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WashingtonVotes NEWS:Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Republican state representative resigns. Lawmakers focus on committee action as first cut-off deadline looms

State Rep. Graham Hunt (R-Orting) resigned on Tuesday amid mounting allegations that he exaggerated his military record and lied about being wounded in combat. His resignation, effective immediately, leaves a vacancy in the Second Legislative District. Until it is filled, Republicans will have one less vote in the closely divided state House of Representatives (50 Democrats-48 Republicans). In accordance with state law, Republican party officials will select a pool of three candidates, and Pierce County Council members and Thurston County commissioners will jointly make the decision on the appointment of a new representative.

The first deadline for legislative action this session comes on Friday, February 5, the last day policy committees can pass bills out of committee in their chamber of origin.

On Monday, the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee considered SB 6087, to raise the state minimum wage to $12 per hour over the next four years. The prime sponsor of the bill, Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) said the bill offers a better alternative than a potential statewide ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage to $13.50 over four years.

Washington’s current state minimum wage is $9.47 per hour, among the highest in the nation, but some local governments, have imposed minimum wages as high as $15 per hour.

The committee also considered SB 6578, which would prevent local cities, towns and port districts from regulating wages. A spokesperson for the Washington Restaurant Association told committee members: “Today we have five minimum wages in the state, four different paid sick leave policies, all with conflicting and sometimes confusing regulatory and recording standards. We truly believe that this body is a place to resolve that issue.” Committee action on SB 6578 is scheduled for later this week.

Also scheduled for a hearing this week by the House Committee on Public Safety is a bill which would make it easier to bring criminal charges against law enforcement officers over the use of deadly force. HB 2907, sponsored by Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-Bothell) and 11 other House Democrats, would remove language in existing state law that prevents prosecution of police officers for using deadly force, as long as they acted in good faith and without malice. In addition to striking the good-faith wording, the bill would also eliminate language that outlines scenarios in which officers may use deadly force. Instead, it would require an officer to “reasonably believe that there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury to the officer or a third party, and that lethal action is necessary to prevent it.” The bill does not address what would constitute a “reasonable” or “imminent threat.”

Late last week, the Government Operations and Security Committee sent Senate Joint Resolution 8211, a proposed constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote for tax increases by the Legislature, to the full Senate. The bill was passed by the committee on a 4-3 vote and was referred to the Senate Rules Committee, which schedules bills for action on the Senate floor. The measure is supported by all members of the Majority Caucus, but it requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to pass. House Republicans also have introduced a version of the proposed amendment, but an effort to move it directly to the House floor for action failed last week.

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2015 Senate Bill 5989
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  2016 Senate Bill 6216
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