Assault weapons ban, late-night dramas, and license plate pile-up

It’s Day 92. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 92 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, April 10, 2023 — Welcome to the penultimate week of the 2023 session. So soon, right?

Washington will soon join a handful of states outlawing sales of many models of semiautomatic rifles. Legislation to do so cleared the Senate on Saturday, a few weeks after achieving the feat in the House.

Passage of a ban, long a priority of majority Democrats, seemed inevitable this session. There’s more Dems in each chamber’s caucus. And, on balance, they tilt slightly more left than in recent years.

Republican senators — all of whom opposed House 1240 — acknowledged it’s been “when” not “if” a vote would occur. Turned out it was the day before Easter for them, a point injected throughout what I found to be a memorable debate.

In the course of three-plus hours, references were made to the workings of shotguns, the safety value of silencers, the Bible, the 2nd Amendment and 130 mass shootings this year.

Make that 131 with today’s tragedy in Louisville, Ky.

Lots of exchanges — some political, some personal, all fueled with passion.

Republican Sen. Phil Fortunato kicked things off with his attempt to rewrite the opening section outlining the legislative intent of the bill. He wanted to open with: “The legislature intends to instill a fear of firearms in the populace based off the shape and color of the firearm instead of any measurable difference in actual accuracy, capacity, or versatility.”

Nada chance. Here are the opening lines of the bill:

“The legislature finds and declares that gun violence is a threat to the public health and safety of Washingtonians. Assault weapons are civilian versions of weapons created for the military and are designed to kill humans quickly and efficiently.”

Action on that bill, coupled with Senate passage of House Bill 1143 extending the waiting period to obtain a newly purchased gun, means two of Democrats’ three gun control bills are on course to reach the governor. The last one, dealing with holding firearm makers and dealers liable, is awaiting action in the House.

Late night dramas

The propensity of House Democrats is to stay up late to deal with what some fondly call the ‘tough ones,’ bills dealing with divisive or hyper partisan subjects.

On Friday, Good Friday, majority Democrats got rid of advisory votes, which have given voters a chance to weigh in on tax measures passed by lawmakers, even though what they say doesn’t change anything because the results are nonbinding. What they’ll get is more info on links like this. Passage of Senate Bill 5082 came a little before 10 p.m.

Then the majority party removed a voter-imposed limit on the Department of Labor of Industries’ ability to write and enforce new ergonomic regulations. A vote on Senate Bill 5217 came around 11:30 p.m.

What’s up tonight and tomorrow?

There’s the firearm liability bill mentioned above. And at least two other hot topics — vehicle pursuits and drug possession, AKA Blake decision. Some version of each is expected to be passed by a 5 p.m. deadline Wednesday.

Stay tuned. Keep the coffee coming.

License plate pile-up

Are lawmakers hitting the pause button on new specialty license plates? Or is this too a matter of intense negotiations and late-night votes?

There are three plates vying for lawmakers’ approval. One celebrates pickleball, the official state sport, another pays tribute to Mount St. Helens, the state’s most active volcano, and a third recognizes LeMay-America’s car museum, where classic cars are always on display.

None have been voted on yet in either chamber, usually a sign they are kaput. Sen. Marko Liias, chair of Senate Transportation Committee, revealed awhile back they’re considered ‘necessary to implement the transportation budget.”

Means all three are alive and on the clock, possibly to Sine Die.

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