COVID relief, vaccine reality and a monster road package

Here’s what’s happening on Day 10 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2021 Washington Legislature, Day 10 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, Jan. 20, 2021 — Good morning. Joe Biden gets sworn in as president today, but lawmakers in Washington aren’t taking a break to watch his inauguration.

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins says lawmakers are in the final stages of assembling the session’s first COVID19-relief spending bill and could file it as early as Friday. Hearings would occur next week, she said.

She didn’t divulge any specifics. She said it will allocate federal dollars from the pandemic aid package approved by Congress in December. It also may tap the state’s Rainy Day Fund to cover expenses that the federal dollars don’t cover, she said.

Friday may also see the House pass its first COVID-19-related bills, including one to exempt businesses from paying taxes on federal PPP loans they received and another making it possible to waive some graduation requirements for high school seniors due to the pandemic.

A dose of vaccine tension

You’ll have to excuse Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers if he wasn’t awestruck by the revamped vaccination distribution plan Gov. Jay Inslee rolled out Monday.

In recent days, the county and the Snohomish Health District methodically opened three sites with a collective capacity of delivering vaccines to 4,500 people a day. But the state only sent them 2,300 doses last week, when it received nearly 124,000 doses. That means the third-most-populous county got 1.8% of the total.

Granted, the state isn’t getting enough supply to satisfy everyone’s demand. Still, Somers and leaders of the County Council were vexed by the paltry sum. After they agitated last week, the state snagged 1,000 more doses from a provider in another county.

“It makes absolutely no sense to me,” Somers said. “We’ve been in daily, almost hourly contact with the governor, complaining about this.”

On Tuesday, the county and health district reported having no vaccine to give out.

Can Microsoft do this?

We learned Monday that Microsoft is deploying its workforce to the front lines of the state’s vaccination efforts. Another pressing chore could benefit from the creative forces at the software giant.

See, the state Department of Health posts information online about vaccine providers in each county. You can see it here. It’s sparse in places, as the agency is dependent on what information it receives. It will fill in gradually. Probably should bookmark the page.

Check out this site for where to get a vaccine shot in California. Click around. This approach seems to offer a clearer path for people to get their questions answered. To think this one is crowd-sourced.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the state did add a new tab for vaccination information on its COVID-19 Data Dashboard. It shows how many people have gotten a shot across the state and by county. And you can see how many have received two shots.

Dream weavers

House Democrats unveiled a monster $25.8 billion transportation package Tuesday — and said even if approved it doesn’t cover all the needs of Washington. An 18-cent hike in the gas tax and a fee on carbon emissions are the primary generators of revenue.

The dough will get spent replacing culverts, preserving highways and bridges, building electric ferries and constructing a bunch of projects, including a new I-5 Columbia River bridge linking Washington and Oregon.

Work sessions in the House Transportation Committee are expected later this week. Meanwhile, a transpo package will emerge in the Senate soon.

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