Ports and potties, and a delay in long-term-care payroll tax

Here’s what’s happening on Day 8 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2022 Washington Legislature, Day 8 of 60

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

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OLYMPIA, Jan. 17 — Welcome to Week 2. Prepare for rhetorical fireworks on the floor and in the virtual hearing rooms.

WA Cares, the long-term-care program funded with a payroll tax, will provide a fuse in the House. Bills delaying its start until mid-2023 and clarifying who pays into it are expected to come up for a vote Wednesday or Friday.

Democrats want the 18 months to address concerns about the financial viability of the program and clarify who will derive benefits. Pushing its launch to 2023 also reduces the potential it will be a political liability in elections this fall. They’ll likely be defending their signature social program on the floor.

Republicans want to repeal WA Cares and start over. That’s not a viable option right now. A delay is the best, and only, alternative. Thus, most will back these bills after using the floor debate to orate against the program.

“Even with the changes contained in House Bills 1732 and 1733, the long-term care insurance program and payroll tax will continue to be unpopular, insolvent, and inadequate,” House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox said in a statement Saturday.

Gun Show

Democrats have laid the most controversial pieces of their gun control agenda on the table.

This morning, a Senate panel heard one bill to ban assault weapons and another to allow cities, towns and counties to pass restrictions on the open carry of firearms in buildings and at public meetings.

Assault weapons brought out the crowd. There were 166 people signed in to testify about Senate Bill 5217. Another 4,858 signed in not wishing to talk, of which roughly 375 supported the bill and the rest opposed.

Meanwhile, last week, Senate Ds pulled the bill banning high capacity magazines out of the Rules Committee. Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, the prime sponsor, said this morning that some tweaks are coming. The size of magazines to be outlawed, now 17 bullets, may be reduced in line with other states. Retroactivity is an issue, too, he said. He’s working to secure votes in the caucus and did not forecast when it might reach the Senate floor.

Also last week, a House committee heard legislation to create weapon-free zones at ballot counting centers and places where school boards and city councils meet. The House Public Safety Committee may advance the legislation Friday.

Spin Cycle

Leaders of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses meet with reporters at 2:45 p.m. today. Watch on TVW.

Republicans will hold their weekly confab with reporters at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. TVW will carry it live.

Truckers, nurses, dairy farmers

Today at 3:30 p.m., the House Transportation Committee tackles a bill ensuring truck drivers can use the bathroom at retail businesses where they make deliveries. House Bill 1706 also requires port terminal operators to provide a sufficient number of restrooms for drayage truck operators. They can be flush toilets or Honey Buckets, and no, don’t you dare call this the Port and Potties Bill.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, legislation to set minimum staffing standards in hospitals gets a hearing in the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee. House Bill 1868 prescribes a ratio of patients to direct care registered nurses. Violations could get expensive for hospitals.

Also at 10 a.m. Wednesday, a showdown looms between Gov. Jay Inslee and dairy farmers. House Bill 1838, aka the Lorraine Loomis Act, aims to boost salmon recovery by protecting areas along the edges of rivers, streams and waterways. In an email alert sent Saturday, the Washington Dairy Federation said it “proposes some of the biggest no-touch buffers we have seen in the last 30 years. This bill must be seen for what it is — a farm killer.”

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