Legislators get extra time for bills to aid vets and homeless
State legislators give themselves more time to decide on in-state tuition for out-of-state veterans and real-estate fees to help homeless residents.
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
OLYMPIA — State Senate and House leaders announced Friday afternoon that two priority pieces of legislation will not be subject to normal cutoff rules this session.
Lawmakers will have another six days to decide on bills to give in-state tuition to out-of-state veterans and to maintain an existing real-estate-document fee to help homeless residents.
Rules state that nonbudget-related bills were supposed to pass through each chamber by 5 p.m. Friday. The end of the session, called sine die, is scheduled for Thursday.
“House and Senate leadership is in agreement that these issues are not subject to today’s cutoff, and we look forward to delivering this important legislation to the governor before sine die,” wrote Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.
The veterans tuition bill has won the backing of Gov. Jay Inslee and every single state lawmaker but was still in jeopardy of not passing.
The problem, say leaders in the Republican-run Senate and Democrat-led House, is that the two parties disagree on which chamber should get credit for the politically popular proposal.
But one of the chambers has to pass the other’s bill for it to go to the governor for final approval, and each house thinks its version should be officially entered into the history books as law.
Lawmakers said on Thursday they were determined to find a way to pass the measure, and Friday’s exemption from the cutoff gives them six more days to find it.
On the bill to help homeless residents, there was growing pressure on the GOP-led Senate Friday to act on the bill.
Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard and chairwoman of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee, abruptly adjourned a hearing last month before committee members could vote on House Bill 2368, which would extend a temporary surcharge of real-estate documents that’s used to fund homeless-housing services.
Real-estate groups testified in opposition to the bill at the hearing.
Angel, a former real-estate agent, sent a letter to Inslee this week calling for a task force and a summit to study options to fund the homeless services.
Inslee called instead for action in a letter addressed to Tom, a Democrat who leads the mostly Republican Senate majority.
“In my view, we do not need a summit. We do not need a task force,” Inslee’s letter says. “We need action from Senate leadership to move a bill to my desk for signature.”
Right now, the state collects a $40 fee for recording real-estate documents. It’s a temporary provision of the Homeless Housing and Assistance Act. Since 2005, the act has directed a statewide program aimed at reducing homelessness by 50 percent by 2015.
The state Department of Commerce developed the program and reports a 29 percent decrease in homelessness since 2006.
Without the bill, the fee would decrease to $30 in 2015 and $10 in 2017.
The state Department of Commerce expects the fee will generate about $109 million between 2013 and 2015.
Dan McConnon, department deputy director, said if lawmakers allow the fee to decrease, the amount would shrink to about $41 million between 2015 and 2017.
Rep. David Sawyer, Tacoma Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, told advocates from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance on Thursday that lawmakers will not end the session before the bill is passed. He did not say how.
Ashley Stewart: 360-236-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @ashannstew.