Beef Day arrives, VoteMania begins and independent prosecution office derailed

It’s Day 87. 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 87 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, April 5, 2023 — It’s Wednesday. Cherry blossoms have busted out. Around here that means the end of session is in sight.

So too is the lifespan for many pieces of legislation.

Next Wednesday, April 12, is the deadline for bills to completely make it through both chambers in some fashion. In other words, House bills need to get passed out of the Senate and vice versa. Exceptions are those tied to carrying out a budget or fulfilling a political priority of the majority party.

These next few days — Easter excluded — lawmakers will vote on dozens of them in hours-long floor sessions, punctuated by a periodic spirited debate on gun restrictions, abortion protections and housing construction.

The most spirited exchanges, however, may occur behind closed doors when the House Democratic Caucus ponders a course of action on vehicle pursuit and drug possession legislation. Should either or both of those matters reach the floor, the outcomes will be newsworthy.

Settle in. Gonna be a long week.

These already died

Meanwhile, some bills actually died in fiscal committees Tuesday, the deadline for those panels to advance bills on their journey (see above).

One sought to create an Office of Independent Prosecutions in the Attorney General’s Office to tackle allegations of police use of force. House Bill 1579, a priority of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability, had a projected $20 million price tag, apparently too high for the Democrats steering the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

This single line in the fiscal note might have been its undoing: “The new division would handle a large volume of complex, controversial, high-profile, expensive, time-consuming cases.”

Democrat Rep. Monica Stonier, the bill’s sponsor and House floor leader, knew cost was a concern. She drafted an amendment to pare it down to a financially palatable level by drastically reducing the potential number of those ‘expensive, time-consuming’ cases. It never came up in committee.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, who serves on the panel, said there’s support for independent prosecutions. But.

Policy questions and potential expense plus “trying to pass a bill like that down here” without Republican votes isn’t easy, he said.

This same committee also put down House Bill 1541, “Establishing the nothing about us without us act.”

Democrat Rep. Darya Farivar penned it. It sought to ensure task forces, work groups, advisory panels and commissions created by lawmakers to sort through complicated issues include people with real-world knowledge of the subject matter, AKA “lived experience.”

She got 38 Democrat and Republican co-sponsors. it passed the House 83-12 and carried a fiscal note of a million dollars a year spread among several agencies.

On Monday, not long after Sen. Christine Rolfes, the committee chair, said the bill wasn’t moving, Farivar arrived at the hearing room seeking an explanation. Not sure if she got one.

The one I got was brief. She called both rejected bills “works in progress” not ready for prime time. A fiscal committee is not the venue to do the degree of work required, she said.

2024 is only nine months away.

Fire up the BBQ

Thursday’s forecast at the Capitol calls for unusually high levels of smoke and high numbers of cowboy hats.

Beef Day is here. To the uninitiated, members of the Washington Cattleman’s Association pitch tents, unpack barbecues and cook up provisions for all who want to partake. Beef is served until it runs out.

And did I say the food is free? It is.

Pack up extra portions for the long nights ahead.

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