Climate change debate hogs spotlight; Inslee demurs on Blake

Here’s what’s happening on Day 89 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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

2021 Washington Legislature, Day 89 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, April 9, 2021 — Good morning. It’s Friday.

Majority Democrats in the Senate set out Thursday to move two major climate-change bills — one establishing a cap-and-trade program and the other developing a low carbon fuel standard.

First up, the Climate Commitment Act, aka cap-and-trade, had 44 amendments, of which 42 came from Republicans. Debate wended through the afternoon and into the dinner hour, ending in passage along party lines.

Action on House Bill 1091 regarding a clean fuel standard marked the first time the Senate voted on this policy. It’s cleared the House three straight sessions.

For Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, passing both would be huge. These are among his top non-COVID priorities this session. And they are among pieces of a reputed “grand bargain” aimed at tying carbon emission reduction policy to passage of a multi-year, multibillion-dollar transportation package. (Not all House Democrats are on board with such linkage.)

Inslee gave a shout-out to Senate efforts during an afternoon news conference.

“We know we can’t run or hide” from climate change, “we have to defeat it,” he said. “I believe this is the year Washington state steps up to the plate.”

Meanwhile, Inslee broke his silence Thursday on the state Supreme Court ruling that struck down Washington’s law making simple drug possession a felony. Sort of.

Inslee has repeatedly brushed off reporters’ questions on the historic ruling. Asked about legislation emerging in response to the decision — which allows adults to legally posses small amounts of heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs — he mostly demurred. Yes, there should be a bill, he said. And it should try to increase the health-related response to those with substance use disorder. No comment on legalizing possession of small amounts.

“My role here is to help legislators through a very complex issue and so I will actually say less than I might usually about a subject because I don’t want to make their job more complicated,” he said.

Inslee didn’t mention that he expects to use his clemency power to speed release of roughly three dozen people from state prison who are eligible to get out due to invalidated drug-possession convictions.

The first of those could be signed this week. This course of action is in lieu of making those individuals wait for re-sentencing.

Executive opinions

Inslee has a few concerns with budgets moving through the House and Senate. He put them in writing Wednesday. You can find them here.

For example, sums earmarked for assisting unsheltered homeless people — individuals and families living on the street or in their cars — are paltry. The House has $25 million and the Senate zip for a grant program Inslee backs. He wants the total boosted.

He’d also like $300,000 for a blue ribbon commission on the “intersection of the criminal justice and behavioral health crisis systems that is expected to be established in Governor’s Executive Order 21-02.” The House put it in, the Senate didn’t.

This is curious. That order just came out Wednesday and deals with archaeological and cultural resources. Either a correction, or another executive order, will likely be needed.

Mourning period

As the session winds down, bills are dying or getting overhauled in ways their authors never imagined. Don’t think it doesn’t hurt.

“You get so excited because you feel you have this perfect bill,” said Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, chair of the House Democratic Caucus. “Then there is a lot of negotiation and compromise. Then mourning if it doesn’t make it. It is a constant — excitement, negotiation and grieving.”

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