E-News: It’s deadline time… which bills have survived?

Feb. 17, 2023

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

Today brought the first deadline or “cutoff” of the 2023 legislative session. We’ll hit six more deadlines during the 65 days remaining in the session, with the final one being the day we adjourn. That should be April 23.

The cutoffs force policy committees, then the fiscal committees, and eventually the Senate as a whole, to decide which Senate bills will move over to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Then we’ll go through the same sequence with bills sent to us by the House. Bills that do not move forward by each deadline are likely done for the year.

Considering more than 750 bills were introduced in the Senate alone over the past six weeks, hundreds of bills will be considered “dead” after today. It’s a reminder of just how difficult it can be, and should be, to make more laws – although sometimes the difficulty is due to pure partisanship, and that’s unfortunate.

Although most of the activity has been at the committee level, the full Senate has taken some time each of the past few weeks to move bills that are mostly non-controversial. This week one of those bills was mine, and hopefully it’s the first of several. SB 5295 would eliminate eight financial accounts that were created by past legislatures over the years but now deemed obsolete by the state treasurer. It won unanimous approval and is now before the House Appropriations Committee.

March 18 town halls scheduled in Camas and Stevenson
Exactly one month from tomorrow, on March 18, I will join Rep. Paul Harris and our new colleague, Rep. Kevin Waters, for a pair of 17th District town hall meetings. They’ll be our first town halls since the district boundaries changed last year, bringing all of Skamania County back into the 17th District for the first time since 1992. We’ll be at Camas City Hall from 10 to 11 a.m. and at Hegewald Center in Stevenson from 1 to 2 p.m. Please save the date!


SB 5232 in L&J
On Thursday the majority Democrats on the Senate Law and Justice Committee approved a bill that seems patently unconstitutional. I pointed that out ahead of the vote on SB 5232, but while explaining my opposition (click here or on the photo to view it) I was thinking more of Tiffany Hill, the Vancouver mom and Marine murdered in 2019. The scenario I laid out for the committee could easily have been about her – and I’ll be ready to do so again if this infringement on a constitutional right is brought to the Senate floor.


Four Wilson bills clear committee hurdle…
Two of my proposals are not only through the committee process but have been placed on the Senate voting calendar by the Rules Committee, which acts as a gatekeeper on legislation that comes forward from any of the committees.

One is SB 5010, my bill to add synthetic opioids to the state law on “endangerment with a controlled substance.” That would allow consequences when, for instance, adults expose children to fentanyl in a way that causes injury but is not fatal (which would be a different charge). It’s puzzling why this has been on the voting calendar since Jan. 25, which means there have been multiple chances to vote it off the Senate floor. It should not be controversial, so I don’t understand the holdup.

My bill to audit the state Health Care Authority to improve its handling of millions in Medicaid dollars also is on the voting calendar now. The Rules committee made that move with SB 5497 on Wednesday.

SB 5158, my “tax transparency” measure, had come out of the Ways and Means Committee earlier this month. It would require the Department of Revenue to create a searchable, online, public database of all taxes and tax rates in the state for each taxing district.

My bill on diagnostic imaging is also before the Rules Committee, having cleared both the Health Care and Ways and Means committees. As a recent breast-cancer survivor I can’t overemphasize the value of detecting breast cancer early, and the importance of following up on a mammogram. SB 5396 would remove a barrier many women face when they have reason to seek advanced imaging.

This link will let you track the bills that have moved forward from Senate committees to the Rules Committee. Some of the bills that are now up for Rules consideration have come out of the fiscal committees, but most will have come from policy committees. Also, you’ll notice some bill numbers are listed twice, as SB (Senate Bill) or SSB (Substitute Senate Bill). A substitute Senate bill is created when a committee adopts one or more amendments to a bill before moving it forward.

…and five need to move in the next week
The cutoff for action by the Senate’s two fiscal committees is a week away. That applies to Ways and Means, on which I am Republican leader, and Transportation. More than 200 bills have been referred to Ways and Means, either directly or from the Senate’s 12 policy committees. Because the Ways and Means chairwoman tends to like having the committee look at every bill, we will not be waiting until Monday – that work will begin tomorrow.

Five of my bills are still alive at the fiscal-committee level, and need to advance in the coming week. The four before Ways and Means are: SB 5359, to set a state spending limit; SB 5387, to lower property taxes and create a credit for renters (it’s my “homestead exemption” legislation); SB 5277, regarding the B&O tax rate paid by dairy, fruit and vegetable, and seafood processors; and SB 5672, to increase funding for the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority. My bill to create the Mount St. Helens license plate (SB 5900) is in front of the Transportation Committee.

Police-pursuit debate heats up; fix to drug-possession law also advances
I wanted to return to the Senate Law and Justice Committee because of my interest in the ever-growing public-safety crisis being seen across our communities statewide. It has been at the center of two of the most visible issues of the session so far. Both involve changes in law made by the majority Democrats in 2021 that have turned out badly – as we forewarned.

One involves the law on when police may engage in a vehicular pursuit of a suspected criminal. The tighter restrictions placed on law enforcement coincide with the start of the auto-theft epidemic in our state. The Law and Justice chair refused to consider either of the bipartisan bills that would allow officers to again make pursuit decisions based on reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed. I’m a co-sponsor of both. The chair would only allow the committee to consider SB 5533, which is a study-only bill. The latest in this debate comes from a committee vote yesterday in the House; click here for the details.

The second has to do with the legislative response to the state Supreme Court’s Blake v. Washington decision, from 2021. That basically decriminalized hard drugs – possession of which used to be a felony – and we’ve seen the fallout from that in our communities. Two bills that came before Law and Justice would make possession of meth, heroin and so on a gross misdemeanor, and restore some of the legal leverage that can compel people to seek and complete drug treatment.

The “Blake fix” that came out of committee is SB 5536. While it’s weaker than the gross-misdemeanor proposal I’m co-sponsoring, SB 5467, and far weaker than SB 5035, which I also co-sponsored, it still has promise. While I voted no on SB 5536 out of committee, it still could be strengthened through amendments on the Senate floor.


I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government.

Yours in service,

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