2015 Bills of Interest – How do they develop?
Published Mar. 6, 2015
Bills have many steps to go through in the legislative process. It starts with an idea to address a problem, often from someone just like you who talks to their legislator about something happening in your life. For example, Sarah Butcher has children in school and realized the need for social-emotional learning, not just for students in special education, but for all students and for teachers. She engaged other parents and teachers in a conversation about this need and soon the idea became a set of bills. Often, an idea is drafted in one House, and then a legislator in the opposite house decides it is a good idea, so they sponsor the bill there. These are called “companion bills”. In this case, we had House Bill 1760 (HB 1760) introduced in the House of Representatives on February 28th and then Senate Bill 5688 (SB 5688) was introduced in the Senate on February 29th.
Once introduced (considered the bills First Reading), each bill is assigned to a committee where it must receive a public hearing where people can come and tell legislators if they believe the bill is good or bad and why. They may like the intent of the bill, but have some concerns about specific sections of it. After the bill has had a hearing, if they believe there may be enough committee members who want it to pass, they will put it on the “Executive Session” calendar. During Executive Session, the public can watch the proceedings, but cannot testify during them. Members of the committee “caucus” about the bill and decide if they think the bill should move forward or not. They then take a vote, and if the majority of legislators vote yes, then the bill moves out of that committee.
Using our example above, HB 1760 had a public hearing on February 12th and was “exec’d” on February 17th. During Executive Session, the committee proposed a “substitute bill”. This means committee members liked the idea of the bills but wanted to change part of it. The Substitute House Bill (SHB 1760) is what was voted out of the Executive Session. SB 5688 had a public hearing on February 5th and was exec’d on February 18th, also with a substitute version (SSB 5688). Because the bill will need to have the legislature provide money in order for the bill to take effect, the bills were sent to the fiscal committees (House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means).
The cut-off for bills to make it past each committee is decided at the beginning of each legislative session. For this session, bills had to make it through their policy committee by February 20th and through their fiscal committee by February 27th. SHB 1760 never received a public hearing in the Appropriations committee, so it died. SSB 5688 did get a hearing in Ways and Means on February 23rd and was exec’d on February 26th. This committee decided they also wanted to make changes to the bill and voted it out as 2nd Substitute Bill 5688 (2SSB 5688).
Now 2SSB 5688 has moved to the Rules Committee. This committee does not hold public hearings, but the public can watch the committee at work. In order for the bill to move to the chamber floor for the entire Senate body to debate and vote on it, a legislator must use one of their “pulls”. There are several types of calendars in Senate rules.
• The House Rules Review Calendar or Senate White Sheet is where bills are sent immediately after being passed from their policy/fiscal committee. There is no debate or vote for bills to be on this list.
• The House Rules Consideration Calendar or Senate Green Sheet is made up of bills "pulled" by Rules members from the White Sheet. Each member gets a turn to say what bill from the white sheet they want to pull and why, then the committee votes as to if it should move to the green sheet. Moving forward means the bill is eligible for “Second Reading” on the floor.
• The House Suspension Calendar (on a blue sheet) or Senate Consent Calendar (on a pink Sheet) contain bills that both parties agree on, that have at least 2/3 yes votes and that will need no amendments on the floor. This is an expedited calendar.
• The list of bills from the Consideration Calendar or Green Sheet that get added to the floor calendar is called the “Flash Calendar”.
2SSB 5688 did get pulled from Rules and was placed on 2nd Reading, meaning it is eligible to go to the floor for a vote. If more changes or amendments are added on the Senate floor, it would change the title to Engrossed 2nd Substitute Senate Bill 5688 (E2SSB 5688), but we must wait to see if this happens or not. The cut-off for bills to get voted off the House or Senate floor is March 11th at 5 pm. Any bills not passed by then will die.
Bills have to have made it through all their assigned committees and been voted on by members on the chamber floor. Then they go to the other chamber and go through the same process their (policy committee – deadline April 1st; fiscal committee – deadline April 7th; Rules Committee and floor vote – deadline April 15th at 5 pm.
Some of the bills still moving through the process include:
Prohibit the planned use of aversive interventions, no restraints & isolation unless serious harm is likely
Refine definitions of mental abuse and restraints used in DSHS facilities (DSHS request)
Parent mentors for children with developmental disabilities in the foster care system (We have concerns there will be confusion because the name is too similar to Parent to Parent)
Provide extended foster care for non-minors not able to do certain activities, have Developmental Disabilities Administration at meetings
Clarifies that the Dept. of Early Learning is the lead agency for birth to three services
People in jail currently need to be evaluated within 7 days, this bill lets people sit in jail longer before being evaluated
Bans six flame retardants from children's products & upholstered furniture, gives Department of Ecology the authority to ban replacement chemicals that are just as bad
Defines theft from a vulnerable adult - 1st degree is a class B felony, 2nd degree is a class C felony
Using chemical action plans to require safer chemicals in Washington State
Removes expiration date on 300 hours a year for respite providers (DSHS request)
Expands OPG services to add supported decision-making services in addition to guardianship
Create 529A savings accounts for people with disabilities per the federal ABLE Act
Bans 4 flame retardants, creates Chemical Action Plans to be reviewed by the legislature
Provide information regarding childhood immunizations to expecting parents
Continue to provide respite care in RHCs, remove capacity limit and closure of Yakima Valley
Biometric information may be collected & used only if it is necessary to implement an IEP or section 504 plan
Establishing licensure for the practice of applied behavior analysis (ABA)
Clarifies transition services to be included in transition plans at age 16, but as young as 14
Convene a work group on social emotional learning that builds upon what is being done in early learning
Where is the budget?
The Governor’s budget proposal was released was released in January, but we are still waiting to see House and Senate proposals. We expect to see them in the next couple of weeks.
What can you do now?
Attend Advocacy Day, email or call your legislators, use the toll-free hotline and other options to let your representatives in Olympia know what you want them to support.
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