Washington’s legislative session is in its final three-week stretch. The House and Senate must negotiate a final budget, and a lot of bills remain in play. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins talked about the latest updates with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.
“One of the most high-profile measures — which has now been signed into law by the governor — is raising the age to buy cigarettes, tobacco products and vaping products to 21,” Jenkins said.
Washington is now one of 11 states, including Oregon and California, to raise the age from 18, according to the Tobacco Free Kids Campaign.
“This was what’s known as ‘request’ legislation from Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the Department of Health,” Jenkins added, “and it’s a good example of how issues can ripen in Olympia. This bill was introduced in previous years, but it didn’t pass. This year, it did with bipartisan support.”
As for bills that died, Jenkins singled out a bill requested by the superintendent of public instruction to require school districts to teach comprehensive sex education.
“Currently, sex ed is taught in about 60 percent of high schools and 30 percent of middle schools in Washington, but it’s not mandatory,” Jenkins said. “The bill to make it mandatory grew out of, at least in part, the #MeToo movement. There are a lot of politics around this issue and there was strong opposition even though the bill allowed for parents to have their children opt out of the classes.”
The bill did pass in the state Senate, Jenkins noted, but it died in committee in the House. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats.
Rounding out the end of the session, lawmakers still have yet to take up Initiative 1000, an attempt to overturn Washington’s 1998 voter-approved ban on affirmative action.
“The measure would once again allow affirmative action in public employment, contracting and education,” Jenkins said. “This initiative got a record number of signatures and sponsors say it’s needed to reverse decades of lost educational and economic opportunities for underrepresented groups.”
But it’s a controversial issue, Jenkins stressed, and majority Democrats have been “oddly quiet on the subject.”
Listen above for the full conversation, including what’s to come in final budget negotiations.
“They do have a lot of differences to work through in how they scoped and funded their budgets,” Jenkins said of lawmakers in the House and Senate.