2021 Washington Legislature, Day 54 of 105
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OLYMPIA, March 5, 2021 — Good morning. Welcome to the end of another week.
Now we know.
When Gov. Jay Inslee made teachers immediately eligible for a vaccine earlier this week, he didn’t want to do it. But President Joe Biden made him.
As I and others have reported, Inslee had staunchly resisted call from teachers, school administrators, parents and lawmakers to move teachers up in hopes of speeding up reopening. Tuesday morning Biden issued a directive that basically required prioritizing teachers in order to stay in the federal vaccine program.
“I didn’t make the decision. I disagreed with it,” Inslee said at a news conference Thursday. “The president of the United States made a legally binding directive and I followed the law.”
Meanwhile, grocery store clerks and public transit drivers learned Thursday they are not moving up the priority ladder for vaccinations as quickly as hoped.
They wanted to join teachers. Instead they are now penciled in for March 22 on the timeline released by Inslee.
That’s when the state will add another full tier of eligibility in its vaccination program.
Meanwhile, the marathon vote-a-paloozas continue in the House and Senate ahead of a March 9 deadline for each chamber to advance its bills, or they presumably are done for the session.
With that cutoff in sight, the House is now limiting lawmakers to three minutes to orate on a bill or amendment. The Senate had not as of Thursday afternoon, but could.
Lawmakers could be in session this weekend. House members were last week, and that’s when majority Democrats pushed through huge pieces of legislation — one crafting a clean fuels standard and another banning certain police tactics.
Phase 3 from the GOP
Inslee is continuing to talk with “anybody we can find on the Planet Earth” for help designing and developing a Phase 3 for his “Healthy Washington” reopening scheme.
Republicans — who probably weren’t expecting a call — decided to put their ideas in writing. On Thursday, they released their blueprint, dubbed “Open Safe, Open Now,” which would immediately propel all counties to a GOP-envisioned Phase 3.
That means schools would resume in-person instruction for kindergarten through 12th grade and all businesses could operate at 50% capacity, which is double the currently allowed level. To get to their hypothetical Phase 4, a county would have to go three weeks with no significant spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Do that, and all activities would return to 100% capacity, aka normalcy.
Fiscal fine print
House Democrats advanced a key piece of their police reform agenda Wednesday, passing House Bill 1267 to create a new agency with sweeping powers to investigate any case involving the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer.
The bill language made plain that this new Office of Independent Investigations will be housed in the Office of the Governor. Yet some in the governor’s operation — from which this idea originated — didn’t read it so clearly when it came to assessing the tab for the venture.
In the fiscal note, they concluded the costs are “indeterminate” because “the bill is silent on the makeup and creation” of the office. Still, they did come up with estimates, based on assumptions on staffing and services in the bill. Maybe those sums — $7.9 million in the first year and $13.6 million annually after that — clouded their view.
Showdown looms on tax vote
The capital gains tax bill emerged from the Rules Committee and can be voted on by the Senate at any time. This controversial legislation has been revised again. Read the latest version here.
Non-profit TVW covers state government in Olympia and selected events statewide. Programs are available for replay on the internet, and the channel is widely available on Washington cable systems.
Beat reporters: Jerry Cornfield (Herald) | Rachel La Corte (AP) | Joseph O’Sullivan (Times) | Jim Brunner (Times) | Austin Jenkins (NW News Network) | Melissa Santos (Crosscut) | Sara Gentzler (McClatchy) | Jim Camden (Spokesman-Review)