WashingtonVotes NEWS: Friday, February 26, 2021 Bills on election security and second amendment rights garner extended debate in lengthy floor sessions this week.
Bills on election security and second amendment rights garner extended debate in lengthy floor sessions this week.
State lawmakers this week began what appears to be extended floor debates and votes ahead of the next cut-off deadline for legislative action this session. March 9th is the last day for bills to pass out of their house of origin, except for budget related measures. This year’s 105-day legislative session is scheduled to end on April 25, 2021.
Most bills scheduled for action by the full House and Senate during the early part of the session were not controversial and passed with bipartisan majorities. A number of issues, however, drew extended debate during lengthy floor sessions in both chambers this week, passing by narrow vote margins along mostly partisan lines.
A bill to exempt certain election security information from public records disclosures, HB 1068, passed the House on Wednesday by a 61-37 vote. The bill would keep some election security information from public records disclosure, by exempting information, such as continuity of operations plans for elections and security audits, from the state’s Public Records Act.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Laurie Dolan (D-Olympia), election security information and contingency plans should not be available to people who might want to harm elections. “We need to secure our elections from bad actors in order to have trustworthy results,” she said.
Opponents of the bill said they were concerned about exempting important election security information from public disclosure. Rep. Vicki Kraft (R-Vancouver) said, “with this bill, the state is moving away from transparency and the public won’t have as much trust in its government.”
Other Republicans agreed, including Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen), who said that this bill offers a “false sense of security, which can be the biggest risk of all.”
The bill was sent to the Senate State Government and Elections Committee for further consideration.
Late Thursday evening, the Senate passed SB 5038, to ban open-carry of weapons within 250 feet of permitted public demonstrations and at the state capitol. Current Washington law affirms citizen rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to openly carry firearms, except in certain locations such as courthouses and jails.
During the lengthy floor debate on the bill, Democrats said the bill would not infringe on those rights, because it only adds the Capitol to the list of places where open-carry of firearms is prohibited.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue) said “What you need when you come to the Capitol is your voice. What you don’t need is a weapon.”
Republicans, on the other hand, argued that it would take away legal gun owners’ ability to protect themselves if they feel unsafe at or near a public demonstration. “You become the criminal because you know how to protect yourself,” said Sen. Shelly Short (R-Addy). Some lawmakers also had concerns that the language in the bill was too vague.
The bill passed by a mostly partisan 28-20 vote. All Republicans present and one Democrat, Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Mason County) voted against the bill. Sen. Ericksen (R-Ferndale) was excused.
The bill is now headed to the House for further consideration.
WashingtonVotes.org is a free service provided by Washington Policy Center and is the go-to tracking tool to keep up with all the action in Olympia, especially during this mostly virtual session. Please check in often and follow us on Facebook and Twitter at #waleg.