA — Washington state lawmakers said Wednesday that bills to be taken up in the 30-day special session called by Gov. Chris Gregoire will include some that aren’t needed to pass the budget.

Among the bills likely to get a fresh look as more lawmakers return to Olympia are ones to ban potentially cancer-causing chemicals from children’s products, link abortion coverage to maternity care and overhaul the public school employee health care system. In announcing the special session last week, the governor said lawmakers should focus on budget-related bills with few exceptions.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, said it was proper for lawmakers to consider bills not related to the budget during the special session.

“There are 147 of us. If we were all working on only the budget, that would be a case of too many cooks,” Kline said. “The rest of us are not going to sit around twiddling our thumbs.”

Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Seattle, said she was optimistic that the effort to ban from children’s products chlorinated Tris, a chemical widely used as a flame retardant in polyurethane foam, would gain traction in the special session. The bill was a casualty of the Republican takeover of the budget process in the Senate on the final day to pass bills unrelated to the budget out of the Legislature during the regular session.

“The more I learn about (chlorinated Tris), the more concerned I am,” she said. “It’s going to have long-lasting effects on our babies and children.”

A measure to overhaul public school employees’ health insurance plans, championed by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, would weaken insurer Premera’s grip on that market and would likely bring down costs by introducing more competition. It is opposed by the Washington Education Association — the state teachers union — which says it would erode teachers’ benefits.

Senate Democrats sought to bring that bill up for a floor vote in the waning days of the regular session but were rebuffed by Republicans backed by a handful of Democrats, who said there was too little time for the bill to be seriously considered by the House.

Another bill likely to be taken up during the special session is one requiring health insurers covering maternity care — which all Washington state insurers are required to do — to also pay for abortions. That bill passed the House during the regular session but stalled in the Senate, again amid budgetary intrigue.

The abortion bill was spearheaded by Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle, who previously said she hopes to bring it up in the special session. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Other bills are less likely to be taken up again during the special session. Kline said he was likely to wait until next year to push forward with a bill going after adults who leave loaded weapons within reach of children younger than 12. The measure is opposed by the gun lobby.

A measure that lawmakers say is unlikely to be revived is one requiring ballot measure campaigns to identify their top five donors in their ads. That measure passed out of the House during the previous session but died in the Senate.

Among the measures Gregoire said lawmakers should take up during the special session concern the supplemental operating and capital budgets and bills necessary for their implementation, a measure allowing local governments to impose fees for local transportation funding and another placing limits on the state’s debt.

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