Cutoff countdown to punish lying politicians, curb governor

Here’s what’s happening on Day 22 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2022 Washington Legislature, Day 22 of 60

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

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OLYMPIA, Jan. 31 — It’s Monday, and lawmakers are on the clock.

As I’ve been pointing out, to keep a policy bills alive they need to get them passed out of committee by a Thursday deadline.

These rules apply to Gov. Jay Inslee, too.

His bill to punish politicians and candidates who “knowingly, recklessly or maliciously” lie about election results received a hearing last week. But as of this morning, it had not been scheduled for action in the Senate State Government and Elections Committee.

This is clearly important to him. He testified about it, something he’s not done on any other bills this session. With two of the committee’s three Democrats signed on as sponsors, chances are good it will be kept alive, for now.

Restricting open carry

Two partisan approaches advanced last week to keep guns away from ballot counting and out of places where city councils and school boards meet.

In the House, Democrats are pushing a statewide prohibition on firearms and other dangerous weapons from such locations. In the Senate, Democrats are looking to let cities, towns, counties and other municipalities craft their own open-carry restrictions. In both chambers, no Republican voted for the measures when they emerged from committee.

Meanwhile, a proposed assault-weapons ban looks stalled. Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson keeps trying. Unlike 2021, he did get a hearing on it this year.

Limiting patient loads

A bill imposing new workplace rules in hospitals, including a limit on the number of patients assigned to a nurse, is still alive. The Senate version received a hearing this morning.

Again, this is a partisan push by Democrats seeking to ease the strain on nurses and maybe slow their exodus from hospitals amid the ongoing pandemic. Hospital leaders aren’t happy with its hefty fines for violations, especially since it’s hard to find staff right now.

Sen. June Robinson of Everett, the sponsor, told Herald reporter Katie Hayes that the hospitals’ reaction is no surprise.

“They don’t like being regulated in that way,” she said. “So I think we, as a Legislature, have held off sort of in deference to the hospitals, hoping, assuming they would do the right thing. Years and years go on and it just gets worse and worse.”

This bill is a work in progress with much negotiation ahead.

Checks and balances

Lawmakers and the public are getting their moments this session to argue for curbing, or at least timing out, the governor’s emergency powers. They got pretty much zippo a year ago.

An offering from Republicans in the House will be debated at 1:30 pm. today. Don’t bet on it advancing past cutoff, for obvious reasons.

A proposal from eight Senate Democrats could make it a little farther.

Democratic Sen. Emily Randall is sponsor. Caucus moderates, such as Sens. Kevin Van De Wege and Mark Mullet, are signed on. It got a hearing Friday. Here’s a good account from Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network.

Its tone and reach are less threatening than what’s proposed by Republicans. And in an election year, it provides a modicum of rebuttal to those who say Democrats in the Legislature won’t push back on the Democratic governor.

It is in the State Government and Elections Committee, which meets Wednesday. The chairman, Sen. Sam Hunt, is a co-sponsor. I think it’s a safe bet he’ll kick it along and let others decide its fate.

Is House ready to expand in-person?

More House members, not all, could soon be allowed to take part in floor sessions.

“We’re having serious conversations. Maybe this will happen in the next two weeks,” said Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, chair of the Democratic caucus.

Right now, each caucus can send two to the floor. “I’m sure they want company,” she said.

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