A Vodka wrinkle, a recess mandate and, at last, an official state dinosaur

It’s Day 99. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112

2023 Washington Legislature, Day 99 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, April 17, 2023 — A good Monday afternoon. This is it. The final week of the 2023 session.

Lawmakers have until 11:59:59 Sunday night to finish their legislating chores. A moment later and they’ll be marching down to Gov. Jay Inslee with a request for special session.

Don’t worry. Won’t happen. Not with one party in control of both chambers, and one of the caucuses eyeing a unique record.

“If the Legislature is able to complete its work on time and adjourn Sunday, it will mark the sixth year in a row a legislative session has finished on time — the first time that’s happened in our state’s 133 year history!” exclaims a Senate Democratic Caucus release.

The To-Do List

Budgets. Three of them — operating, transportation and capital. Probably won’t see any online before Thursday, maybe Friday.

Lot of wrinkles in the two-year operating budget, which pays for state government’s day-to-day workings. For those stubborn wrinkles, House and Senate budget negotiators could try vodka. Works well on sleeves and collars so why not a grant program here and a staffing level there? And if there are leftover spirits, well. they can toast success with it Sunday.

Tax Wild Card

If they don’t choose vodka, will they choose taxes to balance their spending plans?

Democrats want to drop a big sum into housing. How big is uncertain. Gov. Jay’s billion-dollar bond is on the table, mostly untouched. House Democrats continue talking up a retooled real estate excise tax. Senate Democrats, for the most part, seem comfortable with dialing in dollars from existing sources as they wait to see what their friends in the other chamber can pass.

Two bills to ditch the 1 percent cap on annual property tax increases aren’t dead either. House Bill 1670 — which is in House Rules Committee — and Senate Bill 5770 — which is nowhere — would each reset the cap at 3% for counties, cities and the state.

Under negotiation

Bridging the divide on the Blake bill looms as a marque challenge this week.

House Democrats staked out a position opposed by all Republicans and a majority, albeit slim, in the Senate Democratic Caucus. It’s all about the penalty. A conference committee had not been sought as of Monday morning. That could change.

As lawmakers wrestle with how to deal with those using drugs in public places, cities are moving ahead with their own responses. They are passing, or prepping to pass, their own laws making it a crime subject to arrest.

Done and delivered

Tons of bills are streaming toward the governor’s desk. Among them:

Senate Bill 5257 requires public elementary schools provide at least 30 minutes of recess each day starting in the 2024-25 school year. This applies to school days exceeding 5 hours. Schools unable to comply can get a waiver.

House Bill 1002 reclassifies the crime of hazing from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, and, in cases involving substantial bodily harm, to a class C felony.

Senate Bill 5263 puts the state on course for allowing broader medical use of psilocybin, AKA magic mushrooms. Calls for the University of Washington to conduct a pilot offering psilocybin treatment of individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, mood disorders and substance use disorders.

Senate Bill 5236 sets out new rules for writing and enforcing hospital staffing plans. Hospital administrators and nurses will decide how many nurses are assigned in each patient care unit, and how to assure workers get rest and meal breaks. Violations can lead to fines.

House Bill 1020 designates the Suciasaurus rex as the Washington State dinosaur. Apparently 12 states already have official dinosaurs. So, too, does Washington, D.C. It’s Capitalsaurus. Even got its own day. Seriously.

Maybe something to consider for 2024?

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