Liias eyes a solution for transportation package funding

Here’s what’s happening on Day 54 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2022 Washington Legislature, Day 54 of 60

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

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OLYMPIA, March 4 — This week is ending with a flurry of floor activity as the House and Senate face the last critical deadline to advance policy bills.

But first, a scoop.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, is eyeing a sweep of the Model Toxics Control Act account, better known as MoTCA, to help fund the Move Ahead transportation package. It would negate the need to tap the state public works trust fund, as proposed by House Democrats.

Liias’ proposal calls for redirecting 45% of hazardous substance tax collections into the state’s multimodal account to spend on buses, sidewalks and bikeways throughout the 16-year life of the package. One calculation I’ve seen shows around $2.3 billion would be generated from the per-barrel tax on liquid petroleum products.

It’s no secret Senate Democrats aren’t enamored with siphoning $100 million a year from the public works fund. House Democrats chose that path after jettisoning the tax on exported fuel — a Liias proposal that Senate Democrats approved.

Early today, at a meeting of the Public Works Board, lobbyist Marie Sullivan told members said she’s heard “firm commitments from the Senate” that the trust fund sweep “is not what they want to do.”

One up, one down

The Senate worked until midnight Thursday and the House until around 2:30 a.m. today. Lawmakers are, in the words of a veteran lobbyist, “getting to that spot where they’re cranky.”

Before the 5 p.m. cut-off arrives, the House is expected to take up the ban on high capacity firearm magazines, a top priority of Democrats this session.

It eluded them in 2020. Democrat leaders steered clear after Republicans dropped 120 amendments on that year’s version. As of this morning, GOP members had two dozen amendments for Senate Bill 5078.

Meanwhile, the House isn’t likely to tackle Senate Bill 5919, which revises standards for police to conduct vehicle pursuits.

“The likelihood of this bill moving is small,’ House Speaker Laurie Jinkins told reporters Thursday afternoon.

It passed the Senate on a 31-18 vote, with 10 Democrats uniting with the entire Republican caucus to get it out. Replicating this in the House seems improbable.

Kreidler chronicles: Final chapter?

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is having a bad week.

He hoped starting today that insurers would have to stop using credit scores in rate-setting for home, auto and renter’s insurance policies. He issued a rule commanding them to do so. Insurers went to court to block it.

They won.

The commish’s rule, which would have been effective on March 4, is on hold as the legal fight proceeds.

One wonders if Kreidler will be around when this is resolved.

On Thursday, Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network published a stunning piece in which current and former employees detailed verbal battering they’ve endured from Kreidler. One wrote in a formal complaint that the six-term commissioner is “not fit to lead.”

Kreidler, 78, said in a statement that he deeply regrets that “some of my behavior and actions have taken attention away from the good work we do on behalf of insurance consumers. We hold each other to high standards, and I am not above those. Clearly, I have work to do.”

Munch Time

It’s Senate tradition to deliver gifts when you get your first bill passed.

Rookie Sen. Simon Sefzik messed up and forgot when his turn came

Though tardy, he did deliver Wednesday, doling out Top Ramen — his go-to food — and a chocolate bar.

“A meal and a treat,” he declared, adding that if one is not enough, he’s got plenty more in his office.

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