WA Senate - Session - Evening
(February 18, 2020) - Summary

On Tuesday, Senators passed three cannabis-related bills late in the evening on the day before the house of origin cutoff: SB 6057, SB 6206, and SB 5867. All proceed to the House.

Here are some observations from the Tuesday February 18th Washington State Senate (WA Senate) Evening Session.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Late on Tuesday night---the day before the house of origin cutoff---senators passed three cannabis-related bills over the course of a three hour session. First up was SB 6057 - “Concerning price differentials in the sale of marijuana.”
    • Following a public hearing on January 23rd and passage by the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee (WA Senate LBRC) on January 28th, the bill was sent to the Senate Rules Committee (WA Senate RULE) where it was placed on the white sheet, an aggregate list of bills received from policy and fiscal committees. The Senate Civic Education Program “Guide to Lawmaking” (p. 19) provides a description of the system of “pulls” WA Senate RULE members and their counterparts in the House Rules Committee (WA House RUL) utilize to ensure some bills are heard by their respective chambers while others are not:
      • Rules is a powerful committee and is often referred to as “The Gatekeeper.” Bills are sent to Rules from fiscal or policy committees and are typically first placed on the white sheet in the Senate and on the review calendar in the House. At each Rules Committee meeting, members are allowed to move or “pull” a predetermined number of bills from the Senate white sheet to the green sheet or from the House review calendar to the consideration calendar. These moves are called pulls. Bills are generally pulled from one sheet to another without debate and the bills are then eligible to go to the floor at the next meeting.
      • Members are also given a predetermined number of pulls from the green sheet to the Senate floor calendar or from the consideration calendar to the House floor calendar. (Some debate may occur at this time.) The number of pulls allocated to Rules Committee members is determined by leadership before each meeting. Once a member has selected the bill he/ she wants to pull, the entire committee votes whether it will move on to the floor calendar. If a bill fails this vote, it then goes back to the white sheet in the Senate or the rules review calendar in the House and the member loses their pull.
    • On February 17th, WA Senate RULE Vice Chair Karen Keiser used her member pull to request SB 6057 be moved from the green sheet to the Senate floor calendar and committee members concurred.
    • On February 18th, the bill was added to an order of consideration, a list of measures anticipated to be acted upon by the Senate on a particular day. The order of consideration containing SB 6057 was queued shortly after the start of the evening session.
    • Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, acting in his role as President of the Senate, presided over the evening session. He instructed the acting Secretary of the Senate to read SB 6057 and almost immediately asked for the “last line” of the bill, a procedural shortcut. Senator Derek Stanford, the legislation’s Democratic sponsor, made a motion “that the rules be suspended” and the bill advanced to 3rd reading without amendments. Habib briskly repeated the motion and said “hearing no objections, so ordered” (audio - 1m, video).
    • During 3rd reading, senators testify for or against a bill's passage prior to a voice vote. Stanford offered remarks on his bill, saying that “offering volume discounts is standard practice for most businesses. It allows them to seek efficiencies in their production and distribution and ultimately consumers benefit.” He called for allowing cannabis producers the privilege “to seek these efficiencies as well” (audio - <1m, video).
      • Senator Curtis King, a Republican co-sponsor of the bill, concurred with Stanford’s remarks and asked “the body for their support” (audio - <1m, video).
    • Following a roll call vote, the acting Secretary reported that “there are 36 yea, 12 nay, one excused.” Habib acknowledged SB 6057’s “constitutional majority” and said the bill was “declared passed” by the Senate. The bill moved to the House for a 1st reading by the Chief Clerk before the Speaker assigns it to a policy committee, likely the House Commerce and Gaming Committee (WA House COG) (audio - <1m, video).
  • Next, senators turned their attention to SB 6206 - “Creating a certificate of compliance for marijuana business premises that meet the statutory qualifications at the time of application.”
    • This legislation was first mentioned at the December 2019 Cannabis Advisory Council (CAC) meeting by Washington CannaBusiness Association (WACA) Executive Director and Lobbyist Vicki Christophersen as one of the organization’s 2020 legislative goals. WSLCB Director of Legislative Relations Chris Thompson last publicly discussed SB 6206 on February 12th.
