Washington state is getting bipartisan support to ban police pig tying and tackle the opioid crisis

By | March 9, 2024

During a busy 60-day legislative session, Washington state lawmakers took steps to address the opioid crisis and ban a controversial police practice with bipartisan support, but failed to pass some of the most progressive bills on drug abuse. to get to the finish line.

The short session, which marked Jay Inslee‘s last term as governor ended Thursday with more than 300 bills landing on the Democratic governor’s desk, 80% of which received bipartisan support, according to Democratic House Speaker Laurie Jinkins. Democrats control the state House by a 58-40 margin and the Senate by 29-20.

The session was overshadowed by six initiatives, some of which would reverse some of Democrats’ biggest recent victories, including the year-old Climate Commitment Act, which aims to limit and reduce pollution. Three initiatives have been passed by lawmakers, while the others, including the carbon pricing program, will be considered by voters in November.

Here’s a look at the most important legislation passed this session — and some bills that didn’t make it.

CLIMATE CHANGE

At the start of the session, Inslee described climate as the biggest long-term issue he wanted to tackle over the next two months. Lawmakers had some success, including when it came to the carbon pricing program, which involves quarterly auctions in which emissions allowances are sold to companies covered by the law. The Legislature approved a bill that is expected to merge the state’s carbon market with those in California and Quebec, which also host emissions allowance auctions, in an effort to expand the market and make it more stable.

Meanwhile, an effort to expand the state’s recycling program failed early on. It would have shifted responsibility from local governments to the companies that produce the waste.

“We are the greenest state in the country and we should have a state-of-the-art recycling system in this state,” said Rep. Beth Doglio, chair of the House Environment & Energy Committee. She said they plan to try again next year.

HOUSING

Amid staggeringly high housing and rent prices, there were three major strategies lawmakers considered to address the problem, but only one made the cut.

A long-awaited bill that would prevent landlords from raising rents more than 7% annually over the life of a lease passed the House of Representatives but faced impenetrable hurdles in the Senate. Democratic Rep. Emily Alvarado, who sponsored the bill, said there was concern among some lawmakers about the impact it could have on new construction.

“It’s really unfortunate that people would put a hypothetical risk over a well-known and devastating problem for far too many Washingtonians, sky-high rents,” she said, adding that she will reintroduce the proposal next year.

Another bill that would require 10% of homes in new housing structures around transit hubs to be affordable to lower-income residents for at least 50 years suffered a similar fate. But the bipartisan effort to remove barriers to micro-apartment building passed the Legislature with near-unanimous support. The move is predicted to increase the supply of more affordable housing and will not require government subsidies.

OPIOIDS

As overdose deaths rise in Washington, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pushed to increase public awareness of the crisis and increase the availability of treatment options.

A bill requiring colleges and universities to educate students about opioids and make naloxone, the opioid overdose drug, widely available, easily passed both legislatures. And a proposed measure requiring the Department of Health to add an overdose prevention campaign received unanimous support.

Lawmakers also focused on the group most affected by the crisis: tribes. A bipartisan effort to provide nearly $8 million each year to Washington’s 29 federally recognized tribes to address the crisis has been met with enthusiastic support. The money comes in part from a roughly half-billion-dollar settlement between the state and major opioid distributors.

It is “a reflection and an acknowledgment of both the real challenges that tribes face in their communities and a reflection of the good work they are already doing and we should help them where we can,” said Republican Senator John Braun, the minority leader in that chamber who supported the bill.

Native Americans and Alaska Natives in Washington are dying from opioid overdoses at five times the state average, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that includes preliminary figures for 2021-2022.

POLICE

Lawmakers have made a number of changes to policing in Washington, including banning law enforcement tying up suspects, a technique that has long raised concerns because of the risk of suffocation. Despite some questions from Republicans about smaller jurisdictions that may not have the money to implement alternative restrictions, there was generally broad support.

“To pass that bill for the affected family, as it approaches the anniversary of Manny Ellis’ death, during Black History Month, to do this kind of bill, it just felt like a moment,” said Senator Yasmin Trudeau of the Democratic state. who sponsored the bill.

A conservative-backed initiative to give police more ability to chase people in vehicles also passed the Legislature just days before the session ended. But some have spoken out about the risk it could pose to public safety, amid hundreds of deaths from police chases in the US every year.

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