Debating recess, welcoming a president, awaiting key vote on pursuit

And a tax break for newspapers comes with a poke at the industry. It’s Day 45 of the 2023 legislative session

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 45 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 22, 2023 — Welcome to the Wednesday edition.

Did you hear, a president is coming to address the state Legislature. Not ours. Finland’s.

Sauli Niinistö, president of the Republic of Finland, will speak to a joint session of the House and Senate at 9 a.m. March 6. It’ll take place in the Senate chambers.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, the son of Finnish immigrants, extended an invite during a trip to Finland last fall. Liias is quite excited and said Niinistö might be the first head of state to address a joint meeting of the Legislature.

That tidbit of news offered a change of pace in an otherwise tense week. Friday is another deadline. Policies with a price tag need to be voted out of a fiscal committee or they are pretty much done for the session. Not always, however. Bills can be kept alive by getting designated necessary to implement a budget.

Ones to watch

House Bill 1363, which rewrites the state’s vehicle pursuit rules, faces a critical vote Thursday afternoon in the House Transportation Committee.

If you caught the hearing earlier this week, there was an intriguing exchange between Democratic Reps. Alicia Rule, the prime sponsor, and Debra Entenman, a committee member who is no fan of the bill. This legislation has been reworked a lot, so far. Expect more changes before votes are counted.

Senate Bill 5536, which rewrites the state’s approach to drug possession violations, faces action Thursday morning in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Democrats and Republicans share an interest in moving this legislation along. It may not show up in the vote. Some Democrats think the penalty for possession in the bill, a gross misdemeanor, is too harsh while most Republicans think it is not harsh enough.


Sen. Mark Mullet’s quest to preserve the endangered species of community newspapers lives on. Senate Bill 5199 would eliminate the business and occupation tax for about 100 taxpayers starting next year.

When it emerged from the Senate Ways and Means Committee it also had an interesting rewrite in the intent section, courtesy of an amendment from Sen. Kevin Van De Wege.

This line is out: “Studies have revealed a correlation between the loss of local journalism and higher taxes.” In its place is a poke at our industry.

This one is in: “Newspapers in Washington state have lobbied and editorialized for open public records, and fought attempts to rein in frivolous requests, costing local and state governments millions of dollars each year.”

Exercised over recess

Lawmakers can sure get worked up about recess.

On Monday, the Senate, on a 28-21 vote, passed a bill requiring public schools provide at least 30 minutes of recess each day for elementary students starting in the 2024 school year. All Democrats supported it. All Republicans and one Democrat, Van De Wege, opposed. The Spokesman-Review’s Laurel Demkovich’s covered the floor debate.

This isn’t a new issue. John McCoy, the retired Democratic state lawmaker from Tulalip, was pushing for pretty much the same thing 16 sessions ago. Then and now the dividing line is whether such a mandate infringes on the turf of school boards.

“This was a solution looking for a problem that did not exist. School boards are handling this,” Republican Sen. Mike Padden told reporters Tuesday. “Why have local school boards if the Legislature is going to become the great school board in the sky?”

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

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