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It's make-or-break time in Olympia 

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A flurry of snowstorm-related cancellations last week forced the Legislature to pack its key hearings into fewer days, making it all the trickier for little-noticed bills to survive. After all, most bills don't get voted down. They don't get a chance at life in the first place.

This Friday, the Washington state Legislature undergoes the first big culling of the legislative session: the policy bill cutoff. Any bill that doesn't have a financial component and hasn't passed out of the House or Senate by Feb. 22 is dead.

Some of the most controversial bills, like the bill restricting "booth rentals" for salons and barber shops, look in trouble — though Republicans warn you can't yet count similarly restrictive bills out. Similarly, Sen. Majority Leader Andy Billig says the Legislature's latest attempt at a public records bill — heavily criticized by media for still giving legislators public record exemptions — appears to be dead as well.

And — no surprise — it doesn't look like Rep. Matt Shea's bill to split Washington state into two, with the eastern half called "Liberty," is going anywhere. That's despite having an osprey-festooned flag and everything.

A bill to ban plastic bags in the state passed out of the Senate in January. So did a bill to move up Washington's presidential primary to the week after "Super Tuesday." Last week, the Senate passed a bill to ban "fracking," the seismically problematic natural gas extraction technique.

Billig's bill that would try to reduce oil train explosions by banning the unloading of high-pressure oil trains hasn't passed out of the Senate yet, but has made it to the Rules Committee, surviving the impending cutoff.

"It's still moving," Billig says. Similarly, the bill to supervise property offenders, long desired by Spokane, has moved forward.

If you want to easily track how your legislator voted on each bill — and which votes they defied the majority of their party on — check out washingtonvotes.org.

The original print version of this article was headlined "The Winnowing"

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