Timely police reform; Ferguson weighs in on drug possession

Here’s what’s happening on Day 101 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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

2021 Washington Legislature, Day 101 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, April 21, 2021 — It’s Wednesday. Five days to go. There are budgets to pass and a few gaping policy chasms to bridge. Or not.

On Tuesday, shortly after a Minnesota jury convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd, the state Senate took final action on legislation aimed at getting cops to stop other cops from using excessive force.

Senate Bill 5066 requires any “on-duty” peace officer to intervene when they see another peace officer engaging in the use of excessive force, and to report it to their supervisor. And the bill requires all law enforcement agencies to adopt written policies on the duty to intervene and to provide officers with training on the policy.

The bill passed 31-18 vote after clearing the House on a 71-27 margin earlier this month. It now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for his expected signing.

Meanwhile, the Senate and House are ironing out final wrinkles in two other policing reform bills — one directing the state attorney general to develop model policies on use of force and de-escalation tactics, and another that would ban chokeholds and neck restraints and restrict police pursuits. Tear gas — which is in both bills — is one tough wrinkle as the two chambers differ on the extent to which its use should be limited.

Also Tuesday, a ban on the open carrying of guns and other weapons at the Capitol campus and at or near permitted public demonstrations statewide cleared the final hurdle. On a party-line vote, the Senate concurred with changes to SB 5038 made by the House, most notably the addition of an emergency clause. Its next stop is Inslee’s desk.

From the Speaker’s Office

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins told reporters Tuesday — before the House began debate on the capital gains tax — that a budget deal is getting real close. Hopefully Friday, though it could be Saturday before it arrives in print, she said.

And prospects for a transportation package do not sound promising. At this point, not having a transportation package that has moved across the rotunda in either direction makes it pretty hard. “Time is marching on,” she said.

Blake watch

Democratic Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Tuesday urged state lawmakers to move away from criminalizing simple drug possession — a path the Legislature is considering as part of its response to the Blake ruling by the state Supreme Court.

“This is Washington’s moment to overhaul a broken system and end the failed war on drugs. Criminalizing simple drug possession exacerbates racial disparities,” Ferguson said in a statement that avoided direct backing of drug legalization. “The Legislature now has a unique opportunity to reject criminal penalties for non-commercial drug possession. Let’s focus our resources on treatment and protecting the public from serious and violent crime.”

Simple drug possession would be a misdemeanor under a proposed rewrite of Senate Bill 5476, which is expected to be voted out of the the House Appropriations Committee today.

In the meantime, Inslee — whom Ferguson aspires to succeed — has refused to state his position on the subject.

Tax break tussle

Extension of a small property tax incentive is stirring an oversized policy fight between the House and Senate. A 2015 state law allowed only Arlington, Marysville and Lake Stevens to use the incentive to attract new manufacturers with good-paying jobs to targeted properties in their communities. That law was limited to certain-sized cities in Snohomish County.

It’s working. The cities want it extended. House Republicans successfully amended House Bill 1386 to allow any city in the state to offer it if they want. But a tweak by Senate Democrats now limits it only to cities in those counties with a population of at least 450,000.

The House refused to concur and politely asked the Senate to back off the changes. Stay tuned.

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