Voteapalooza arrives. These bills could incite verbal fireworks

It’s Day 50. As the focus shifts to floor action, here’s what’s happening in the 2023 legislative session.

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 50 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 27, 2023 — Welcome to a new week. Around here, the action, and inaction, is under way in the session’s first Voteapalooza.

These next few days, lawmakers will spend many hours in caucus and on the floor. They face a deadline of 5 p.m. March 8 to get bills passed out of their chamber of origin that are not tied directly to the budget. There could be late nights. Even a few hours on the weekend.

No big deal if they only had a couple dozen bills to handle. Not the case. As of Sunday, the Senate had 80 bills and the House had 82 on their respective floor calendars. More are coming as piles of bills are waiting to be yanked out of their respective Rules committees.

Here are a few I am watching out for in the next few days.

Housing: There’s no dearth of legislation aimed at cajoling, pushing, and demanding communities to build more places for people to live. Preferably ones they can afford. House Bill 1110 is the most-discussed approach to increasing density of development in areas typically zoned for single family homes. This one’s been reworked, with the more heavy-handed mandates replaced with less demanding directives for cities and counties to ratchet things up, and soon, especially near major transit stops, schools and parks.

Guns: Looking for a good floor fight? Guarantee these three could incite oratorical fireworks.

In the House, there’s the assault weapons ban, House Bill 1240, and the mandate to get a permit to purchase a gun, House Bill 1143. In the Senate, it’s the one creating a path for someone to sue gun makers and retailers, Senate Bill 5078. Not sure majority Democrats can get the trifecta out by next week, but I wouldn’t bet against them at this stage.

Abortion: Democrats are committed to cementing Washington’s place as a safe haven for patients and providers. They’ve got about a half-dozen bills to ease costs for those seeking abortions, protect medical professionals from prosecution and ensure reproductive care services don’t disappear when hospitals merge.

Senate Joint Resolution 8202, the constitutional amendment guaranteeing access to abortion, is the most ambitious initiative. It will not cross the legislative finish line and reach the ballot this year. Nonetheless, majority Democrats in the Senate can still bring it up for a vote if they want to have the debate.

Public safety: When it comes to vehicle pursuits and vehicle stops, all eyes are on the House.

House Bill 1363 would allow a law enforcement officer to initiate a chase with reasonable suspicion a person in a vehicle has committed or is committing a crime. A 2021 law set a higher threshold of probable cause. As now written, this bill would essentially bring back the old standard for two years. A majority of House members will pass this legislation if they get a chance. Democratic leaders will have to make that decision.

Another House bill directs a huge work group to write a model policy for chases. This could get a vote s well. Or there might be a way to add it to the pursuit bill. The Senate had a version of a work group bill but it lapsed in committee.

Also, keep an eye on House Bill 1513 which would prevent cops from pulling drivers over because they have a suspended license or their car’s rear tail light is out. Such non-moving violations would no longer be treated as a primary offense. They’d become a secondary offense, meaning you’d have to do something else wrong, like speeding, to get stopped.

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