Embracing recess, capping insulin costs and targeting street takeovers

It’s Day 52. Here’s what’s happening at the mid-point of the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 52 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, March 1, 2023 — Happy Wednesday. Welcome to March and the midpoint of the 2023 session.

The House went late Tuesday. Didn’t adjourn until a few minutes before 11 p.m. They closed out with House Bill 1504 to require at least 30 minutes of recess per school day for elementary students starting in the fall of 2024.

What a difference a chamber makes on the matter of letting school kids run around.

When an almost identical version reached the Senate floor last week, it touched off a partisan squabble. Republicans argued the mandate usurped local control of school boards. Majority Democrats eventually passed it over the objections of all the Republicans, plus one of their own.

Totally different scene in the House where the prime sponsor is Republican Rep. Sam Low of Lake Stevens. A former teacher, he said children need a break from the pressures of learning to run around and recharge. He didn’t say a word about local control and school boards.

“Our kids are begging for recess. Our kids need recess,” Low said. “They need it for their mental health.”

Rep. Emily Alvarado, D-Seattle, a co-sponsor, didn’t bring them up either as she urged colleagues to “vote Yea for play.”

They did. It passed 97-0.

Meanwhile, early Wednesday, the Senate’s recess bill received a hearing in the House Education Committee.

Sunset of sunshine panel?

Those tasked with helping ensure state government operates in the light are finding little interest in their ideas for doing so.

Frustrations among members of the Public Records Exemptions Accountability Committee — AKA the Sunshine Committee — spilt out at their meeting Tuesday. They even discussed taking the unusual step of disbanding. Crosscut’s Joe O’Sullivan has this account.

Here’s the situation. Panelists have dutifully reviewed exemptions to the state’s public records law and suggested if they should be kept, discarded or retooled. They’ve tired of their recommendations getting ignored by lawmakers, the governor and the attorney general whose office requested the 2007 bill establishing the committee.

I tuned in Tuesday in time to hear David Zeeck, former publisher of the Tacoma News Tribune, suggest sending a note to legislators saying “the ball’s in their court if they want to keep it going.”

“Some of us might be happy working on modifications if they were trying to keep it going and not make it this perpetual task force that goes nowhere,” he said.

Lynn Kessler, a committee member and former House Majority leader, sponsored the House version of the 2007 bill. Though only one lawmaker opposed that bill, she said many in her Democratic caucus “hated” the notion of the committee and some “worked to make sure nothing happened.”

“I really don’t think people understand the depth of the lack of wanting open government inside that caucus,” she said.

Was Eli Lilly watching?

A united state Senate passed a bill Tuesday to make permanent the state’s $35 cap on out-of-pocket expenses for a 30-day supply of insulin.

“We wish we had a better solution. This is a pretty good solution,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, the prime sponsor, who expressed her continuing frustration that insulin “costs so damn much.”

Maybe execs of Eli Lilly heard her. Today they announced price reductions for its most commonly prescribed insulins and expansion of its program limiting patient out-of-pocket costs at $35 or less per month for insulin.

Olympia Drift

Lawmakers want to put the brakes on street takeovers. To do it, they may take the wheels of those drivers nabbed as they attempt to block roads and carry out stunts in parking lots and intersections.

Street racing is already illegal. A conviction can get you a fine and jail time. Under Senate Bill 5606, a driver who is arrested could have their car impounded for three days. They could lose their vehicle on a second conviction.

The bill also would outlaw “drifting,” defined as when “a driver intentionally oversteers a vehicle, causing loss of traction, while maneuvering a vehicle in a turning direction.”

“If you don’t know what drifting is, think ‘Fast and Furious’,” said Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, the bill’s sponsor.

As in “The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift.”

It passed 46-1 and is enroute to the House.

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