Dust off that civics textbook: It’s conference committee time

Day 52 of 60 of the 2020 session of the Washington Legislature in Olympia.

Dust off that civics textbook: It’s conference committee time

2020 Washington Legislature, Day 52 of 60

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

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OLYMPIA, March 4, 2020 — Tick, tock, the clock is slowly winding down on the session.

Conference committees are starting to form and meet to reconcile differences in operating and transportation budgets passed by each chamber. That work needs to be pretty much finished by Monday to get everything voted on before adjourning in eight days.

The fate of some touchy policy issues came into clearer focus Tuesday when House Speaker Laurie Jinkins met with reporters.

• A bill erasing the state’s death penalty statute is one such subject. Democrats have not caucused on it yet but will before Friday’s cutoff, she said. As far as a vote, she made no commitments.

• And then there’s this new bill from Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon broadening the authority of the Department of Ecology to regulate carbon emissions. Earlier versions sought by Gov. Jay Inslee stalled in the face of opposition from some moderate Democratic senators.

The latest legislation is the product of negotiations involving four Democratic lawmakers — Fitzgibbon, Rep. June Robinson and Sens. Reuven Carlyle and Keven Van De Wege. It was voted out of the House Appropriations Committee a couple hours before sun-up Tuesday.

Jinkins said it won’t get a vote unless and until it is clear the Senate can pass it, as well. “There’s no point in moving the bill if it is not going to pass in the Senate,” she said.

• The coronavirus death toll rose to 9 on Tuesday.

The House, on a 96-0 vote, approved $100 million in emergency funding to cover costs incurred by state agencies and local health districts in responding to the outbreak.

How Washington public schools are dealing with the emerging crisis is the focus of an 8 a.m. work session in the House Education Committee. Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal is expected to participate.

In the other Washington, the role of the aviation industry in preventing the global spread of the virus will be the topic of an 11:30 a.m. PST hearing in the aviation subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. You can watch it here. Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, the ranking Democrat on the commerce panel, is participating.

On Tuesday, Cantwell sent letters to major airlines and airports requesting information on the effect of COVID-19 on commercial aviation and the traveling public.

What we’re writing and reading

• An impassioned debate preceded the Senate’s passage Tuesday of a bill that reduces the crime of intentionally exposing a sexual partner to HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor. The measure, which already cleared the House, now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee for his expected signature, reports Rachel La Corte of The Associated Press.

• Rep. Jared Mead is the top choice of Democratic precinct officers to fill a vacancy on the Snohomish County Council, though it’ll be a month before a decision is made, reports Rachel Riley of The Herald.

Joe Biden racked up a lot of wins in the Super Tuesday primaries, reports Steve Peoples and Will Weissert of The Associated Press.

• Meanwhile, Mike Bloomberg told reporters ahead of Super Tuesday that he didn’t see a path to victory without a contested convention, writes Alayna Treene at Axios.

• A new analysis concludes Snohomish County was ground zero for the novel coronavirus in Washington, reports Mike Carter of The Seattle Times. And here is what we know of the known COVID-19 cases in the county.

What’s happening

• At 8 a.m., the House Finance Committee convenes to consider terms and conditions of a statewide plastic bag ban. Among the wrinkles to iron out is how much a customer will pay for a paper bag if they need one.

• The floor marathon continues. The Senate is slated for a 10 a.m. start.

• The House is to begin at 9 a.m. Representatives may still be working after midnight. Democratic leaders are penciling in a possible vote on a controversial sex-ed bill. A vote might not occur, as there were roughly 60 proposed amendments as of Tuesday afternoon.

Here is today’s abbreviated lineup of committee hearings.

Legislative agendas, schedules and calendars


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