Lawmakers meet on the Senate floor, on March 10, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)

Lawmakers meet on the Senate floor, on March 10, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)

Crime, climate, abortion on docket in legislative session warm-up

Washington lawmakers will hold 39 hearings this week. Nearly all will be conducted in person, which hasn’t happened in three years.

OLYMPIA — State lawmakers return to the Capitol this week for hearings on a wide range of issues they expect to debate in the 2023 session.

And for the first time in three years, nearly all of them will be conducted in-person with an option for the public to participate remotely.

The annual assemblage is known as Committee Days. As the name implies, each House and Senate committee, plus panels with members from both chambers, gather to learn what has occurred since the last session and what lies in the next that begins Jan. 9.

“It’s like our professional development days.” said Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo. “We need to get the most up-to-date information on those subjects members are interested in and more than likely going to be diving into in the next session or two.”

Crime rates, carbon pricing, abortion access and affordable housing are among topics for discussion. So too are staffing challenges for Washington State Ferries and early learning centers. And there will be updates on drought, wildfires and building of behavioral health facilities.

In all, 39 hearings are planned from Tuesday through Friday.

Ortiz-Self, who was re-elected this week as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said members are looking forward to conducting business in person this week and the upcoming session. That hasn’t occurred since the end of the 2020 session.

“There was such an excitement to get back together, to see one another and to begin working together again,” she said.

All House members will be encouraged to stay home and participate remotely if they come down with COVID or a potentially contagious illness like a cold or flu, she said.

“We want to be in person,” she said. “We want to keep everyone safe too.”

In the hearings, public safety will be a subject of several conversations.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee will hold a work session at 8 a.m. Thursday on the state’s response to the Blake decision, the state Supreme Court’s 2021 ruling that erased a law making simple drug possession a felony. Lawmakers last session resisted rewriting the law to restore criminal penalties. Instead the Democrats in the majority approved a bill that effectively decriminalized possession of small amounts of most drugs. Some of those changes will expire in 2023 unless lawmakers take more action.

That decision erased convictions for tens of thousands of people. Many are owed refunds for fines they may have paid. On Friday, the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee will get an update on the refund process. It will also get a progress report on deployment of a statewide Firearms Background Check program.

Meanwhile, current crime trends in the state and nation will be explored by the House Public Safety Committee on Friday.

The hearing at 8 a.m. will kick off with a presentation from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which issued a report earlier this year that found the number of murders, robberies, serious assaults and other violent crimes rose significantly in the state in 2021.

Then lawmakers will hear from Richard Rosenfeld, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri, and Ames Grawert, senior counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice. Both are nationally known experts on the prevalence of crime and crime rates.

“I think it’s important to get beyond the headlines and see what is really going on,” said Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, the committee chair.

Access to reproductive health care services on college campuses will be reviewed by the Senate higher education panel at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Later, at 3:30 p.m., the Senate Transportation Committee gets updates on state ferries and how inflation is affecting the cost of transportation projects.

And Friday, the House and Senate environment committees get caught up on the climate commitment act, including the state’s inaugural auction of carbon emission allowances in February, and other legislative efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the state. The House hearing is at 8 a.m. and the Senate at 10:30 a.m.

The full schedule, including agendas, can be found on the Legislature’s website, leg.wa.gov.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Bothell
2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Whidbey Renaissance Faire volunteers pose in their costumes. (Photo by Bree Eaton)
Faire thee well: Renaissance is coming to Whidbey Island

The volunteer-run fair May 25 and 26 will feature dancers, a juggler, ‘Fakespeare,’ various live music shows and lots of food.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.