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Clock is ticking for Washington state Legislature to vote on critical issues

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Time is running out for the Washington state Legislature to pass bills on critical issues, including controversial gun control.

Bump stock ban approved

The bill to raise the age you have to be to buy an AR-15 or similar weapon to 21 and require enhanced background checks could come up for a floor vote in the Senate at any time.

The bill, which also includes several school safety programs, went through big changes before being voted out of committee last week. Lawmakers removed all references to shotguns, and dropped the term “tactical features,” making the new rules apply to all semi-automatic rifles.

It’s an issue for some Republicans, including Senator Keith Wagoner, who say the new version is worse than the original because, “instead of a limited category of semi-automatic weapons, the bill now targets all semi-automatic rifles. These are everyday, normal everyday hunting and target shooting rifles that millions of law-abiding citizens own and use in a responsible manner.”

Big wins in the Washington state Legislature

Elsewhere in the Legislature, there have been some big wins for women, the Me Too movement, and the LBGTQ community.

One of several bills that came about in the wake of the Me Too movement is officially headed to the governor’s desk. Senate Bill 5996 bars employers from requiring an employee to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevents the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault occurring in the workplace. It’s something many women, including Terri Lindeke, told lawmakers they had suffered multiple times over the years.

“It was unwanted, however, I had no tools to prevent it. And even though I was the victim I feared losing my job. I thought being an unmarried woman I would be off limits. No such luck. That it would not be from higher-ups in the organization. Wrong again.”

Two other bills that were part of a package that includes SB 5996 and aimed at creating protections against sexual harassment in the workplace are expected to come up for a vote this week. Senate Bill 6471 calls for the development of model policies to create workplaces safe from sexual harassment. And Senate Bill 6068 sheds light on repeat sexual harassers by removing barriers to lawsuits created by non-disclosure agreements.

The Legislature officially passed a ban on conversion therapy March 3. It prevents licensed therapists from trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation by deeming it “unprofessional conduct” to perform conversion therapy on a patient under the age of 18. Under the new law, if a therapist violates the law, they could face fines, license revocation or suspension.

Washington state Legislature tackles abortion

The Reproductive Parity Act — or, as critics call it, the abortion bill — also got final passage on Saturday. This bill requires all insurance plans in Washington that cover maternity care to also cover elective abortions and contraceptives without a co-pay. Democratic Senator Steve Hobbs has fought to pass this for years.

“No woman should have to seek or pay for an additional rider or co-pay or have any other means of delay or financial burden for this coverage,” he said. “The decision to have an abortion is a difficult, painful decision that is personal and one that only she should make.”

Uniform Parentage Act

The Uniform Parentage Act passed through the Legislature as well. The 55-page bill covers a lot of areas regarding parental rights and acknowledgment, but also allows for paid surrogacy, which critics say amounts to baby selling.

Stacey Manning told lawmakers it’s led to devastating consequences in other states, including a case where a two men had a son through surrogacy for the sole purpose of sexually abusing the child.

“This bill would create the same legal climate that exists in California where, in 2016, triplets born to a surrogate were commissioned by and currently are in the custody of a single, 50-year-old deaf-mute diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder, anxiety, and a history of cruelty to animals. These people would never have been permitted to adopt but this bill paves the way for anyone to purchase a child.”

Others say it will lead to low-income women thinking of this as a way to make money.

But Democratic Senator Jamie Pedersen says not allowing commercial surrogacy doesn’t stop it from happening.

“We’re not really stopping compensated surrogacy, we’re just ensuring that it happens in an environment that’s more expensive and is also less protective both of the intended parents and the women acting as surrogates and then ultimately of the children.”

Bill to abolish death penalty dies

We will also find out whether I-940, the initiative that makes it easier to prosecute police in use of deadly force cases and requires more training, is going to be approved as is by the Legislature or end up on the ballot. A public hearing is scheduled in the House Public Safety Committee March 6.

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