Bills to reopen schools and restaurants get hearings

Here’s what’s happening on Day 8 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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

2021 Washington Legislature, Day 8 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Jan. 18, 2021 — Welcome to Week 2. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Our nation completes another changing of the presidential guard this week. Brace yourself. As soon as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in, they intend to begin undoing directives of outgoing President Donald Trump.

In the meantime, security forces remain on high alert for potential violence in the nation’s capital and at state capitols. On Sunday afternoon, it was quiet on the campus in Olympia, where a highlight for media was one man clutching a “Stop the Steal” sign near a secured entrance. Dozens of state troopers and Washington National Guard are on watch all week.

Meanwhile, the arrival of a new Democratic administration, coupled with the 50-50 partisan split in the U.S. Senate, will boost the political muscle of Washington’s long-serving Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Each will gain leadership of a committee and, with their seniority, likely enjoy greater sway on policy and budget matters. Jim Brunner spells it out in The Seattle Times.

COVID conversations

Getting public schools reopened and indoor dining partially restored are on the Senate docket this week.

Monday at 1:30 p.m., a hearing is set for Senate Bill 5037, which prescribes the metrics for when school districts and charter schools must offer face-to-face instruction. Not surprisingly, the thresholds are lower than those recommended by Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Department of Health.

School districts in counties with less than a 5% positive coronavirus infection rate or fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks must offer in-person learning in grades K-12 under the bill. It is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia.

Also, the bill says these rules cannot be overridden by any emergency order by the governor. Tune in to the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee to watch.

On Wednesday, another Braun product will get a public airing. This one, SB 5114, aims to move the entire state into the second phase of Healthy Washington, the governor’s latest road map to recovery.

It would allow every business to “immediately and safely reopen or resume” operating under provisions of Phase 2. For restaurants, it would mean welcoming customers inside while still being limited to 25% capacity.

The hearing is at 9 a.m. in the State Government and Elections Committee.

A sequel to Connecting Washington?

House Democrats are rolling out a transportation revenue package Tuesday.

Democratic Rep. Jake Fey of Tacoma, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, will hold a noon news conference to reveal the details.

When I reached him Friday, he declined to discuss specifics. However, he did say it would have “big differences” from “Forward Washington.” That’s the 10-year, $16 billion package pushed the past two years by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Lawmakers and the governor last agreed on a statewide transportation package in 2015. Known as Connecting Washington, it was a 16-year, $16 billion package funded mostly by an 11.9-cent increase in the gas tax.

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