Walsh prefiles two legislature operation reform bills

Aberdeen, WA – Rep. Jim Walsh has prefiled two House bills that would reform how the Washington State Legislature operates.

According to the 19th District lawmaker, these bills add more transparency and accountability to how the Legislature develops the rules by which it conducts business.

“Our state is suffering a constitutional crisis. The state government has done things that violate the letter and spirit of both the federal and state constitutions. While the biggest of these mistakes have been made by another branch of government, we in the Legislature need to improve and strengthen how we do business,” said Walsh, R-Aberdeen.

House Bill 1695, entitled “Reforming the means by which the Legislature establishes operating procedures,” states its policy goals clearly by acknowledging the following:

  • The timeless truth articulated by James Otis’ great American axiom that taxation without representation is tyranny;
  • That limiting some legislators’ access to capitol buildings, facilities, and resources creates a constitutional inequality that impairs representation for millions of Washingtonians;
  • The people of Washington have expressed frustration with this impairment and, more generally, a lack of transparency surrounding many actions of their state government;
  • Segregating the people’s legislative representatives effectively segregates the people. And that such segregation violates the spirit and letter of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which stated clearly that separate is not equal; and
  • All branches of Washington’s state government must operate within the guarantee clause of the United States Constitution, Article IV, section 4, which promises all people in the United States a republican form of government.

Walsh’s bill would add two new sections to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) chapter 44.04. The first new section states that all “meetings of the Executive Rules Committee in the House of Representatives and the Facilities and Operations Committee in the Senate, or their successor committees, must be open to the public.”

The second new section states that “No operating rule of the House of Representatives or Senate can segregate, discriminate against, or offer privileged status to legislators on the basis of medical status, including vaccination or antibody status.”

According to Walsh’s proposal, while any such segregation, discrimination, or privileged status is in effect, the operations of the Legislature would be suspended and no legislative action could occur – unless necessary to resolve violations of the standards outlined in the bill.

House Bill 1696, entitled “Concerning access to legislative facilities on the Capitol campus,” is even more narrowly focused. The bill states simply that:

“No legislative member of the House of Representatives or the Senate may be prohibited from accessing the Legislative Building, including the House and Senate floors, the Irving R. Newhouse Building, the John A. Cherberg Building, and the John L. O’Brien Building, except for offices and other areas that are assigned to other members and staff or areas that require a reservation that the member has not made.”

Walsh says his bills make necessary improvements to how the Legislature works for the people of Washington.

“We need to serve the people of this state more transparently, more equitably, and more effectively. House Bill 1695 and House Bill 1696 will make sure that we do,” concluded Walsh.

The 2022 legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 10.