Stronger Families. Stronger Communities. Stronger Washington

Ghost Bills: End the Practice.
Author: peterabbarno
February 16, 2020

Legislative attempts to end the practice of title-only bills died in Legislature without even public hearings. Title-only bills contain a title or intent statement—but no content. Legislators amend the bills with text later, often when it is too late for the public to review or comment.

Title-Only or Ghost Bills don’t hold the Legislature accountable to the taxpayers!

Legislation to end title-only bills ‘died’ in the Legislature and became ‘ghosts’ themselves. Open and transparent government should be the hallmark of our legislative process in Olympia. ‘Title Only’ bills are the opposite of open and transparent and, last year, were introduced to advance a very unpopular high-tax big-government agenda. I support efforts to make the legislative process more open and transparent.

Peter Abbarno, candidate for State House in the 20th Legislative District, business owner, attorney, and Centralia Mayor Pro Tem

Legislation to address this concerning practice included: HB 2190: Increasing legislative transparency, SB 6042: Prohibiting the use of title-only bills, and SJR 8214: Amending the Constitution to prohibit title-only bills. None of the bills will be addressed by the Legislature in 2020.

Ghost Bills or Title-Only Bills are used to increase taxes!

During the 2019 session, legislators introduced 26 title-only bills. Two were for controversial tax increases—including one which affects out-of-state banks that was challenged in King County Superior Court.

The Court, in its ruling last week, dismissed the title-only bill challenge to HB 2167 (bank tax), siding with Attorney General that lawmakers’ use of blank bills to bypass Article 2, Section 36 of the state constitution (When Bills Must Be Introduced) is not reviewable (then what is?).

Although new legislation may not be introduced less than 10 days before the end of a legislative session, bills introduced before the 10-day deadline may be amended. This constitutional loophole allows legislators to introduce bills with a title only and no text, amending them later with content and details. Title-only bills are often hurried through the legislative process during the final days or hours of the session, giving legislators and the public little time for review and deliberation.

Washingtonians deserve good government and good government dictates that legislation should be transparent and open to the public. The voters of Washington state must have an opportunity to access and comment on legislation before it’s voted on by the Legislature. This is an unfair practice that must end.

Peter Abbarno, Candidate for State House in the 20th Legislative District, business owner, attorney, and Centralia Mayor Pro Tem

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