A holiday for Lunar New Year, a return of green and white license plates

It’s Day 29. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 29 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 6, 2023 — Welcome to the Monday edition. Expect the legislative rubber to meet the road in a real serious way this week.

Lawmakers face a critical Feb. 17 deadline to get bills passed out of policy committees or else they’re pretty much kaput. Thus executive sessions will dominate the landscape around here. Be warned, versions considered in those sessions often look a heck of a lot different than what was originally introduced.

Among the biggies for which committee votes loom are hospital staffing standards, vehicle pursuit policy, and development of middle housing.

And one I didn’t see coming when this session began — making the Lunar New Year a legal state holiday. And a paid day off for state workers.

House Bill 1516, which has like 40 sponsors, gets a hearing Wednesday afternoon and is penciled in for a Friday vote in the State Government and Tribal Relations committee. California has made Lunar New Year a legal holiday. But it’s not a paid holiday for California’s state employees.

Meanwhile, lawmakers now have two options for honoring contributions of Americans of Chinese descent.

For the second straight year, a near unanimous Senate passed a bill designating January as the month. Senate Bill 5000 might be the simplest, and shortest, piece of legislation. Two paragraphs long.

But as I’ve noted before, it’s run into strong opposition in the House Democratic Caucus, most notably among some of its Asian-American members. The reasons are personal and political reasons as I’ve chronicled.

Enter Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, who represents the Chinatown International District in Seattle, and opposed the Senate approach in 2022. She said she would drop a bill on the subject. She did Monday. And House Bill 1759 also designates January as the month to honor the contributions of Chinese Americans.

Her bill contains the two-paragraph Senate bill nearly verbatim. She’s also crafted a nearly two-page intent section laying out a historical context for January, as opposed to another month.

She ties it to the start of the California gold rush on January 24, 1848, “which brought thousands of people to the area, approximately 30 percent of whom were Chinese immigrants.” And she cites accomplishments of early Chinese settlers including Goon Dip, considered one of the most influential Chinese figures in Pacific Northwest history.

Two bills, one month. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Iowa out, South Carolina in

President Joe Biden is expected to seek a second term in 2024. A revamped calendar for Democratic Party primaries should provide a boost against any serious challengers.

The Democratic National Committee on Saturday approved holding the first one in South Carolina on Feb. 3. New Hampshire and Nevada would follow on Feb. 6 with Georgia on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 27, per news accounts. This reordering meets a request President Biden made of the DNC in December.

Democrats in this state argued for moving Washington to the front of the primary line. They didn’t succeed. As things stand now, ours will be in March.

License plate sweepstakes

Those seeking special license plates celebrating pickleball, OL Reign, Mount St. Helens, and the state motto will make their case to lawmakers today. For the unfamiliar, the last one would bring back a former plate style of green lettering on a white background plus the addition of Evergreen State, the state motto, along the bottom.

Bills for the first three will get hearings in the Senate Transportation Committee and the fourth will be heard in the House. Both committees meet at 4 p.m.

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