Two Senate bills heard in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee this morning died almost immediately after the hearing, victims of retaliatory moves between the House and Senate. One measure dealt with the administrative home-assignment of workers and had passed the Senate 49-to-0. Another sought to limit voters’ ability to print out replacement ballots.
Rep. Sam Hunt, the Olympia Democrat who chairs the panel, adjourned the hearing and said later there would be no more gatherings of his committee before Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline for passing legislation from the opposite chamber.
The bill killing came a day after the Senate Health Care Committee heard a bill requiring insurance plans to cover abortion if they also cover maternity – and Republican Sen. Randi Becker then adjourned the meeting quickly without a vote, killing the measure. Hunt said Republican Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn had also killed numerous House-passed elections bills as chair of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee.
Among the casualties in Roach’s committee was a bill to require that county auditors place ballot drop boxes on college campuses and another to let 16 and 17-year-olds preregister to vote when they get driver licenses.
“You notice the Senate has canceled its last two meetings and is not considering our bills? So I didn’t figure we needed to consider all of their bills,” Hunt said.
Sen. Roach and Republican Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver, who had sponsored a bill to limit stateside voters’ ability to print out replacement ballots, both cried foul.
“That’s the reason? It doesn’t have anything to do with the content of the legislation?” Benton asked, adding: “We’re not registering 16 year olds to vote. We’re not doing that. The auditors universally hate that bill … By the time they turn 18 half those addresses would be bad. It’s a bad idea. That’s what he probably though of mine, too.”
“I would hope that legislators could rise above that kind of pettiness. Don’t you? I mean, gee whiz,” Benton said.
Roach claimed Hunt was ““he’s mad that I canceled a meeting with him yesterday morning. He drives 5 miles to work; I drive 50 miles to work. I had my aide call and say I didn’t think I’d be there on time.”
“I don’t play these games. I’ve got bills in front of me and if they are good policy I pass them on. That’s what I expect from Rep. Hunt. He likes to play political games and I don’t,’’ Roach declared. “I don’t understand where he’s coming from. We either like the bill or we don’t. Is he like trying to punish people for not liking bills that he happens to like?’’
The administrative home-assignment bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry of Moses Lake. It provides additional guidance on home-assignments than what former governor Chris Gregoire provided by executive order in 2011.
Hunt suggested that executive order was enough. “(S)ince it’s already administrative procedure I think they’ve probably already taken care of it. We can take a look next year if it’s not working,’’ he said.
As for Benton’s Senate Bill 5500, which sought to bar stateside voters from using replacement ballots printed-out from elections sites, Hunt said it was a “bad bill” that had opposition even from Republicans on his committee.
Despite the retaliatory actions, the committee did vote 9-to-2 to pass Senate Bill 5577, which is sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood. It tightens up state ethics law and makes it a violation for a supervisor to knowingly acquiesce to a violation by a subordinate. Carrell sponsored the measure out of frustration with the way the Department of Corrections’ leaders were handling misconduct by a manager. The bill also provides protection of the identity of state workers who blow the whistle on misconduct and establishes a $5,000 civil penalty for retaliation or reprisals.
UPDATE: Hunt’s committee is having another hearing after all. It’ll be at 2:30 p.m Wednesday and only one bill is officially up for consideration, SB 5748, which proposes to extend state campaign contribution limits to candidates running for seats on public hospital district commissions. But Holmquist-Newbry’s home-assignment bill could get a second shot, according to Hunt.
“It was my idea—no pressure from leadership or others. Just trying to get along,” Hunt said.
Roach says her committee has had its last hearings.