    • Following a public hearing on February 3rd and passage by WA Senate LBRC on February 4th, the bill was sent to WA Senate RULE. Committee member and bill sponsor Senator Ann Rivers used one of her member pulls to call for a vote to move SB 6206 to the Senate floor on February 11th. It was added to a Senate order of consideration on February 18th.
    • Rivers, the Senate Republican Whip, asked that the substitute version of SB 6206 be adopted and presented for 2nd reading. Hearing no objections, Habib ordered the move. The acting Secretary read the bill after which Rivers moved that the rules be suspended and SB 6206’s 2nd reading be treated as its 3rd. As no senator objected, Habib approved the motion and opened the floor to comments (audio - 1m, video).
    • Rivers reminded her colleagues that “when we passed all the marijuana regulation, now some six years ago, that we passed” RCW 69.50.331(8) establishing “1,000 feet” as a minimum buffer between cannabis businesses and “a church, or a child care agency, or a school.” However, “now it has become common practice for competitors to prevent other businesses from entering into a place by throwing up a, a storefront if you will, for a child care center or some other type of premise that prevents someone from actually opening a store that they have been going through the permitting for.” River added that “a cannabis store owner may spend millions of dollars to open a business only to have it shut down at the very last second” due to a new business in the proximity which prohibits its placement. She said that her bill “orders that the Liquor and Cannabis Board must issue a certificate of compliance” if the premises on a cannabis application meets “statutory distance requirements at the time of application.” The licensee would be allowed to operate regardless of the siting of any disqualifying institutions within 1,000 feet of their premises. Rivers urged senators to support the measure (audio - 2m, video).
      • A similar story about “nefarious activities in the marijuana licensing” was shared by WA Senate LBRC Senior Staff Counsel Richard Rodger just prior to the passage of SB 6206 out of its policy committee (video - 2m).
      • Senate President Pro Tempore Karen Keiser, a Democrat, said the majority caucus concurred with River’s remarks (audio - <1m, video).
    • Following a roll call vote, the Secretary reported that “there are 40 yea, 8 nay, one excused” leading Habib to acknowledge SB 6057’s constitutional majority before declaring the bill had passed the Senate. The bill moved to the House for a 1st reading by the Chief Clerk before the Speaker assigns it to a policy committee, likely WA House COG (audio - <1m, video).
  • Later in the evening, senators passed SB 5867 - “Resentencing of persons convicted of drug offenses.”
    • Following a public hearing on the bill on January 30th and passage of a substitute version by the Senate Law and Justice Committee (WA Senate LAW) on February 6th, the bill was sent to WA Senate RULE which placed the bill on 2nd reading February 17th as part of a “package pull” whereby multiple bills are moved together. The following day, the bill was added to a senate order of consideration for its 2nd reading.
    • Senator Hans Zeiger moved that the Senate adopt the substitute version of the bill for 2nd reading which was ordered without objection. The acting Secretary proceeded to read the bill followed by Zeiger asking to suspend the rules and move SB 5867 to its 3rd reading and final passage which was approved by Habib (audio - 1m, video).
    • Zeiger, the Republican prime sponsor, commented that the legislation pertained to “a very small group of people who are incarcerated” and had been incarcerated before the legislature adopted revised sentencing guidelines in 2002. “People who committed drug-related offenses prior to July 1st, 2004 who are still incarcerated” under the outdated guidelines would be entitled to “a resentencing hearing,” Zeiger said. The bill included “thoughtful exemptions” for some “serious” or violent offenses. Asking for passage, he called SB 5867 “the right thing to do” and credited constituents who brought the issue to him (audio - 1m, video).
      • Senator Jamie Pedersen said the majority caucus concurred with Zeiger’s remarks (audio - <1m, video).
    • Following a roll call vote that the acting Secretary reported resulted in “47 yea, two excused,” Habib acknowledged SB 5867’s constitutional majority and declared the bill had passed the Senate. The bill moved to the House for a 1st reading, and at publication time had been tentatively scheduled for a public hearing in the House Public Safety Committee (WA House PS) on February 25th and executive session on February 27th (audio - <1m, video).