2023 Washington Legislature, Day 71 of 105
Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: firstname.lastname@example.org | @dospueblos
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OLYMPIA, March 20, 2023 — Happy Monday. Time to check your patience and stress levels. Things get real in the final month as policy bill negotiations get serious and spending decisions are debated.
Money is a hot topic today. A new revenue forecast arrives this afternoon providing authors of the Senate and House operating budgets with figures they need to complete their work this week.
Meanwhile, this morning, Senate Democrats released their proposed capital budget.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s $4 billion bond to build housing didn’t make the cut. That decision may earn Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, the budget’s lead author, a phone call.
Can’t be too shocking to the chief executive. There’s been kind words but no rush to vote on his proposal. From what I understand Mullet didn’t want to venture outside the state’s spending limit, as envisioned with the bond, to build homes and help those without shelter. He penciled in roughly $625 million for those tasks.
You know what did make the cut? Minor league baseball stadiums. There’s $24 million spread among 11 communities which are home to stadiums in need of sprucing up. The city of Everett is a big winner. It gets $7.4 million — the largest sum — to seed its effort to build a brand new ballpark for the Everett AquaSox. My colleagues and I explain why here.
Desperately seeking boat builders
Washington State Ferries wants five new ferries but it can’t find anyone willing or able to build them under the state’s current contracting rules. Not even knowing the contract is worth $1 billion.
The state shook hands in 2019 with Vigor Industrial to build five hybrid diesel-electric Olympic class vessels. The hope was the first of the 144-car boats could be in service by this year.
Didn’t happen. My colleagues Andrea Brown reported on the challenge last June.
What’s the answer? Change the rules. Legislation introduced Friday does that in a big way.
As proposed, the agency could award two contracts rather than one. Washington State Ferries would select bids based on a best-value process, rather than low bid.
And it would no longer require “vessels be constructed within the boundaries of the state.” That’s been the law for awhile. This revision acknowledges Vigor is a big outfit with facilities in Oregon. However, if an in-state company bids for the work, they’ll get credit.
Hearings are slated at 4 p.m. today in the House and Senate transportation committees on the legislation.
Spotlight on Chinese-Americans
A marriage of two bills — one Senate and one House — may resolved a protracted legislative fight on which month is designated to recognize contributions of Chinese-Americans.
For the second straight year, the Senate passed a bill designating January. Senate Bill 5000, sponsored by Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, is two paragraphs long. But it’s encountered passionate opposition from Asian-American members of the House Democratic Caucus for personal and political reasons, as I’ve noted in the past.
This year, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, who represents the Chinatown International District in Seattle, and opposed the Senate approach in 2022, sponsored House Bill 1759. It too designates January as the month. She’s also crafted a lengthy intent section containing a historical context for January, as opposed to another month.
Procedurally, her bill should be dead, having never emerged from a committee. But you know what they say, no bill is ever done until Sine Die.
Public hearings are planned on both bills Tuesday in the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee.
The fun begins at 1:30 p.m. Neither is scheduled for executive session, yet.
Remember what I said about negotiations?
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