Redistricting nearly done; a big reveal on transpo spending

Here’s what’s happening on Day 24 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2022 Washington Legislature, Day 24 of 60

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

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 2 — Welcome to Wednesday.

Pickleball alert: Senators are expected to vote today to make it the official state sport.

Now to the day’s other developments.

Redistricting in the shadows

Notwithstanding legal challenges, the redrawing of Washington’s political maps is nearly finished.

The embattled Redistricting Commission drew up new boundaries for 10 congressional districts and 49 legislative districts. The House could vote as early as today on a concurrent resolution amending some of the lines before they become official. The Senate will get a crack at it next.

Good luck figuring out what those changes are.

Under the rules, lawmakers may amend the maps within the first 30 days of the session by a two-thirds vote of both chambers. Any changes to individual districts may not exceed 2% of the total population.

The 131-page resolution lists affected Census tracts and blocks, and any increase or decrease in a district’s population. No maps. No staff report. And no public debate, as these types of resolutions typically receive no hearings.

This isn’t unexpected. It happens every decade. But this time a Senate bill aims to shine more light on how the Redistricting Commission operates. It is a direct response to concerns the commission did too much of its work in secret.

The bill would require proposed new maps be publicly available for a few days before any action is taken. And last-minute amendments would get a public airing, as well. The point is to give folks a shot at weighing in.

Regarding the line-drawing resolution in front of lawmakers, here’s what I’ve discerned.

Many proposed adjustments, if not all, are said to come directly from a “Trapped Polygon and Problematic Boundary Analysis” produced by county auditors, which offers fixes for “problematic” situations where less-populated areas are caught between legislative and congressional districts in the commission maps, or lines don’t match up well with city and county borders.

Some changes are small. Outside Sultan in Snohomish County, a line appears to pass through a single building, leaving it sitting in two legislative and two congressional districts. A tweak resolves that.

Some changes aren’t as small. The town of Moxee in Yakima County is in two legislative districts, the 13th and 15th. Auditors suggest it be in one by moving 1,825 residents from the 13th into the 15th, then, for balance, 1,821 people are moved from another part of the 15th into the 13th.

This might be spelled out in the resolution, if you know what Census tract you live in.

A one-party package

The big reveal on a proposed transportation package should occur next week. Don’t be surprised if a little hell breaks loose.

Democrats are crafting it without Republican input and are primed to push it through without GOP votes.

“We’re really curious what they’re working on,” Senate Minority Leader John Braun said Tuesday.

It will spend around $15 billion over 15 years, similar in scale to the 2015 Connecting Washington package.

About a third of the revenue will come from the sale of carbon emission allowances under the Climate Commitment Act. Federal dollars will cover a chunk and several hundred million dollars will come from the general fund. Some vehicle fees will rise. There is no gas tax increase.

No new bonds will be sought to finance it. Therefore, no pressure to horse trade with Republicans, whose votes they might need to get to the 60% threshold needed to pass a bond bill.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, the first-year chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, and Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, his House counterpart, are drawing up the blueprint.

On Tuesday, Liias explained why they’ve not engaged much with Republicans yet. With a short session, it made sense to get the Democratic caucuses on the same page first, he said. And, he noted, Republicans opposed the Climate Commitment Act and aren’t likely to share the Democrats’ view on how to spend those dollars.

“Once we have more definition we’ll share with them,” he said.

A retiree caucus

The number of lawmakers who’ve decide to make the 2022 session their last is growing.

I reported Tuesday on Everett Rep. Mike Sells’ decision to not seek a 10th term. Back in December, Rep. Steve Kirby of Tacoma said he’s hanging up his legislative cleats.

Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle issued his announcement last week. And last October, another Seattle senator, David Frockt, gave early notice of his legislative retirement.

Are there others I’ve forgotten? Let me know.

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