Washington Lawmakers Approve Flurry Of Bills Friday To Beat Cutoff Date

Feb 7, 2020

Petrified wood would get an official change in status under a bill approved by a Washington House committee Friday.
Credit Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington legislators marked an important deadline day today [Friday]. Bills must have passed out of their initial committees or else they’re eliminated from consideration for the session.

Not all of the bills introduced have big, sweeping ramifications, such as this year’s proposal to officially eliminate the death penalty in Washington.

Most bills are smaller in scope.

For example, one bill approved Friday would stop schools and universities from prohibiting Native American students from wearing their traditional celebratory clothing and items during graduation and other important school events.

Western Washington University student Sienna Reed, an Alaska Native, testified for the bill at a hearing on Wednesday.

“To many Native people, tribal regalia is a form of resilience and resistance. It honors our people and ancestors who have traditionally had to repress their cultural heritages," Reed said. "Native students have the highest school dropout rates in the country, so graduation is a huge reason to celebrate. This bill would allow us to celebrate in our own ways and help repair the relationship between indigenous people and the educational system.”

Every year, legislators consider a bill or bills asking them to designate this or that as the official state something or other. One of this year’s versions is a three-in-one. It changes the official status of petrified wood from the official state gem to the state vegetative fossil. It makes the Ellensburg blue agate as the new official state gem, something that pleases Rep. Keith Goehner (R-Dryden).

“Designating that as the official state gem not only draws attention to the uniqueness of that gem within the state, but it really highlights something in the center of the state that we can embrace, and also the fact that the Columbian mammoth is finally getting recognition as the official state vertebrate fossil. It’s been lost in history," Goehner said.

Both of those bills will join others approved Friday in being routed to the House floor.