E-News: Senate passes my pro-child, anti-fentanyl bill… again

At this point in the 2024 session the Senate’s work is focused on the policy committees, which have through next Wednesday to act on Senate bills. This is from our Law & Justice meeting yesterday, where the list of bills we considered included legislation to help communities rebuild their law-enforcement infrastructures.

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

This week for me was more about public safety than anything else – specifically, the safety of children as the fight against fentanyl continues.

On Wednesday morning I joined Senate Republican Leader John Braun, whose district includes part of northern Clark County, and Sen. Chris Gildon of Puyallup to share our Recovery Washington plan with reporters. The bills that support this treatment/prevention-oriented agenda include my SB 5906, which I call the “One Pill Kills” bill. It’s about raising awareness, through a public campaign aimed at children and young adults, that a single pill can be fatal — if you don’t know what it contains. This bill already cleared the Senate health-care committee and is now before our Ways and Means committee. Click here to read more about the Recovery Washington package, and here for a podcast about it.

Later that day we took a break from committee meetings and went to the floor of the Senate chamber to debate and vote on legislation. I was happy to see two of my bills on the “run list,” as we call it: SB 5010, the anti-fentanyl bill that was passed unanimously by the Senate last year only to die in the House; and SB 5835, my “plain language” bill that is new for 2024, to bring more transparency to the rule-making process for state agencies.

The vote on SB 5010 this year was 48-1 rather than unanimous – a Democrat senator from Seattle who supported the bill a year ago flipped, and I don’t know why. The language in the bill hadn’t changed. Then again, it’s unclear why the majority Democrats in the House didn’t pass my bill the first time around either. The chair of the House community-safety committee told me only that his caucus wouldn’t support it, which is why he allowed a public hearing on the bill but not a committee vote. I’m hopeful for a different outcome in the House this year, as a coalition of support from prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and children’s justice centers has risen up around the state in support of SB 5010.

Although I didn’t get my wish of a second unanimous vote for SB 5010, every senator supported my plain-language bill. Details about both are here. If you’d like to listen to my interview about the fentanyl bill yesterday on The Lars Larson Show, click here.

The first deadline for action on bills is coming Wednesday. The Senate has 12 policy committees, and they have until the end of that day to move bills forward, either to a budget committee (if there’s a cost tied to the policy, like “One Pill Kills”) or to the committee that picks bills for our voting calendar.

Legislation that doesn’t move out of policy committees by the cutoff is considered “dead” (although there’s an old saying in Olympia… no bill is truly dead until legislators adjourn for the year).

All six citizen initiatives to Legislature receive final certification

This week the secretary of state delivered three more initiatives to the Legislature:

  • I-2109 would repeal the state capital-gains tax. As Senate Republican budget leader, I offered this statement praising its certification as a path to the public vote that should have happened in 2021, after the majority Democrats imposed what they misleadingly claim is an “excise” tax.
  • I-2111 would ban any local or state government in our state from imposing an income tax. Like I-2109, this measure has been referred to our Ways and Means Committee. The Senate and House Republican leaders issued this statement about their support for the initiative.
  • I-2124 targets the mandatory payroll tax that supports the state-run WA Cares long-term care program. It would not end the program but instead allow workers to opt out, for any reason at any time… which isn’t possible now.

The constitutional process of certifying the six initiatives submitted late in 2023 is now complete. I-2109, I-2111 and I-2124 join the three already delivered to us: Initiative 2113, which would allow reasonable police pursuits; Initiative 2117, which would basically repeal the cap-and-trade law that has made gas in Washington far more expensive than in Oregon; and Initative 2081, which would essentially create a bill of rights for parents who want more information about what their children are learning in school.

Under Washington’s constitution, these initiatives are now like other legislation in that we can (and should) hold hearings and vote on them. At the same time, they’re special: any initiative delivered to but not enacted by the Legislature while we’re in session goes to the November general-election ballot regardless.

I would support any of these that come before me; I’d also like for them to receive public hearings, in line with a requirement also in our state constitution.

Two more Wilson bills headed for committee votes

It’s common for a few days or more to elapse between a public hearing on a bill and a committee vote on that bill. SB 5836, my legislation to create a 12th seat on the Clark County Superior Court bench, is a good example: the Ways and Means committee held a hearing Monday, and a vote is now set for next Wednesday. It had already cleared the Law and Justice committee.

Sometimes, though, the action on a bill happens in more of a bang-bang kind of way. My childcare study bill, SB 6171, will receive a public hearing from the Senate human-services committee Monday, and is already scheduled for a vote Tuesday. That doesn’t guarantee its passage, because I’ve seen things change at the last minute, but it is a very positive sign.

SB 6171 also would be very positive for communities working to maintain and rebuild their law-enforcement and criminal-justice infrastructure. Finding childcare can be especially challenging for people (and most notably women) in those professions, considering the abnormal hours they must often work. It’s a study bill this time around, because we’re in year two of the budget and should be careful about new spending, but that study will tell us about the feasibility and estimated cost.

My bipartisan bill to make the State Building Code Council more transparent and accountable received a public hearing this morning before the Senate state-government committee. SB 6291 would, for instance, set timelines for adopting, changing and repealing building codes. As a non-voting member of the council I’ve identified several areas that could use some reforming; this is a reasonable start.

Leadership Clark County

On Wednesday I joined others from our Clark County legislative delegation in welcoming the current class of Leadership Clark County, which is well known for its leadership-development work. One of the concerns the LCC visitors brought up is fentanyl in schools — something that could be addressed in part by the “One Pill Kills” public-awareness campaign I’ve proposed.


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

Yours in service,

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To read this e-newsletter in other languages, click here to visit my Senate news page, look for the American flag midway down the right side, then click on the symbol right of the “EN” for a drop-down menu!