State lawmakers are approaching the halfway point of their 105-day session, and they’re closing in on the deadline to pass non-budget-related bills out of their house of origin. Democrats control both chambers this year, and they’re flexing their majority muscles. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins updated Morning Edition producer Ariel Van Cleave on the latest progress.
“This one stands out on a couple of fronts,” Jenkins said of the session. “First, just the sheer number of bills that have been introduced.”
The nearly 2,500 bills average out to about 17 bills per member of the Legislature, he said. “That’s a lot of legislation."
Those include groundbreaking proposals from the large freshman class of lawmakers. This session welcomed 29 new members from diverse backgrounds. “These new members are already making their mark,” Jenkins said. One example, he noted, is the black caucus recently formed by African-American members of the state House.
And the list of topics trending in the Legislature is long, too: from affordable housing to criminal justice reform.
Individual bills Jenkins is monitoring include a digital privacy bill moving through the Senate now. “The idea here is to give consumers more control over their data, similar to the protections that are now granted to consumers in Europe,” he said.
Additionally, both the House and Senate are forwarding bills to do away with single-use plastic bags.
Then there’s the Senate bill proposing a sex-education requirement for public schools starting in 2020. “That’s been kind of a lightning-rod issue,” Jenkins said.
But with such a large crop of bills, not everything survives. “Nothing is for sure dead until the gavel falls,” he said. One measure that has died, though, is the proposed creation of a 51st state in Eastern Washington.
Minority Republicans are frustrated as they watch their proposals fizzle. They’ve circulated a so-called “bad bills” list, just as Democrats prepare to release budget proposals at the end of this month.
“This is really where the rubber hits the road," Jenkins said, "and you get to see the spending and policy priorities of the party that’s in charge."
Listen to their full conversation above.