By Tim Gruver, Sara Kassabian, and Paul Queary
Another mountain of bills bit the dust on Monday as budget committees dumped a host of pricey dreams and dicey proposals ahead of the Legislature’s second cut-off.
Ideas never die in Olympia, but since the Legislature works on a biennial cycle, the bills pushing up daisies this week will stay in the grave at least until 2025 unless they get the zombie budget treatment.¹
Homegrown weed. Cannabis might be 100% legal in Washington, but the homemade variety is still no bueno without a doctor’s note. House Bill 2194 from Rep. Shelley Kloba, D-Kirkland, was poised to let anyone 21 and older grow four plants under their roof, no questions asked. This bill was pretty important to rural Washington where weed shops are often scarce. Substance-abuse advocates, cops, and apartment dwellers argued the bill would have spurred neighbor wars and perturbed schools, daycare centers, and other places where whiffs of weed are a no-go.³ The bill made it to the House Appropriations Committee where it died in silence. — Tim Gruver
Charter school money. Senate Bill 5809 from State Senator Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, would have required the state to match local levy money for public charter schools in districts where the levy passed beginning in fiscal year 2025. Right now, charter schools get state education support, but not a share of the local levy dollars raised by the district they’re located in. The disparity leaves many aggrieved, as more than half of the roughly 4,500 students enrolled in the 19 public charter schools across the state come from low-income, minority families. The charter schools also report better educational outcomes and growing enrollment, compared to Washington public schools. The influential teacher’s union, the Washington Education Association, opposes charter schools and has tangled with Mullet over the issue before. The WEA testified against the measure during the public hearing in Senate Ways & Means. It never came up for a vote after that. — Sara Kassabian
Denying permission to pollute. A bill about a different kind of green from Rep. Sharlett Mena, D-Tacoma, also died in Appropriations. House Bill 2070 was a monumental bid to write environmental justice into the State Environmental Policy Act. It would have essentially nixed new industrial projects that dirty the air in pollution-burdened communities and would have required mitigation to renew or extend permits for existing polluters in those areas. HB 2070 threatened industrial projects from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Eastern Washington’s fruit processing plants. We’re told Rep. Mena plans to bring it back in 2025, and she’s got a track record of doing hard things. — Tim Gruver
Inslee’s gas-price transparency plan. Stung by criticism that his signature environmental policy achievement was driving up the price of gasoline, Gov. Jay Inslee tried to get at the problem with a bill to force oil companies to disclose more details about what gets baked into the price at the pump. But Senate Bill 6052, sponsored on Inslee’s behalf by Energy, Environment & Technology Chair Joe Nguyen, D-Seattle, died without a vote in Senate Ways & Means ahead of Monday’s cutoff. Its backers were quick to cite the measure’s steep cost. But this would have been a major new intrusion into private industry, in a sector that already gets a lot of government scrutiny aimed at preventing price-fixing. Meanwhile the Climate Commitment Act raked in $1.8 billion in its first year. Much of that money came from oil refineries, who passed the cost on to consumers because that’s what they do. — Paul Queary
Special ed for adults. Education dollars are always tight in Washington, but Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, pushed once again to throw some more cash towards the state’s perennially underfunded special education. House Bill 2130 aimed to extend special education and adjacent services to students with disabilities to age 22 or a year longer than under state law. The bill’s sticker price was $16 million by 2029, but the bill never got its hearing in Appropriations. Lawmakers did put $417 million toward special ed last session, about half of what’s needed to close the state’s funding gap. — Tim Gruver
Free school lunch (and breakfast) for all. It’s well established that hungry kids don’t learn well. House Bill 2058, a bipartisan proposal from Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, would have let all public school students eat breakfast and lunch for free. The proposal would have expanded on last year’s House Bill 1238, which guaranteed free breakfast and lunch for all students in elementary schools where 40% or more students would qualify for subsidized meals. The problem: Expanding that to all schools statewide would cost about $100 million a year, which so far is too much for the budget chairs to swallow. HB 2058 died in Appropriations without a vote. — Sara Kassabian
Show me my papers. Senate Bill 5924 from Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, would have given workers leverage to pry their personnel files from the black box that can be human resources. The bill aimed to guarantee said workers, past and present, the right to those files upon request in 21 days at zero cost to help them take a grievance to court or file for unemployment. Big Business types argued the bill amounted to an unfunded mandate on mom-and-pop businesses while the Washington State Hospital Association aired concerns that releasing such files could run afoul of medical privacy laws without exhaustive redactions. — Tim Gruver
Second chances for sex offenders. In the world of criminal justice bills, easing supervision for sex offenders was the definition of a dicey proposal. House Bill 2178 would have given the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board to release mid-tier sex offenders from supervision who go 10 years without racking up another offense. The bid from Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, who chairs the House Committee on Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry, got an icy reception from a host of prosecuting attorneys and cops. It didn’t win enough friends on Appropriations either. — Tim Gruver
1. Bills deemed “necessary to implement the budget” get until the last day of the session to simmer on the back burner.
2. With spending in the budget, of course. Actual paper bags of unmarked Ben Franklins are frowned upon.
3. Seems kinda dumb given that you can brew your own barley into your beer, crush your own grapes into wine, and even distill your own apples into your hooch. Fun fact: Johnny Appleseed? Totally a moonshiner.
Items drawn from a story in Washington Observer, where the authors file reports.