Chair jokes, death penalty divide and the arrival of budgets

It’s Day 103. 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 103 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, April 21, 2023 — Welcome to Friday as we round the turn and head into the final weekend.

We expect details on the final two-year capital budget to be posted online by midday. Don’t be surprised if it gets voted on today in one or both chambers. Key piece will be the total sum of money for housing.

We’ll get a look at the final transportation budget at 2 p.m. with action tomorrow afternoon. We’ll see how authors of the spending plan resolve concerns of Gov. Jay Inslee. On Thursday, he said he’s expecting to find answers in a few provisos.

And a Blake deal may be in the offing. House and Senate Democrats are going to a conference committee. Whatever emerges cannot be amended on the floor in either chamber. We’ll see if it can win votes from both sides of the aisle.

Want to know what lawmakers won’t be voting on this session — a retooled and expanded real estate excise tax. Senate Democrats never wanted it. House Democrats talked it up but never passed a bill their counterparts could consider.

There’s always 2024. Same goes for Jay’s Bond. Don’t be surprised if that idea gets revised in hopes it can be put in front of what should be a pro-Democrat electorate in next year’s presidential election.

Rolfes to depart?

Democratic Sen. Christine Rolfes, the personable and powerful chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is pursuing a new political gig closer to home.

The Kitsap Sun’s Nathan Pilling reported Wednesday she’s among a crowd of Democrats vying to fill a vacancy on the Kitsap County Commission. If she gets it, she won’t stick around the Legislature, per an item in the Washington Observer this morning.

She could do both jobs as double duty is legal. Just ask Democratic Rep. Strom Peterson and Republican Rep. Sam Low. They’re doing it now. Both serve on the Snohomish County Council.

Left coast, right coast

When it comes to the death penalty, the difference between Washington and Florida couldn’t have been much greater Thursday.

Inslee scrubbed language allowing its use from this state’s law. He signed a bill getting rid of a bunch of things the state Supreme Court had found unconstitutional but for some reason never got removed from the books.

Specifically, in 2018, the court deemed the Washington law allowing capital punishment unconstitutional because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Thursday that could result in more juries backing more executions in the future.

The new Florida law gets rid of a requirement juries be unanimous when imposing a death penalty sentence. Instead, a sentence for capital punishment needs to be supported by at least an 8-4 vote on a jury, according to the Miami Herald.

Can’t resist a chair joke

When Inslee signed Senate Bill 5082 Thursday, he erased the mandate to put tax advisory votes on general election ballots. In the process he took a light-hearted jab at Tim Eyman, anti-tax activist and famed abductor of office chairs, who put the requirement in law with Initiative 960.

The governor read a synopsis of the legislation while standing. He prepared to sit to sign.

“I am going to sit down because we do have a chair available,” he said, eliciting laughter from those around him who got the joke. ”Life’s too short not to have fun.”

When someone mentioned “it doesn’t have wheels,” Inslee quickly responded, “That’s right. It’s still here.”

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