Is Washington State Ready to End Title-Only Bills?
Could the 2023 Legislative Session be the one that puts an end to the use of Title-Only Bills? Maybe, but no promises. For those that aren't familiar with Title-Only bills, they are a way to end around the deadline for the submission of legislation by introduction a bill with a number and a title, no text in the body at all.
Then why do Title-Only Bills?
Title-Only Bills act as a way to blur transparency laws established in the State Constitution particularly during the last week and a half of the current session. Sen. Jamie Pederson D-Puyallup and Sen. Shelly Short R-Addy have co sponsored, in a bi-partisan manner, Senate Resolution 8601.
If passed, it would permanently ban the introduction of Title-Only Bills in the State Senate.
How Big of A Problem Is It?
Anything that impedes transparency between Government and the people is a problem. the State Constitution actually protects transparency in Article 2 Section 36. It reads "“No bill shall be considered in either house unless the time of its introduction shall have been at least ten days before the final adjournment of the legislature, unless the legislature shall otherwise direct by a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, said vote to be taken by yeas and nays and entered upon the journal, or unless the same be at a special session.”
A great tool to see how many Title-Only Bills have been introduced is the Detailed Legislative Reports. You can then go in and look by session at what Title-Only Bills were submitted. It cooled off after the controversial Bank tax was passed in 2019 and the practice was challenged via lawsuit by former State Attorney general Rob McKenna and the Washington Bankers Association. In 2021-2022 only two Title-Only Bills were introduced, both to ban the practice, but before then...
In 2019-2020 Twenty-Nine (29) Title-Only Bills were introduced in both chambers. In 2017-2018 Seventy (70) Title-Only Bills were introduced. In 2015-2016 the number was Seventy-Nine (79) Title-Only Bills.
Since the Bank Tax Bill (HB 2167) a number of editorial boards around the State came out against the practice and called for it's end...and it's end is long overdue. Curiously enough, the House does not, at the time of this writing, have a rules proposal in their chamber to end the practice.
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