Spendy ways, jaywalking rules, right turns survive and nurse staffing levels

It’s Day 47. A deadline arrives for bills that cost money. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 legislative session

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

2023 Washington Legislature, Day 47 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 24, 2023 — Welcome to the Friday edition.

Been a long week filled with wheeling, dealing, writing and rewriting of bills. All because today is a deadline for legislation with a price tag to get passed out of a fiscal committee.

I should probably rephrase. It is a pseudo-deadline because, as House Majority Leader Joe Fitzgibbon reminded reporters this week, “nothing is ever really dead here.”

Gobs and gobs of bills are getting advanced. Today alone the Senate Ways and Means Committee will churn through 56 and the House Appropriation Committee is tackling 40 of its own. Each one requires cash from the state general fund to carry out.

A few million dollars here and a couple hundred million dollars there adds up quick. Paying for all the aspirational spending isn’t possible, right?

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins thinks not. She told reporters lawmakers have “very constrained operating and capital and transportation budgets this year, in ways we haven’t seen in recent years.”

In the same news conference of Democratic legislative leaders, neither she, Fitzgibbon nor Senate Deputy Majority Leader Manka Dhingra and Assistant Majority Caucus Leader Joe Nguyen ruled out new or higher taxes.

House Democrats are showing interest in lifting the voter-endorsed 1% cap on annual increases in property tax collections. None of the quartet said a margin tax or the much ballyhooed wealth tax is dead even though neither got out of any committee. Same story for a new real estate excise tax on higher-valued properties. Keep watch.

One definite source: the Climate Commitment Act. Washington will conduct its first auction of carbon emission allowances on Tuesday. We should know by March 7 how much money is raised. There’s anticipation the sum will be north of $1.5 billion.

“There will be a significant amount of revenue,” Nguyen projected.

Look before crossing

A move to legalize jaywalking is alive. Not nearly as ambitious as originally envisioned.

As written, Senate Bill 5383 would have let a person cross a roadway at pretty much any point absent “an immediate danger” of getting struck by a moving vehicle or bike.

What emerged from the Democratic-controlled Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday zapped most of the key tenets. Left in place is an allowance for a person “to cross a roadway with a posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour or less as long as such a crossing does not impede the flow of traffic.”

Republicans didn’t buy into the watered-down proposition.

“I think we are truly putting people in harm’s way,” said Sen. Curtis King, the committee’s ranking Republican.

Meanwhile, right turns on red are not going away. Bills to ban them in certain locations died in the Senate and House transportation committees.

Democratic Rep. Jake Fey, chair of the House panel, said the well-intentioned legislation crashed into all kinds of opposition.

“I don’t think there was any amendment out there that could be a middle ground,” he said.

End of ratios?

Awoke this morning to read the latest version of a nurse staffing standards bill takes the state out of the driver’s seat in setting and enforcing minimum hospital nurse staffing levels.

A proposed substitute for Senate Bill 5236 axes provisions requiring the Department of Labor and Industries to adopt rules establishing such standards. Instead, that agency and the state Department of Health will set up an advisory committee to develop a uniform staffing plan.

The goal would be for hospital executives and their nurses to use that model plan to craft an approach specific to their facility. The state would be able to enforce compliance with a hospital’s adopted staffing plan.

As reported by my colleague, Joy Borkholder, front-line nurses are wiped out largely due to a nurse shortage. They’ve dueled with their administrators the past couple years on the need for minimum staffing levels, also known as nurse-patient ratios.

Just as this edition was about to go out, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee said there would be no action but it could resurface in budget discussions later.

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