Legal triumph for the AG, fiery D.C. return for the governor

Here’s what’s happening on Day 12 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2022 Washington Legislature, Day 12 of 60

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

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OLYMPIA, Jan. 21 — Chalk up another win for Bob Ferguson, this one at the state Supreme Court.

On Thursday, in a 5-4 ruling, it upheld a ginormous $18 million fine against an association of food industry icons for cheating during a 2013 initiative battle.

Ferguson, the state attorney general, had already convinced a lower court that the Grocery Manufacturers Association — now dubbed Consumer Brands — broke campaign finance rules when it spent millions of dollars against a ballot measure without disclosing the source of the money. That’s when he secured the big fine.

The trade group, with hundreds of members of the likes of Coca-Cola and Nestle, contended that sum was excessive, but the majority on the state’s high court said no.

Ferguson, who had hoped to be governor by now, can put this trophy alongside one picked up a year ago with a resounding win against initiative promoter Tim Eyman. In that case, a judge fined the pesky serial initiative promoter $2.6 million for a trove of campaign finance misdeeds.

Meanwhile, Consumer Brands will try to make its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Fine with Ferguson, who said, “I’m confident we would prevail again.”

By the way, the money is literally in the bank. Per a 2017 court order, the association posted a $19.5 million supersedeas bond.

Is COVID killing Republicans?

A congressional hearing on how states are coping with COVID deteriorated into a partisan brawl Thursday. Gov. Jay Inslee, an invited participant and a former congressman, joined in with pointed remarks that misinformation spread by Republican leaders is steering people away from getting vaccinated. It has consequences for the party.

“We have a disproportionate number of members of the Republican Party dying in my state,” he said. “Now I would think if you are Republican you would really want to be aggressive to prevent losing your people.”

The governor’s comment is based on an analysis showing that late last year the COVID death rate in the nation’s 10 reddest counties was six times higher than the rate in the 10 bluest counties. NPR reported similar findings in December.

On the move

House Bill 1735, clarifying the amount of force police can use in their community caretaking role, passed unanimously out of the House Public Safety Committee.

This will rewrite provisions of a law passed last year that had officers hesitating or refusing to assist in situations where they might be asked to physically intercede to help a person in crisis get treatment. Changes make clear they can, with reasonable care, use physical force.

House Bill 1751, which aims to curb hazing at colleges and universities through proactive education of students, cleared the House College and Workforce Development on a unanimous vote Thursday.

Under the version that passed, students, as part of their orientation, will get instruction on the dangers of hazing, which is outlawed at public and private colleges. Information will also be posted on websites of higher education institutions.

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