2021 Washington Legislature, Day 33 of 105
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OLYMPIA, Feb. 12, 2021 — Good morning. We’re waking up to a blanket of snow on the grounds of the state Capitol and in a lot of other Western Washington communities.
For those trying to get vaccinated, it could add another degree of difficulty these next couple of days. It’s been tough enough securing a shot in the arm as the state wrestles with demand that far outstrips supply.
And concerns about the equity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution statewide are mounting, too, with some justification.
On Thursday, the state Department of Health issued a report showing the percentage of Hispanic, Black and multiracial individuals getting a vaccine shot is disproportionately low. The analysis also shows that as of Feb. 6, more people under the age of 35 had been fully vaccinated in Washington than folks 65 and older. State officials say it’s explainable. Initially, the state targeted health care workers and now it is focusing on older adults. The tide should turn shortly, they said. Read the 12-page report here.
OMG, a budget proposal
Didn’t see this coming: Senate Republicans on Thursday put forth a two-year budget proposal — you read that right, a budget proposal — that Sen. Lynda Wilson, its author, said “doesn’t cut services and doesn’t raise taxes.”
This is not one page of wishful thinking. It’s a full-on spending plan that blends federal funds and drains Rainy Day reserves to boost spending on schools, behavioral health and transportation, as well as assisting struggling families and businesses. You can find details here.
While temperatures are cool, passions are heating up as lawmakers face a Monday deadline to get their bills out of policy committees.
House Bill 1152 to create comprehensive public health districts — with potential exemptions for King, Pierce and Snohomish counties — advanced from the House health care committee. Several Republicans criticized it as a solution in search of a problem and questioned an attempt to overhaul the system during a pandemic. Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, the sponsor, pushed back on critics while acknowledging it is not perfected yet.
Friday morning, the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee is to vote on the proposed “covered lives assessment” (Senate Bill 5149) to fund public health programs. Originally, health insurers were to be charged a fee of $3.25 per member per month. It’s changed. Now, it sets the fee at $1.54 per member per month in 2022 and climbs slowly in ensuing years.
In the other Washington
Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Edmonds made history Thursday as the first woman to chair the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The last senator from this state to lead the panel was the legendary Warren Magnuson, another Democrat, who did so for a couple decades starting in 1955.
And we’re getting an idea how area transit services and airports could benefit from the next federal COVID package. A House panel chaired by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, Democrat of Everett, approved a blueprint that provides $867 million to Seattle area entities including Sound Transit and Everett Transit. There’s also $6.1 million for Community Transit, $5.9 million for Paine Field and $3 billion for a temporary payroll support program to retain or rehire aerospace workers.
Isn’t he gone yet?
After four years, Attorney General Bob Ferguson has won a complete victory in his lawsuit against Tim Eyman. A judge ruled Wednesday that Eyman knowingly and intentionally violated the law to enrich himself a whole bunch of times. Eyman got slapped with a $2.6 million penalty and restrictions on future ties with political committees.
His response: I didn’t do anything wrong but I will follow the rules. And Thursday Eyman emailed supporters. He asked for money to fund an appeal and for two anti-tax initiatives he’s pursuing this year.
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) | Jim Camden (Spokesman-Review)