Legislative update 0423: Down to the wire

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

Tuesday marked the 100th day of the 2019 Legislative Session. Another important legislative deadline occurred last week, in which all bills must have passed out of both chambers to remain “alive,” unless they are deemed necessary to implement the budget.

The 2019 Legislative Session is scheduled to end on April 28. Over the next five days, the legislature will be focused on budget negotiations, bills that are necessary to implement the budget and bills on the concurrence calendar. If the legislature cannot reach an agreement on the budget by April 28, a special session will be called to continue budget negotiations.

The concurrence calendar is a list of bills that have passed out of both chambers prior to the legislative deadline, but were amended in the second chamber. In order for this legislation to move on to the governor to be signed into law, it must be reapproved in its new amended form. If the first chamber concurs with the amendments of the second chamber, the bill has passed the Legislature. If the first chamber disagrees with the second chamber, it can ask the second chamber to recede from the amendments or may request a conference committee where both chambers send members to a meeting in attempt to seek a resolution.

Crew size bill fails to pass Senate by deadline

Last Wednesday at 5 p.m. was the deadline for all policy bills to be voted on by both chambers to remain alive for the 2019 Legislative Session. HB 1841, establishing minimum crew size requirements on trains transporting hazardous materials, was scheduled to be voted on in the late afternoon, however there were a number of other controversial bills on the Senate floor calendar, and they ran out of time. Technically, this bill is dead and is no longer eligible to move forward this year, however, there is a chance to revive it if the majority party determines the bill is necessary to implement the budget. It was referenced previously in the House proposed operating budget.

Legislation awaiting action by the governor:

  • E2SSB 5438 deals with the H-2A worker program and is sponsored by Sen. John McCoy (D-Tulalip). As the bill came over from the Senate, it would have required those who use H-2A temporary workers to pay an additional state fee (farmers who utilize these workers currently pay a fee to the federal government). The agricultural industry, including the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG), opposed the bill because these fees will make the use of H-2A workers cost prohibitive. Rep. Bruce Chandler (R-Granger) had an amendment adopted in the House Appropriations Committee that removed the state fees and clarified the duties of the Office of Agricultural and Seasonal Workforce created in the bill. The bill passed the House unanimously, and the Senate concurred in the House amendments. The bill will be delivered to the Governor for his signature.
  • SSB 5550, implementing recommendations of the pesticide safety workgroup, is sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldana (D-Seattle). The bill establishes the pesticide application safety committee to explore how state agencies collect and track data and consider the feasibility and requirements of developing a shared database, including how the Department of Health could use existing tools to better display multiagency data regarding pesticides. The bill has passed both the Senate and House and will be delivered to the governor for bill action. WAWG supports this legislation.

Legislation on concurrence calendar:

  • SSB 5883, sponsored by Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima), allows vehicles carrying farm products from the field to exceed road weight limits by up to 5 percent on public roads. It also requires that a farm receive at least four written warnings for excess weights before traffic penalties can be imposed. The bill was amended and voted out of the House Transportation Committee on April 8 with a 30-1 vote. Amendments by Rep. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham) change the bill to refer the exemptions to the driver (and not the farm) and that two excess weight warnings per driver (instead of four per farm) are required before penalties can be imposed. The bill passed off the House floor with a 94-3 vote. WAWG supports the bill. The Senate must concur in the House amendments for this bill to move forward this year.
  • SHB 2009, sponsored by Rep. Kristine Reeves (D-Federal Way), is the House version of the environmental justice bill. It was amended on the floor to create a large 22-member task force to make recommendations on incorporating environmental justice principles into various agency responsibilities; require certain agencies to incorporate cumulative impact analysis tools and task force guidance (upon legislative approval); and require the Department. of Health to develop model policies (subject to legislative approval). To the extent that task force recommendations may conflict with other laws, those other laws preempt the recommendations. The bill still requires agencies represented on the task force to use all practicable means to promote environmental justice and “fair treatment,” though specific concepts (like the “precautionary approach”) are no longer specified in the bill. The departments of Ecology, Transportation, Natural Resources and Commerce are still included on the task force. The bill passed out of the House with an 88-10-0 vote. It is unclear if Senate will bring up the bill for concurrence.