The first significant legislative cut-offs of the 105-day session have passed – February 17 was the Policy Committee cut-off, and February 24 was the Fiscal Committee cut-off. The next cut-off is March 8, when all bills must be out of their House of origin. This means all bills not favorably acted upon are unlikely to receive further consideration this session. However, several rule maneuvers could still be deployed to “revive” a bill or include it in the Operating Budget. There is also the age-old strategy of “hanging” a dead bill on a broadly titled bill that is still alive.
WR has several bills that we continue to engage on—some that we are able to support and others that need improvement. First and foremost are a suite of bills relating to public safety, retail theft, and organized retail crime.
House Bill 1363—allowing law enforcement to pursue suspected criminals—was significantly altered by removing property crimes from the permissible reasons to pursue. This would impact all retail thefts. WR will work diligently to amend the bill and re-insert property crimes as one of the reasons a pursuit can be engaged. Two other measures, House Bill 1586 and Senate Bill 5533, would authorize a two-year study on pursuits and best practices to make recommendations to the legislature. WR supports these bills in addition to—not as a replacement for—the original HB 1363.
WR strongly supports Senate Bill 5056, which would increase penalties for repeat or habitual property crime offenders, and Senate Bill 5160, increasing penalties for organized retail gangs which use multiple accomplices. Both bills await a vote of the entire Senate.
WR continues to advocate for including $3 million in funding to bolster the newly formed Attorney General’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force. The budget is immune from all cut-offs and can be debated until the last day of session—April 23.
One of the more challenging bills is House Bill 1155—relating to health data privacy. The bill seeks to protect sensitive healthcare data that is not currently covered by the federal HIPAA Law (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). However, the legislation is too broad and, as presently written, would unintentionally include many non-sensitive healthcare products and services, such as numerous over-the-counter medications, vitamins, health-related foods, health-related clothing, devices, and tools. WR is working closely with proponents to narrow the bill’s scope to modify and clarify the bill’s intent. The bill is awaiting action by the full House.
Another major piece of legislation is the WRAP Act (Washington Recycling and Packaging)—House Bill 1131—currently awaiting action by the full House. The bill contains three major components. First is an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program where producers fund a recycling and disposal program for all packaging. Second, a post-consumer recycled content (PRC) requirement for future packaging. And third, establishing a beverage container reimbursement (BCR) program like the state of Oregon’s. WR continues to work with all stakeholders on this sweeping and complex legislation.