State transpo package arrives, clean fuel standard motors on

Here’s what’s happening on Day 80 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2021 Washington Legislature, Day 80 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, March 31, 2021 — Good Wednesday morning. Starting today, another 2 million people are eligible to get a vaccine shot. Count me among them.

So, too, are men and women locked up in state prisons. Three of them sued Monday to force the state to immediately vaccinate incarcerated individuals. You can read their argument here. Suffice it to say they aren’t able to hunt down doses as others can. Hence they are applying legal pressure to the Department of Corrections and Department of Health to allocate doses to those in custody, as well as staff, right away. Corrections has vaccinated some employees and inmates — though it’s not clear whom — according to this website.

Washington will soon be banning the open carry of weapons in and around the state Capitol and at permitted demonstrations, big and small, across the state. House Democrats attached an emergency clause when they passed it Sunday so it can take effect as soon as Gov. Jay Inslee signs it.

They acted because of an uptick in violence around the Capitol Campus the past year, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said Monday. Senate Democrats are to concur when they get the chance, sometime after April 11.

The big reveal

House Democrats pull back the curtain on their multi-year, multibillion-dollar transportation package today. Expect to see a proposal covering 16 years with a price tag in the neighborhood of $26 billion. And when the content of House Bill 1564 is released at 2 p.m., it should list projects and programs to be funded.

It also should identify sources of revenue. They’ll pencil in around $5 billion from the cap-and-trade bill that’s wending through the Senate. A gas tax increase, potentially exceeding 10 cents a gallon, would be phased in over several years to net in excess of $3.5 billion.

There’s also going to be a new thing, an air quality surcharge fee, collected on the sale of new vehicles and those getting a title in Washington for the first time. The amount would vary based on a vehicle’s fuel efficiency, with a projected average of $276. This idea, which could bring in about a billion dollars, is taken from the Forward Washington transportation package proposed in the Senate.

A hearing is set for 9 a.m. Thursday in the House Transportation Committee.

Clean fuel chronicles

The fate of a low-carbon fuel standard bill is unclear, but it seems certain it won’t die in the Senate Transportation Committee, where the chairman, Democrat Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, killed it the past two sessions.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig told reporters Monday “it’s definitely a bill that will get to Rules.” However, he didn’t commit to having the Senate vote on it.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday veteran lobbyist Clifford Traisman, who represents several statewide environmental groups, said he expects the bill will have “a very short stay” in the transportation committee before moving to the Rules Committee, the final stop before a floor vote.

Traisman also said the Legislature “will not go home without” enacting a clean fuels standard. As far as the talk of a grand bargain knotting together a transportation package and carbon reduction policy, he said, “There won’t be a Grand Bargain without a clean fuels standard.”

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