Push begins for a pickleball license plate and a ban on octopus farming

Those are two of 700 bills introduced in the first week of the 2023 legislative session.

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 5 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, Jan. 13, 2023 — One week is in the books. Been a busy one with pomp and circumstance, and a ton of hybrid legislative hearings. It looks like everyone managed to avoid any embarrassing outbursts on an open mic, be it in a hearing room or someone’s home.

Washington’s citizen legislators also managed to file 700 bills including ones certain to incite passions — a ban on assault weapons, a constitutional amendment on abortion rights, rules for vehicle pursuits by law enforcement, and hospital staffing standards.

And then there’s Senate Bill 5333 which would create a special license plate for Washington’s official state sport, pickleball. Proceeds from plate sales would go to build and maintain pickleball courts. Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, introduced it Thursday.

Pickleball is the tennis-like sport played with wooden paddles and a plastic ball. It was named the state sport a few months ago under a law signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in a ceremony at the Bainbridge Island home where the sport was invented. Lovick authored that one, too. My colleague Nick Patterson penned the origin story of that effort.

Not every lawmaker is enamored with creating new special license plates. But Lovick is one enthused pickleball player. Going to be hard to beat him on this.

Tentacle protection

Here’s one that caught my eye: a bill to ban octopus farming. Didn’t know it was a problem, right? It isn’t in Washington. No one is pursuing this aspect of aquaculture today. Actually, no one is doing it anywhere. Yet.

This is a nascent industry with the world’s first octopus farm set to open in Spain this year. It may not be the last. Folks around the world want to eat more octopus. Farming is seen as a way to satisfy demand. It’s also ignited a huge ethics debate because octopus have feelings.

In 2021, researchers at the London School of Economics found “very strong evidence” that octopus are sentient beings capable of experiencing distress and happiness. A farm would bring out their worst, researchers concluded. You can read the report. Or, you can watch the documentary, “My Octopus Teacher” see how a guy forges a relationship with an octopus over the course of a year. It’s amazing.

Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, sponsored House Bill 1153 at the request of Animal Rights Initiative (ARI). He’s got 11 Democratic co-sponsors. It’s awaiting a hearing in the House Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee where supporters hope Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, the chair, can get his arms around it.

Point of personal privilege

I am ending the week in a bit of a funk because reporters Rachel La Corte of The Associated Press and Austin Jenkins of Northwest News Network, longtime colleagues in the Capitol press corps, weren’t here pacing the halls and questioning electeds at press conferences this week. I am sure those who’ve been around this place awhile noticed. Good news, they are still carrying out journalism and keeping track of what’s happening here, just through different venues. (And Austin is still hosting a TVW show.)

AP plans to fill the vacancy created by Rachel’s departure. For now it’s open, apparently making this the first time AP has been without a reporter at the Capitol since opening an Olympia bureau in 1921.

As many of you have not-so-kindly noted, I am now the old guy of the press corps. I am not embracing it well. Looking forward to chilling out this weekend — and hopefully enjoying a Niners victory.

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