Building ballparks, rewriting ferry rules, recognizing Chinese-Americans

It’s Day 71. 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 71 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

Want this in your inbox Monday-Wednesday-Friday? Subscribe here.

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?

To subscribe to the Cornfield Report, go to | Previous Cornfield Reports here.

News clippings

Compiled by: House Democrats | House Republicans


Non-profit TVW covers state government in Olympia and selected events statewide. Programs are available for replay on the internet, and the channel is widely available on Washington cable systems.

TVW schedule | Current and recent video | Shows


Contact your legislator | District lookup | Bill lookup

Legislature home | House | Senate

Caucuses: House Democrats | House Republicans | Senate Democrats | Senate Republicans

Office of the Governor

Laws and agency rules

Beat reporters: Jerry Cornfield (Everett Herald) | Tom Banse (NW News Network) | Jim Brunner (Seattle Times) | Laurel Demkovich (Spokesman-Review) | Joseph O’Sullivan (Crosscut) | Melissa Santos (Axios) | Shauna Sowersby (McClatchy newspapers) | Claire Withycombe (Times)

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lawsuit: Defective inhaler led to death of Mountlake Terrace man

Pharmaceutical company Perrigo recalled inhalers in September 2020. Months earlier, Antonio Fritz Sr. picked one up at a pharmacy.

Steven Eggers listens during his resentencing at Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Life in prison reduced to 38 years for 1995 Skykomish River killing

Steven Eggers, now 46, was 19 when he murdered Blair Scott, 27. New court rulings granted him a second chance at freedom.

Most Read