2021 Washington Legislature, Day 103 of 105
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OLYMPIA, April 23, 2021 — Good morning. It’s Friday and this is the penultimate edition of the Cornfield Report for the 2021 legislative session.
Here’s some unfinished business facing the 147 citizen legislators before Sunday’s finish of an unprecedented 105-day virtual session.
• Budget deals are done but negotiators of the Democrat-led House and Senate aren’t shaking hands for health and safety reasons. It will be Saturday before details of the operating budget can be read.
• Cap-and-trade (Senate Bill 5126) is creeping forward, its passage far from certain.
A bloc of progressive House Democrats is not enthralled with which polluters could be excluded from this carbon emission reduction effort. And they are insistent none of the revenue be spent on pavement projects and a lot be spent to provide “direct and meaningful benefits to vulnerable populations and overburdened communities.”
Meanwhile, several Democratic senators don’t like how the House de-coupled this bill from passage of a transportation package. And a few are not happy to see a provision added requiring adoption of a low-carbon fuel standard by the end of 2027.
• Sidebar: If separate legislation for a low-carbon fuel standard and a multi-year, multibillion-dollar transportation package are dead, it means no boost in state dollars for maintaining existing highways and bridges or new dough for replacing the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River. The other Washington could solve some of the problem. It’s destined to be an issue in the 2022 election.
• A legislative response (SB 5476) to the Blake decision looks on track. House Democrats are willing to make simple drug possession a misdemeanor and accelerate access to treatment services for offenders and those with substance-use disorders. A Senate majority of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans passed a different version. It will likely be a different — and more Democratic — majority that passes the final rendition.
• Capital gains tax will cross the finish line. Will Senate Bill 5096 contain a version of an emergency clause? Probably not. It’s no secret Senate Democratic leaders dropped the emergency clause to secure a 25th vote in their caucus for passage. House Democrats know that, too. Still they put one in. The Senate voted Thursday to not concur with what the House passed. “We’ll negotiate to the end,” a House leader told me Thursday. “It may be something we have to recede on. Ultimately, we need the votes.”
When will things happen? Majority Democrats in the House are penciling in floor votes on cap-and-trade today, Blake response and operating budget bills Saturday and the capital and transportation spending plans Sunday.
Their Senate counterparts will likely wait until Sunday to tackle the operating budget. The bill is due out Saturday morning, and Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, has said at least 24 hours will pass before a vote is taken.
Tactics and tear gas
In the future, a politician will decide if tear gas is used to quell a civil disturbance. Mayors, county executives or the governor would have to give their approval before law enforcement could use tear gas to quell riots under new language added to House Bill 1054 by House and Senate conferees.
On a related bill dealing with use of force by police, conferees agreed on essentially the version passed by the Senate. Among the provisions is one covering approaches to de-escalating situations, including leaving an area if there is no imminent threat and no crime has been or is about to be committed.
Non-profit TVW covers state government in Olympia and selected events statewide. Programs are available for replay on the internet, and the channel is widely available on Washington cable systems.
Beat reporters: Jerry Cornfield (Herald) | Rachel La Corte (AP) | Joseph O’Sullivan (Times) | Jim Brunner (Times) | Austin Jenkins (NW News Network) | Melissa Santos (Crosscut) | Sara Gentzler (McClatchy) | Laurel Demkovich (Spokesman-Review) | Jim Camden (Spokesman-Review)