The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Emma Epperly
WNPA Olympia News Bureau 

'Winners' from the recently completed legislative session

 


OLYMPIA – The 2019 legislative session began Jan. 14 and is scheduled to end on April 28, if the operation, transportation, and capital budget all pass the Legislature and are signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Key issues this session have ranged from requiring vaccines to school funding, gun control, behavioral health, reducing the rape kit backlog, and a host of other issues.

Gov. Inslee made waves this session by declaring his run for President on March 1. The campaign took Inslee to the East Coast frequently over the course of the session, where he appeared on talk shows and his own CNN Town Hall in April. His absence from the state during the legislative session and increased security costs have drawn criticism.

While budgets and taxes loom, the policy changes that are encompassed in the 2,641 proposed bills this session are vast. Here are some of the key issues passed or left behind this session, with some fun ones thrown in.

Tobacco 21: It will be illegal to purchase tobacco if you are under the age of 21, effective Jan. 1, 2020. Gov. Inslee signed into law on April 5 the bill brought forward at the request of the attorney general. Federally recognized tribes and their lands fall under federal law, which stipulates the minimum age to purchase tobacco is 18. Therefore, it will be legal on tribal lands in Washington for those 18 to 20 to purchase tobacco products. Legislators cited the dramatic reduction in odds that individuals will pick up the habit of smoking after the age of 21 as the reason they strongly support the bill.

Rape kit backlog: A bill to reduce the sexual assault kit backlog passed the Legislature in two unanimous votes, with Gov. Inslee signing it into law on April 23. A sexual assault kit is physical evidence collected from a victim after the assault. With some kits remaining untested for over a decade, the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab can currently test only 213 kits per month, with a backlog of around 10,000 kits. The bill includes a victim’s bill of rights, money to hire additional lab technicians, and new timelines for future rape kit testing. The legislation had an emergency clause and became effective on April 23.

Statute of limitations on sex crimes: There will be no statute of limitations for most sex crimes against minors and, an extended statute of limitations for rape, under legislation signed into law by Gov. Inslee on April 19. The statute of limitations is the length of time after a crime is committed that legal action or prosecution can be taken. The legislation also changes the burden of proof for consent to the defendant for the charge of rape in the third degree. Previously, the victim had to prove they had not consented. The bill received broad bipartisan support in both chambers.

Daylight Savings: Legislation to move Washington to year-round daylight savings time is headed to Gov. Inslee’s desk. The legislation passed both chambers in bipartisan votes, and states like California and Oregon are considering similar legislation. The state must have approval from the US Congress to actually make the switch.

Clean Energy: A sweeping clean energy bill will require all utility companies in the state to provide 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2045. Starting in 2026 all electric utilities in Washington will be required to eliminate coal-fired sources of electricity. And by 2030, all electricity sold to utility customers must be greenhouse-gas neutral. Gov. Inslee has been a proponent of this legislation.

Election Paid Postage: Washington has been a vote-by-mail state since 2011, and starting July 1, state law will require the state to pick up the tab for mailing back voted ballots. All ballots for primary and general elections will come with return envelopes with prepaid postage. The goal of this legislation is to reduce the election cost to counties and reduce monetary impediments to voting. Gov. Inslee is expected to sign the bill into law in the near future.

 

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