Gun bills arrive and hospital staffing debate begins anew

Week 2 of the 2023 legislative session is under way. It’s going to be a little more tense

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 8 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Jan. 16. 2023 — Welcome to the second week. It’s going to be a tad more intense than the last one.

One reason is guns are on the docket Tuesday in both a House and a Senate committee.

Majority Democrats are pushing this session to ban assault weapons, to require a person complete a safety training class and obtain a permit to purchase a firearm, to let cities and counties enact their own gun laws, and to create a path to hold gun makers and sellers accountable if one of their products harms someone.

House Democrats are shouldering the heavy load with the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee tackling the ban, the permit and local control matters. The Senate Law and Justice Committee will dive into the liability issue.

Interest is running high, especially among opponents. This morning, for example, when I last checked the sign-in sheet for the assault weapons ban bill, 21 of 23 people wishing to testify were opposed. Another 2,692 people had registered their view of which 272 were pro, two were other, and 2,418 were opposed.

Both committees meet at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

4 things to watch

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, Republican leaders in the House and Senate hold the first of their weekly chat sessions with reporters. Then, at 1:30 p.m., their Democratic counterparts will hold the first of their weekly sit downs.

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the debate on hospital staffing standards begins anew with a hearing on Senate Bill 5236 in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee. A bill prescribing nurse-patient ratios and worker protections incited a legislative battle royal between hospital executives and nurses last session. Ultimately, no new laws emerged.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, middle housing is in the spotlight with a hearing on House Bill 1110. “To unlock opportunity for Washingtonians it is necessary to lift bans on the development of modest home choices in cities near job centers, transit, and amenity-rich neighborhoods,” reads the bill’s intent. To do this, the bill prescribes building of “two or more” units on properties zoned for single family homes.

Sutherland’s PG-rated postscript

One of former representative Robert Sutherland’s last legislative acts came Jan. 4 when he agreed to pay $2,500 to settle an ethics complaint stemming from a March confrontation in which he swore at a House security official, then bragged about at a political rally hours later on the Capitol campus.

You can read the blow-by-blow in the stipulation and order. Be warned, there are a couple F-bombs in there.

Sutherland, a Republican from Granite Falls, served two terms before losing re-election in November to Republican Sam Low of Lake Stevens. Though Sutherland did not get a single bill signed into law, he got a lot of attention in his four years due to his talent for firing up conservatives with his defense of gun rights, defiance of COVID vaccine mandates, and insistence Joe Biden didn’t win the 2020 presidential election.

Sutherland, who makes no apologies for his brashness, is now eyeing a run for Snohomish County auditor.

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