Lawmakers return as a path for a Blake fix is fine-tuned

It is day one of the 2023 legislative session and 147 citizen legislators are doing it in person.

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 1 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, Jan. 9. 2023 — Welcome to Opening Day of the 2023 Legislature.

Rumors are true, lawmakers are back to governing face-to-face. That will make it a bit easier for residents, lobbyists and reporters to watch them do the people’s business in public.

Except, of course, when they’re in caucus. Which we know will happen a lot.

And, in the case of some members, when they send emails. A few have been asserting “legislative privilege” and redacting content of correspondences with colleagues. Not a good look. We’ll have time to delve deeper into this.

Activities formally kick off at noon. Ahead of that, state troopers and a bomb-sniffing dog did a walk-through and gave the all-clear.

Re-election of House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, should take less than 15 minutes, not 15 votes.

Then she, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane along with House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, and Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, may make comments. Like word clouds? You can start filling one up with housing, homelessness, public safety, abortion rights, education, taxes, climate and democracy.

Three things to watch

At 4 p.m. Monday, Pierce County leaders will tell the House Transportation Committee why they don’t want a new commercial airport in the county. And why the idea of constructing one near the rural communities of Graham and Roy is a bad idea.

At 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee will deliver his State of the State Address to a joint session of the Legislature. In 2022, he did it remotely to a handful of folks, each of whom were masked and tested negative for COVID-19. Check out what he said.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez of the Washington Supreme Court will give his State of the Judiciary speech. He’ll likely talk about a backlog of cases in lower courts, a need for technology improvements, and a concern about the security of judges.

Is this the Blake fix?

A path for retooling drug possession laws may lie in legislation chiseled together by Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett. I’ve seen a draft. It would increase the penalty for possession to a gross misdemeanor — it’s now a misdemeanor. It would encourage, rather than require, cops to direct someone to services rather than arrest them.

Officers could arrest a person without referring them to treatment. That person could avoid prosecution, however, if they agree to enter a diversion program. This is the stick-and-carrot law enforcement say is needed right now. Under her bill, a person could get a conviction for simple drug possession vacated by completing treatment. Her proposal also aims to make it easier to open treatment facilities around the state by making it a little harder for cities and counties to say no.

“I am introducing a bill that I think is comprehensive and strikes the right balance, and a lot of people are going to have a lot of opinions,” Robinson told me recently. “This is going to get beat up and negotiated a million times before the last day of session.”

That is 105 days from now if you are wondering.

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