OLYMPIA, Wash. - With time running out before a key legislative deadline, lawmakers in the Washington State Senate suspended the rules, and voted to pass a bill loosening the restrictions on when law enforcement officers can chase someone in a vehicle. Proposals had to be passed "out of chamber" before 5:00 on Wednesday, March 8. That means House lawmakers had to pass bills on to the Senate, and the Senate had to pass their bills on to the House, or else work on the proposal would end for the 2023 session.
House lawmakers have been working for weeks on a proposal to change the limits on when law enforcement officers can begin a chase. Part of that process involved hearing from stakeholders and concerned citizens to make sure that the final bill, if it becomes law, would be as balanced as possible. The updated version of House Bill 1363 included some significant changes to reflect what lawmakers heard during committee hearings, including a two-year limit on the changes. But House Bill 1363 did not make it to a final vote before Wednesday's deadline.
Instead, lawmakers in the state Senate opted to take up their "companion bill," SB 5352. Instead of weeks of committee hearings and opportunity for testimony, lawmakers went straight to voting on the Senate floor. The bill passed on a very narrow majority - 26 to 23 - just in time to beat the deadline, and now moves to the House for more consideration.
Lawmakers have also advanced a controversial gun control proposal. House Bill 1143 has gone through several revisions already. Much like the voter-approved Oregon law, this proposal would require Washington residents to obtain a permit before they're allowed to buy a gun. Getting that permit would require training, a completed background check, and a 10-day waiting period. Advocates say the changes would be an extra layer of protection to make sure that guns stay out of the hands of people who should not have them. But opponents have said that you should not be required to get a permit before you can exercise your constitutional rights.
House lawmakers continued working well past the 5:00 deadline to decide on House Bill 1240, which is a proposal to ban certain types of firearm in the state of Washington. Advocates say so-called "assault weapons" are not necessary, and that they make it too easy to injure or kill a large number of people in a short period of time. Opponents say that the bill is far too broad, and would ban so many guns that it amounts to unconstitutionally limiting your right to bear arms.
The next major deadline for the legislature is coming up on April 12th, when lawmakers will have to pass the bills sent to them ahead of the March 8th deadline. The legislature is scheduled to wrap up its work for the year on April 23rd.
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