Shuffling elections, pricey EpiPens and octopus farms

It’s day 33, here is what’s happening in the Legislature.

OLYMPIA – We’ve just passed the midway point of the legislative session.

On Monday, the fiscal and transportation committees had their house of origin cutoff, with some committees enduring seven-hour meetings full of public testimony and executive action.

Now, the lawmakers can be found on their respective chamber floors debating each bill’s future.

Here are some bills that made it through their chambers this week:

Out of pocket costs

House Bill 1979 unanimously passed on the House floor Tuesday. The bill from Rep. Dave Paul, D-Oak Harbor, puts a $35 cap on epinephrine autoinjectors, or EpiPens, and inhalers.

Prices have recently skyrocketed for the life-saving devices, costing families hundreds of dollars, Paul said.

Last month, a two-pack of EpiPens at Everett’s Safeway on Broadway cost $389 without insurance. A 30-day supply of an albuterol inhaler cost $78 without insurance.

A change to the original bill will provide access to just the generic versions of the drugs, for no more than $35.

It now advances to the Senate’s Health and Long Term Care committee.

Local elections

The House passed a bill Thursday morning giving local governments the option to shift their elections to even-numbered years.

The idea behind the bill is to increase voter turnout in local elections, which are usually held in odd-numbered years.

In the 2020 presidential election, 85% of Snohomish County voters turned in a ballot. In 2023, 36% of voters participated in city council, mayoral and school board elections.

It proved to be contentious on the floor, leading to disagreements and numerous failed amendments from Republicans.

If national, state and local elections are held in the same year, ballots could be lengthy, Republicans noted.

Republican lawmakers shared concerns of voter fatigue on a potential 2024 ballot with six citizen initiatives, a presidential election, numerous statewide races and at the very bottom, local candidates.

“This will polarize elections, and crush and crowd out the smallest races,” said Rep. Travis Couture, R-Allyn.

Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, noted Secretary of State Steve Hobbs’ opposition to the bill. “We should listen to our experts,” Corry told the House.

Hobbs, a former Democratic state senator from Lake Stevens, opposes the bill as it could divert attention from local issues, Corry said.

Odd-year elections put a spotlight on the unique issues local areas face, Corry added.

Democrats tried to emphasize that the switch would be optional for counties and that they want to make it available for jurisdictions that want to try it out.

It passed 52-45, with all Republicans and a few Democrats voting in opposition.

Octopus farming

One bill introduced by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, sparked high emotions on the floor Tuesday afternoon.

The bill would prohibit octopus farming in the state, a practice that does not happen anywhere in the state or the country.

Peterson told the House the bill is a proactive step to ensuring the state doesn’t pollute its waters.

“It’s not only to make sure that we’re ensuring the safety of our waters and the cleanliness of our waters, I think it’s also a signal to the rest of the country and even the world,” he said.

Many Republicans opposed the bill. Rep. Joel McEntire, R-Cathlamet, argued the bill doesn’t make sense when practices like abortion are still legal in Washington.

“Right now, we’re talking about a bill that seeks to protect cephalopods,” he said. “Those same protections of life aren’t given to unborn human beings.”

The bill passed the House floor by a vote of 70-27 and will advance to the Senate’s committee on agriculture and natural resources.

Graffiti

To end on a note of bipartisanship, a bill unanimously passed in the House Tuesday to require restitution or community service for people who vandalize public or private buildings with graffiti.

The bill would give courts the option to order a minimum of 24 community service hours, which could include cleaning up their own graffiti.

“Maybe if this happens enough times, and they have to spend a good portion of their afternoons or weekends doing this, maybe it might be enough to deter them from doing it again,” said Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, the prime sponsor.

Rep. Carolyn Eslick spoke in support of the bill, noting her time as the mayor of Sultan, which gave her plenty of insight into the problem of graffiti, she said.

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