Working together during a virtual session

One thing you may not know about the legislative process is that it is very social. Lawmakers collaborate with staff, the public, stakeholders and each other to craft bills that ultimately become law. Working virtually this year has not made this intricate process any easier.

Over the last few weeks, we have been spending most of our time on the Senate floor debating bills. As Deputy Floor Leader, I have been fortunate enough to be one of the few members allowed to actually be on the Senate floor during debate. This has allowed me the opportunity to work face to face with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure concerns are addressed and that we work together for the people of Washington state.

For context, Senators have introduced 598 bills and only 127 passed off the Senate floor. Additionally, there were more than 320 amendments proposed on the bills that did pass. And we’re not done yet! These numbers will change before the session adjourns.

A few of the bills that have passed so far, and that I’ve not yet highlighted, include:

Senate Bill 5074 which expands a successful pilot program that allows some fire stations to serve as “safe stations” and provide an alternative to emergency rooms where individuals can go to receive services like substance abuse treatment, medical attention and peer support, as well as connections to community resources.

Senate Bill 5259 seeks to increase transparency by gathering and publishing data on use of force by police officers. Currently, this information is not located in one place and available to the public. This proposal changes that.

Senate Bill 5327 requires the Attorney General to establish, oversee, and administer a tip line to receive and respond to tips from the public regarding risks or potential risks to the safety or well-being of youth. It is really targeted at reducing incidences of youth suicide.

Senate Bill 5196 codifies the procedures by which the Legislature may call itself into a special legislative session. While this is a positive step in bringing a balance to state government, I remain fearful that we will adjourn this legislative session without addressing the emergency powers held by the governor as well as the bevy of proclamations and mandates that exist under the current emergency order.

Senate Bill 5051  This was one of the more controversial bills of the session. It empowers the Criminal Justice Training Commission to investigate allegations of misconduct by police officers and gives them the ability to review and even override decisions made by police departments when investigating these allegations. Additionally, it removes confidentiality of complaints, investigations, and disciplinary actions for certified officers and requires information be maintained on a publicly searchable database, resulting in some due process concerns for officers.

As of the writing of this article, there are a few high visibility bills that have not yet been considered. Specifically, we are waiting to see if the carbon tax (Senate Bill 5126) and capital gains tax (Senate Bill 5096) will come before the Senate for a vote.


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