Urgent responses to the Blake decision emerge in Olympia

Here’s what’s happening on Day 73 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2021 Washington Legislature, Day 73 of 105

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

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OLYMPIA, March 24, 2021 — Happy Wednesday. It’s a new era in Washington. Insurance companies may not use your credit score to calculate the cost of insurance for your home or auto.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler made that happen Tuesday with an emergency order that will remain in effect until three years after the pandemic is declared over by the president or governor — which ever is later.

Kreidler’s action comes two weeks after legislation imposing such a ban died in the state Senate. Kreidler and Gov. Jay Inslee badly wanted that bill, arguing use of credit scores in rate-setting is discriminatory because it results in low-income people and people of color paying more for coverage.

Democratic Sen. Mark Mullet, who opposed the prohibition, refashioned the bill to bar use of credit scores to increase anyone’s rate. That version did not get a vote. He didn’t appreciate Kreidler’s move.

“The majority of people over the age of 50, of all races in all income brackets, would see their costs go up as a result of the insurance commissioner’s action,” he said in a statement. “This is not constructive, it is not fair, and it is not going to help those who need relief from high insurance rates.

Drug law fixes multiply

When the state Supreme Court tossed out the state’s felony drug possession law a month ago, Democratic leaders sounded resigned, and content, to wait until 2022 to respond to what is known as the Blake decision.

Not any more. Concerns about potential fallout — such as people getting out of jail, losing out on treatment or maybe being owed sizable refunds for fines they paid — are spurring cities, counties and law enforcement agencies to plead with lawmakers to act. They are, now.

House Republicans dropped five bills Tuesday, with Senate Republicans set to unveil their ideas Wednesday morning. Mullet and Sen. Steve Hobbs have a couple pieces of legislation in the mix. Another Democrat, Sen. Manka Dhingra, put forth a bill Tuesday which could be the vehicle for hearings with a multi-faceted approach.

“If there’s political will … we can make something happen between chambers,” Senate Minority Leader John Braun told reporters Tuesday. “We can get this done.”

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins shared similar sentiment late Tuesday. When asked if she felt actions are needed this session, she said, “I think so. I think we should really try.”

Crunch time

A comprehensive and controversial data privacy bill pushed by the Senate is up for a vote at 8 a.m. Thursday in the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee. A big question is whether it will be amended in any significant way before the tally.

Senate Bill 5062 aims to strengthen consumer rights regarding control of personal information. Enforcement — a sticking point in previous sessions between the House and Senate — is still a flashpoint. That is not the only point of dispute. Eli Sanders drills deep on the debate in this story.

Budget line-up

Senate Democrats will roll out their proposed two-year operating and capital budgets at 1 p.m. Thursday. The Ways and Means Committee plans hearings on the capital budget at 4 p.m. Thursday and on the operating plan at 1 p.m. Friday.

House Democrats will release their spending blueprint at 3 p.m. Friday, with a hearing set for 9 a.m. Saturday in House Appropriations Committee.

When documents are released, you will be able to find them here.

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