A move to require voting and a bicameral chasm on vehicle pursuits

It’s Day 19 and the mood is heating up as the third week of the 2023 legislative session comes to an end.

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 19 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, Jan. 27, 2023 — It’s Friday. Each week feels longer than the last, right?

An entertaining debate on the capital gains tax unfolded in front of the Supreme Court on Thursday. I didn’t count how many times I heard “income tax” in the 60-minute legal match-up. It was a lot. I won’t forget justices worked purchases of pizza in New York and a home in Montana into the conversation.

When they will rule is a mystery. The state sure hopes it’s sooner than later — even if it’s just a simple ‘you won’ or ‘you lost.’ Tax payments are due starting April 18. Lawmakers are supposed to adjourn April 23. Before departing they will approve a new budget. They’d like to know if they can pencil in moolah from this tax or not.

Collision course

Those looking for the House and Senate to strike a deal on vehicle pursuits are in for a long wait. Maybe until the final days. They will be airing out their different approaches next week.

On Monday, at 10:30 a.m., a hearing will be held on Senate Bill 5533 to have a 19-person work group draft a model policy by Oct. 31, 2024.

It’s in the Senate Law and Justice Committee where the chair, Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, has made abundantly clear she’s not interested in rewriting current law. She likes this idea and wants the committee to vote it out Feb. 2.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, at 4 p.m., those who want current law changed will get a chance in a hearing on House Bill 1363 in the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee.

This bill restores the ability of cops to initiate a chase with “reasonable suspicion” a person in a vehicle had committed a crime. Now they need “probable cause” and that’s a higher bar. A very similar bill passed the House with 86 votes last March only to lapse in the Senate.

You must vote, it’s the law

There are countries where you are required to vote and you’re breaking the law when you don’t. A few Democratic lawmakers envision Washington becoming such a place one day.

Senate Bill 5290 and House Bill 1220 are the vehicles to setting up a system in which every person eligible to vote must register and submit a ballot each election — even if what they turn in is blank. While a person would be legally required to return their ballot for every primary and general election, there would be no punishment for not doing so. There’s a path to opt out and get your name off the voter rolls. And there’s a means to get back on as well.

“People must register for the selective service, serve on a jury, and pay taxes; they should also be required to cast a ballot,” reads the bill.

KUOW’s Tom Banse has the back story of the bill in this piece. A hearing on the Senate bill is set for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Senate State Government and Elections Committee.

Reality check

“The opioid crisis and overdose crisis is worse than it has been with no signs of slowing.” That’s how Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett, chief science officer of the state Department of Health began a presentation to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on the multi-agency, multi-faceted and multi-million dollar response to those crises which claimed 2,264 lives in 2021.

At the end, Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, sought the bottom line.

“Doctor, I appreciate your candor. To paraphrase you, things are horrible, they have been horrible and there’s no end in sight of horrible,” he said. “Is there any evidence that any of this is changing the trajectory? Is there any evidence we’re changing anything?”

Kwan-Gett’s said he had no data showing the impact of any one component of the approach. That’s coming, hopefully. For now, he had an overarching impression. “I interpret it as we haven’t done enough. We need to do more.”

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