Is the ‘grand bargain’ crumbling? Is a drug-law fix coming?

Here’s what’s happening on Day 99 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112

2021 Washington Legislature, Day 99 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, April 19, 2021 — Good morning. It’s the final Monday of regular session. When the clock reaches 8 a.m., lawmakers will have 160 hours until Sine Die. Here’s where things stand in two dramas which will occupy the spotlight today.

Whither the ‘grand bargain’?

A cap-and-trade program is emerging as majority Democrats’ chosen path for tackling carbon emissions.

House Democrats reworked Senate Bill 5126 to cut direct ties with passage of a transportation funding package. Rather, the latest version steers money into a new account outside the transportation budget to pay for transit, electric ferries and other stuff to get cars off the road. This may win over those who want a straight carbon fee and who oppose spending any carbon-related revenue on pavement.

Also, a low-carbon fuel standard is now part of the SB 5126 conversation. An amendment from Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, the clean fuels guru, requires a standard be enacted by the end of 2027, otherwise no proceeds from the cap-and-trade program can go into that new account.

Meanwhile, a transportation package awaits action in the Senate and must still go through the House. Its future is dicey. It could be slimmed down or remade into a roads-heavy package. But some legislative leaders are willing to wait until 2022 to see if a federal infrastructure bill is signed that handles any of the state’s targeted needs. Theirs may be the final word.

Will there be a Blake bargain?

Lawmakers are intent on doing something in response to the state Supreme Court’s Blake decision, which invalidated the drug-possession law. There are signs of a bipartisan willingness to use the operating budget to bolster treatment services for those with a substance use disorder.

One sticking point is whether to allow adults to legally possess small amounts of drugs like heroin, cocaine and LSD. Some Democrats want to, some Democrats don’t. Republicans are opposed across the board. Another area of difference is the appropriate punishment if possession is outlawed.

The Senate’s passage of a revised Senate Bill 5476 may be a harbinger of a final product. It makes drug possession a crime again but lessens the penalty to a gross misdemeanor from the felony it was before. Among other changes, it requires diversion for first and second offenses and starts a conversation on personal use amounts. It passed 28-20.

Senate bills 5126 and 5476 will receive public hearings at 9 am today in the House Appropriations Committee. The panel is to vote on cap-and-trade Tuesday and the Blake bill Wednesday.

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