File Them Away

The Wackiest Bills at Washington's Legislative Session

A gubernatorial electoral college, zipper merging, a state's all (technically) up for debate in Olympia this year.

By Benjamin Cassidy January 28, 2022

Bills, bills, bills, Bills. More than 2,500 of them have been submitted during Washington's 2021–2022 legislative cycle. Some have already become law. Others won't make it through the Byzantine process intact. And many still will never even begin that fitful political journey.

Which, in some cases, is a very good thing. Combing through hundreds of these documents reveals many vital tweaks to state governance—but also some truly wacky ideas.

Splitting Washington into Two States

You may have heard about this one. Last year, some Republican state lawmakers introduced a bill that calls for the creation of "Liberty," a separate state on the other side of the Cascades. It would span from the eastern part of that mountain range (from the western borders of Okanogan, Chelan, Kittitas, Yakima, and Klickitat counties, technically) to Washington's current eastern edge.

The concept of secession in this politically polarized corner of the country is nothing new. A whole website, and "movement," is devoted to it. "The Mission is to break free from the chains of Olympia and the tyranny of Western Washington legislature," the site states. "The list of grievances against Eastern Washington is long and well documented."

Not sure we're the dependent ones in this relationship, or that we should be spending even a second on this, but okay. If we're going to split up, you can have the Uncle Sam sign. We'll take the Methow Valley (and maybe Walla Walla, too).

Instituting a Gubernatorial Electoral College

In other ways that Republicans are trying to upset the lefty side of the state, Rep. Brad Klippert and Rep. Jenny Graham sponsored a bill that would create an Electoral College–like system for electing the state governor. (Because everyone's been so happy with how that process is working nationally.) Instead of a straight-up popular vote that tilts political influence west, each county would be assigned a number of electoral votes based on the method of equal proportions used to assign seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. There would be 147 county votes allocated and, if the legislation's legalese is any indication, many ballot recounts.

Inaugurating a State Dinosaur

This one actually made it pretty far last year before stalling in the Rules Committee. House Bill 1067 seeks to designate the Suciasaurus rex as the state's "official dinosaur." Dare I say the legislation is a compelling read?

"In May 2012, paleontologists discovered a portion of a left femur of a therapod dinosaur at Sucia Island State Park in the San Juan Islands. Therapods are bipedal carnivorous dinosaurs that include tyrannosaurus and velociraptor. While scientists are unsure exactly what type of therapod the fossil belongs to, evidence suggests it may be a species similar to daspletosaurus. The dinosaur has been nicknamed Suciasaurus rex."

As of the bill's writing, it's the first and only dinosaur fossil found in Washington. Fascinating stuff, and nothing against the dinosaurs, but is this (or an official state sport and nickname) the best use of multiple lawmakers' time amid multiple crises? Probably not.

Educating Drivers on Zipper Merging

Look, it's a noble idea. The bipartisan coalition behind House Bill 1231 wants to mandate traffic merging education and testing. They're specifically pushing the "late merger zipper method," which "consists of drivers using both lanes of traffic until reaching the defined merge area and then alternating in 'zipper' fashion into the single lane." If you're unfamiliar, letting someone into your lane too soon might be costing us all time (and hurting the environment). Merging is one situation where procrastination helps.

So ingraining this concept in new drivers' heads makes sense. The bill may even pass this year.

But that doesn't mean it will make any difference. Public testimony suggests that while many people know what zipper merging is, "younger drivers typically do not know how to do it." To which some might say: just younger?

As anyone who's taken the wheel in this state knows, we are hardly a unified group of savvy drivers. With transplants moving here by the minute, aggressive Northeasterners swerve into lanes shared by no-you-go Midwesterners (and all the various grades of road behavior in between).

Sure, suggesting Washington drivers can execute successful zipper merges on the regular isn't as wild as splitting us into separate states. But it might be just as unrealistic.

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