Clean fuels and police tactics advance, drug law fix arrives

Here’s what’s happening on Day 50 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2021 Washington Legislature, Day 50 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, March 1, 2021 — Good Monday morning. Welcome to March.

Bills to establish a clean fuels standard and to ban a variety of policing tactics are on their way to the Senate after majority Democrats muscled them through the House on Saturday.

But each one left the House looking different than when it arrived.

House Bill 1054, which Rep. Jesse Johnson is steadily steering through constant turbulence, would ban cops from using chokeholds and put the kibosh on their obtaining no-knock warrants.

In its original form, the bill also barred the use of tear gas and deploying unleashed police dogs to nab suspects. Amendments added Saturday restored authority for law enforcement agencies to acquire and use tear gas, and to deploy police dogs but required the state craft a model canine use policy to guide law enforcement agencies.

“While Washington state still has work to do to demand equity in our law enforcement, today’s vote is a step forward towards justice, accountability and racial equity,” Johnson said after the 54-43 vote. “Black and Brown communities deserve to walk down the street or sleep in their bed without fear of violence from police.”

House Bill 1091 is the latest incarnation of a low carbon fuel standard from Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. It passed 52-46 as five Democrats opposed the measure. All of Fitzgibbon’s previous efforts passed the House only to lapse in the Senate.

“It is long past time for Washington to join our neighbors in Oregon, California, and British Columbia in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector,” he said in a statement. “This program is overdue, but it’s not too late for us to do our part.”

Carbon fee surfaces

Thursday morning there is a hearing on Senate Bill 5373 to impose a fee of $25 per metric ton of carbon emissions starting Jan. 1. With a clean fuel standard and cap-and-invest program already in the legislative pipeline, this might seem simply like a chance to let folks vent on the costs and benefits of this mode of carbon pricing.

But it might be more. Heck, it might become part of the session’s end game if it proves easier to pass and implement than those other climate change initiatives.

As noted, the clean fuel standard is not guaranteed safe passage through the Senate. Nor is the cap-and-invest bill. Its early version encountered opposition from some enviros. It’s changed a lot as it moved through the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee last week. Now it awaits action in Ways and Means.

Drug law revival?

Democratic Sens. Mark Mullet and Steve Hobbs have moved swiftly to make possession of a controlled substance a felony again.

On Thursday, the state Supreme Court jolted the criminal justice system when it struck down the state law that made it a crime, concluding it was unconstitutional because it did not require prosecutors to prove that someone knowingly or intentionally possessed the drugs.

Senate Bill 5468 on Monday’s introduction sheet would restore the law and, to remedy the problem cited by justices, add the word “knowingly” to the statute.

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