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In case you missed it: Bills the legislature passed before cut off this week

OLYMPIA, Wash., April 15, 2023—As the 2023 Legislative Session approaches its close on April 23, the Senate and House are both racing to vote upon bills passed by their opposite chambers. Wednesday, April 12, was the session’s first official cut-off date to vote on these such bills and a lot of key legislation now heads to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk for to be signed into law.

With a lot of media attention on high profile bills that passed such as the banning of assault weapons (SHB-1240) and SB-5599, legislation to not disclose to parents of transgendered youth the whereabouts of their runaway child, below are some other noteworthy bills that passed this week.

Drug possession offenses

SB-5536, also known as the “Blake Fix,” concerning controlled substances, counterfeit substances, and legend drug possession and treatment, passed the Senate on March 3, with 28 yeas and 21 nays, before passing the House on April 11 with 54 yeas and 41 nays. The bill awaiting signature by Governor Inslee classifies certain drug possession offenses as misdemeanor instead of a felony.

If signed, effective July 1, 2023, the conduct that constitutes certain drug possession offenses and the related penalties will be modified to read:

“Possession of a Counterfeit Substance is reclassified as a gross misdemeanor offense, which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both; and the amendatory provisions adopted in 2021 (Engrossed Senate Bill 5476, enacted as chapter 311, Laws of 2021) related to the offenses of Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of a Legend Drug, and Possession of 40 Grams or Less of Cannabis expire, eliminating the “knowing” mens rea element from those offenses and reverting Possession of a Controlled Substance to a class C felony.”

Additionally, effective July 23, 2023, the conduct that constitutes certain drug possession offenses and the related penalties will be modified to:

“Possession of a Controlled Substance is reclassified as a gross misdemeanor offense, which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both; and a “knowing” mens rea element is added to the offenses of Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of a Legend Drug, and Possession of 40 Grams or Less of Cannabis.”

The bill is in response to a Supreme Court ruling held in State v. Blake in 2021, which invalidated the portion of the UCSA (Washington State’s version of the federal Controlled Substance Act) that created the offense of Possession of a Controlled Substance.

Following the Blake decision, legislation was adopted in 2021 (Engrossed Senate Bill 5476,enacted as chapter 311, Laws of 2021) which, in part, amended statutory provisions related to the possession of a controlled substance, adding a “knowing” clause and redefining what a controlled substance is.

Reinstating police pursuits

SB-5352, concerning vehicular pursuits, passed the Senate with 26 yeas and 23 nays, on March 8 and passed the House on April 10 with 57 yeas and 40 nays. The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature.

If signed, the bill would reduce the threshold required for police engaging in a vehicular pursuit from “probable cause”  to “reasonable suspicion” so long as a person in the vehicle has committed, or is committing, a violent offense, a sex offense, a vehicular assault offense, an escape offense, a driving under the influence offense, or a domestic violence assault in the first, second, third, or fourth degree offense.

The pursuit must be necessary for the purpose of identifying or apprehending the person, the bill states, and pursuing officers must also have completed an emergency vehicle operator’s course.

Reproductive Rights and gender affirming treatment

HB-1469, concerning access to reproductive health care services and gender-affirming treatment in Washington state, passed the House on February 28, with 59 yeas and 38 nays, and passed the Senate on April 10 with 29 yeas and 20 nays.

This bill, if signed into law, would prevent other states from interfering with Washington State residents seeking reproductive or gender-affirming care. The bill would also restrict Washington courts and law enforcement from complying with warrants, subpoenas, or extraditions from other states, if those court orders relate to those seeking reproductive or gender-affirming care within Washington.

The bill would be effective immediately once signed.

Housing requirements for cities

HB-1110, increasing middle housing in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing, passed the House on March 6 with 75 yeas and 21 nays, and passed the Senate on April 11, with 35 yeas and 14 nays.

The bill, which would go into effect 90 days after the Governor’s signature, would adopt density requirements for cities, anti-displacement measures, middle housing requirements, technical assistance, and allow cities to apply for extensions to meet these requirements.

Any city subject to the middle housing requirements:

  • must adopt objective development and design standards on the development of middle housing that do not allow personal or subjective judgment and do not discourage the development of middle housing through unreasonable costs, fees, delays, or other requirements or actions which individually, or cumulatively, make impracticable the permitting, siting, or construction of all allowed middle housing types or the ownership of a middle housing unit;
  • may not require standards for middle housing that are more restrictive than those required for detached single-family residences;
  • must apply to middle housing the same development permit and environmental review processes that apply to detached single-family residences;
  • must apply to middle housing the same critical areas regulations that apply to detached single-family residences;
  • may not require off-street parking as a condition of permitting development of middle housing within one-half mile of a major transit stop;
  • may not require more than one off-street parking space per lot as a condition of permitting development of middle housing on lots smaller than 6,000 square feet; and
  • may not require more than two off-street parking spaces per lot as a condition of permitting development of middle housing on lots greater than 6,000 square feet.

The bill would also require a fully-planning city with a population of at least 6,000, or a city located within a contiguous urban growth area with a city with a population above 200,000, to develop:

  • at least four units per lot on all lots zoned for residential use;
  • six units per lot in all residential zones if at least two of the units are affordable; and
  • six units per lot in all residential zones within one half-mile of a major transit stop.

Mandatory reporting of child abuse for clergy

SB-5280, concerning the duty of clergy to report child abuse or neglect, unanimously passed the Senate on February 28, and passed the House on April 11, with 75 yeas, and 20 nays.

The bill would require members of the clergy to report child abuse or neglect when the clergy member has reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect to the proper law enforcement or the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

However, members of the clergy are not required to report such child abuse or neglect if the information is obtained in the clergy member’s professional character as a religious or spiritual advisor when the information is obtained solely as a result of a confession made under clergy-penitent privilege, and the clergy member is authorized to hear the confession and has a duty under the doctrine or custom of the clergy member’s church to keep the confession secret, a House Bill analysis states.

By “members of the clergy”, the bill means any regularly licensed, accredited, or ordained minister, priest, rabbi, imam, or similarly situated spiritual leader.

New International Airport study

HB-1791, studying the need for increased commercial aviation services, passed the House on March 8, with 88 yeas and 9 nays, and passed the Senate on April 12, with 31 yeas and 17 nays.

The bill would establish a Commercial Aviation Coordinating Work Group, which is required, the bill states, to “comprehensively evaluate the long-range commercial aviation needs of Washington within the broader context of state transportation needs and the specific needs of western Washington.” The Work Group would also be required to consider alternatives to additional aviation capacity.

The Work Group would conduct this by investigating the expansion of existing aviation facilities and possible siting locations for new greenfield aviation facilities and report on the strengths and

weaknesses of each site, while considering all impacts of a building new facility.

Medical assistance for colorectal screenings

HB-1626, concerning coverage for colorectal screening tests under medical assistance programs, passed the House on March 4 unanimously before passing the Senate, on April 12, with 39 yeas and 9 nays. The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for final signature.

If signed, beginning January 1, 2024, the Health Care Authority must require coverage under medical assistance programs for noninvasive preventive colorectal cancer screening tests that have a grade of either A or B from the United States Preventive Services Task Force and to require coverage for colonoscopies performed as a result of a positive test result.

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