Money, drugs, hackers and the wait continues for Phase 3

Here’s what’s happening on Day 47 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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

2021 Washington Legislature, Day 47 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

Want this in your inbox Monday-Wednesday-Friday? Subscribe here.

OLYMPIA, Feb. 26, 2021 — Good morning. Welcome to Friday.

The U.S. House could vote today on the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. As now written, it would steer in excess of $10 billion into coffers of cities, counties, school districts and state government.

Estimates are that the state will get at least $7.6 billion in direct aid — $4.3 billion for its ongoing pandemic response and $3.3 billion for elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and child care assistance. Another $2.4 billion is earmarked for cities and counties with close to a billion dollars in aid to transit agencies and airport operators.

Where the state is concerned, money in the new package would be on top of $2.2 billion of federal funds lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee recently decided on how to distribute. Those dollars aren’t spent yet, and in many cases won’t be for months.

With this much federal assistance, majority Democrats and the governor can expect questions on whether they will still pursue the full slate of new taxes they had proposed this session.

Meanwhile, all counties in the state will remain in the second phase of Inslee’s “Healthy Washington” reopening plan for the foreseeable future.

Inslee announced a “weekslong pause” on counties going backwards Thursday and said he’ll be working on what the next phase will look like. He said he wants to talk with civic leaders, business owners, workers and “anybody we can find on the Planet Earth to help us.”

Legal bombshell

Washington begins a new era today in which possession of a controlled substance, also known as drugs, is no longer a crime.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a provision of state law that made felony drug possession a crime arguing it criminalized “innocent and passive possession, even by a defendant who does not know, and has no reason to know, that drugs lay hidden within something that they possess. The legislature’s police power goes far, but not that far.”

It’s a mess for prosecutors and law enforcement officers. They’ve got to figure out who might be in jail on such charges and thus eligible for release. It is worth noting some county prosecutors had already been edging away from filing felony possession charges involving small amounts of some narcotics.

Still those in law enforcement may look to lawmakers for a fix spelling out elements needed for a righteous bust for possession. At this stage in the session, it won’t be easy if there is even interest. Deadlines for policy and fiscal bills have passed so any ‘Grand Bargain’ would need to come together quick.

That may be hard to do. This bill to decriminalize drug possession got lots of support in House Public Safety Committee.

Defense build-up

Senators want the state to do a better job preventing hackers from getting into agency files. That massive hack of files held by the state Auditor’s Office will bring such urgency.

In a unanimous vote, they passed Senate Bill 5432 this week to create an Office of Cybersecurity that would bolster agencies’ defenses against hackers and investigate all major cybersecurity incidents.

Utility bill reprieve

Know someone struggling to pay their gas and electric bills? Good news, state regulators extended an order barring investor-owned energy utilities from disconnecting customers for nonpayment through July 31. It had been set to expire April 30.

As of December 2020, almost 277,000 residential electric and natural gas customers across the state have past due balances totaling $79.1 million, a 65% increase from 2019, according to the state Utilities and Transportation Commission.

Last year, the five investor-owned utilities — Puget Sound Energy, PacifiCorp, Avista, Northwest Natural Gas, and Cascade Natural Gas — dispersed assistance funds to more than 91,000 low-income customers and customers who lost income due to the pandemic, the commission reported.

To subscribe to the Cornfield Report, go to | Previous Cornfield Reports here.


News clippings

Compiled by: House Democrats | House Republicans



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.

TVW schedule | Current and recent video | Archives | Shows



Contact your legislator | District lookup | Bill lookup

Legislature home | House | Senate

Caucuses: House Democrats | House Republicans | Senate Democrats | Senate Republicans

Office of the Governor

Laws and agency rules

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)

Talk to us

More in Local News

Arlington woman dies in crash on Highway 530

The Washington State Patrol says a Stanwood man ran a red light, striking Zoey Ensey as she turned onto the highway.

FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. A leading doctor who chairs a World Health Organization expert group described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as "a random event" that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)
Monkeypox case count rises to 6 in Snohomish County

Meanwhile, cases in the state have roughly doubled every week. Most of those have been in neighboring King County.

Farmer Frog employees sort through a pallet of lettuce at their new location on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At Farmer Frog’s new pad, nonprofit helps feed 1.5M Washingtonians

The emergency food distribution network began amid the pandemic. Demand was high — so high, the truck volume led them to move.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Snohomish County, cities announce $9.6M for mental health, shelter

Projects span from Edmonds to Sultan. Each city is using American Rescue Plan Act money, with the county contributing, too.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Suspect in custody after man’s gunshot death, standoff

Deputies responded to a domestic violence call and found the suspect barricaded on the property near Snohomish.

A view of the proposed alternative station location to Everett Station located east of the current BNSF rail tracks in downtown. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could light rail station under Pacific Avenue and over railroad work?

A group representing people around Everett Station wants Sound Transit to study the idea.

Jon Elmgren, president of the Everett Rock Club, talks with two club members while out searching for olivine and other minerals on Saturday, July 22, 2022, along the Nooksack River near Deming, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett rockhounds dig in for shiny, rare, ‘ugly as sin’ treasure

This club has been around for 83 years. They’ll tell you what rocks their world — and how to identify “leaverite.”

State Representative Robert Sutherland, left, gives a thumbs-up to passing drivers as he and a few volunteers wave flags and campaign signs along the side of State Route 9 on July 22, in Lake Stevens. Sam Low, right, talks with seniors on July 20 in Lake Stevens. (Sutherland photo by Ryan Berry / The Herald, Low photo by Kevin Clark / The Herald)
In GOP battle of Sutherland vs. Low, Democrats may tip the scale

The state lawmaker and Snohomish County council member are vying for a House seat. Democrats make up roughly 40% of the vote.

Two students walk along a path through campus Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. The college’s youth-reengagement program has lost its funding, and around 150 students are now without the money they need to attend classes. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Monroe nixes college program, leaving 150-plus students in the lurch

For years, the Monroe School District footed the bill for “U3” students, who have gotten mixed messages about why that’s ending.

Most Read