Things are heating up in Olympia — and not just the weather

Here’s what’s happening on Day 94 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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

2021 Washington Legislature, Day 94 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, April 14, 2021 — Good Wednesday morning. Tensions are rising in the virtual corridors of the state Capitol as lawmakers near the close of the session.

Nowhere is it higher than on a proposed low-carbon fuel standard as Senate and House Democrats square off on the final constructs of legislation.

The Democrat-led Senate approved House Bill 1091 last week. This was a big deal because similar measures sent over from House Democrats in 2019 and 2020 never reached the Senate floor.

Senate Democrats put their imprint on it before passing it 27-22. As I reported Monday, five of them then sent a letter to the bill’s author, Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, demanding he not mess with their handiwork if he wants it to make it to the finish line this session.

One change, for example, ties the bill to a multibillion-dollar transportation package whose fate is quite clouded. Fitzgibbon told me Monday “it’s bad practice to make an entire bill contingent on passage of another bill.”

The senators — Mark Mullet, Annette Cleveland, Kevin Van De Wege, Steve Conway and Bob Hasegawa — figured Fitzgibbon might feel that way and said it is one of the changes “that must stay in the final bill to earn our support.”

You can read the letter below. Another account of this row can be found in the Washington Observer.

Meanwhile, prospects of a cap-and-trade bill passing are far from certain.

Senate Democrats didn’t get Senate Bill 5126 — one of the session’s most complicated policy bills — to the House until Sunday. A hearing is set for 8 a.m. today in the House Environment and Energy Committee. Fitzgibbon, who is the chair, predicted a warm reception.

But even well-liked measures require time to get through the process. And there’s a block of House Democrats desirous of action on a straight carbon fee proposal dubbed “Washington Strong.” Seventeen made their request in an April 7 letter to Fitzgibbon and House Speaker Laurie Jinkins.

Reopening retort

Republican lawmakers blasted Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement that Pierce, Cowlitz and Whitman counties must revert this Friday to Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan.

“With the flip of a switch in Olympia, the governor has reignited public fury at a time when the COVID threat is winding down,” said GOP Sen. Jeff Wilson, whose district includes part of Cowlitz County.

Senate Minority Leader John Braun and House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox renewed their call to reel in the governor’s emergency powers and to give lawmakers a voice in the decision-making process. And they criticized Democratic leaders for not asserting “the Legislature’s power as a coequal branch of state government. It’s patently absurd that we’re two weeks away from the end of session and they won’t even discuss it.”

A caucus united

Sunday night brought a scene with little precedent in the House. Forty-nine Democrats spoke against an amendment to Senate Bill 5044 requiring that school board directors receive training on equity, inclusion and “dismantling institutional racism” in their districts.

GOP Rep. Jim Walsh lit their collective fuse with his amendment to bar training in the historic and ongoing manifestations of racism and sexism. “We find racism and sexism abhorrent,” he said, noting the focus on training should be “on our common humanity.”

Democrats provided a stirring rebuttal, starting with Rep. April Berg.

“I am a school board director and the mother of black children and this amendment denies, minimizes and mocks the experiences that I see every day,” said Berg, a member of the Everett Public Schools Board of Directors.

Jinkins offered comments from the House floor. “There can be no reconciliation without truth,” she said. “The effect of this amendment would require that truth not be considered.”

Complete text of letter on low carbon fuel standard:

Chair Fitzgibbon,

Thank you for your dedication to pursuing the Low Carbon Fuel Standard for our state. While we sometimes disagree on the methods, we all share a commitment to ensuring our state does its part in reducing our carbon footprint to address climate change.

As you know, HB 1091 passed the Senate Thursday night on a vote of 27-20. Our five votes represent more than the margin of passage and it is crucial that you know the changes made to the legislation in the Senate were integral to our support for the bill. We worked closely with our partners in the Building Trades to make sure all voices were heard.

As we likely head to conference, these are the Senate changes to the legislation that must stay in the final bill to earn our support:

• Ensure that this policy does not dramatically increase the cost of fuel, which is a burden that will likely fall on consumers and disproportionately impact those who can least afford it.

• Ensure that Washington State benefits from the jobs created by the additional money that will be spent by consumers on low carbon fuels. This includes new biofuel facilities in Washington and an assurance that some of the crops used to make those fuels come from our state.

• The bill must maintain a link to the transportation package.

• Maintain the legislative review beyond the 10% threshold so that elected officials can weigh the efficiency of the policy after implementation.

Addressing our climate impacts doesn’t have to be just a bitter pill. With the Senate amendments, we can show Washington residents that they benefit directly from doing the hard work of reducing our carbon footprint.

Thank you,

Senator Mark Mullet, 5th Legislative District

Senator Annette Cleveland, 49th Legislative District

Senator Bob Hasegawa, 11th Legislative District

Senator Kevin Van De Wege, 4th Legislative District

Senator Steve Conway, 29th Legislative District

Supported by:

Mark L. Riker, Executive Secretary, Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO

Neil Hartman, Government Affairs Director, Washington State Association of the United Association of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry

Josh Swanson, Political and Communications Representative, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 302

Matt Swanson, Political Director, Northwest Carpenters Union

Billy Wallace Jr., Political & Legislative Director, Washington & Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers

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