We await a state Supreme Court decision on Sound Transit

It’s Day 32 of 60 of the 2020 session of the Washington Legislature in Olympia.

2020 Washington Legislature, Day 32 of 60

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

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 13, 2020 — Welcome to what is certain to be an eventful day.

All eyes are on the Temple of Justice, where this morning the state Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision which could affect Sound Transit car tabs in a demonstrable way.

The decision is in a case argued in September on the legality of the law which cleared the way for Sound Transit to get voter approval in 2016 for a large hike in the motor vehicle excise tax (MVET). Taxpayers who sued are hoping to repeal the increase, arguing in part that Sound Transit has been using the wrong vehicle valuation schedule to calculate the tax. The ruling should be posted sometime after 8 a.m. on the court’s website. Here is some background on the case.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday we learned that Initiative 976 is legal. At least the most talked-about pieces — lowering the cost of car tabs, eliminating transportation benefit districts and compelling Sound Transit to reduce or get rid of most of its MVET.

That’s the bottom line of a decision from King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson. He said he still needs to decide the legality of a couple of other provisions, but he rejected all the opponents’ arguments about the measure being unconstitutional.

• Under the Capitol dome, the House and Senate passed a few dozen bills. And they’re just getting started.

One of the first to clear the House was a bill from Rep. Melanie Morgan to ban race-based discrimination against hair style or texture. And a short time later, the House voted 97-1 in favor of Rep. Debra Lekanoff’s legislation allowing students to wear traditional tribal regalia and objects of cultural significance at graduation.

Democratic state Rep. Melanie Morgan listens Wednesday during testimony on the House floor about her bill that would ban race-based discrimination against hair texture and hairstyles. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Democratic state Rep. Melanie Morgan listens Wednesday during testimony on the House floor about her bill that would ban race-based discrimination against hair texture and hairstyles. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In the Senate, a bill that caught my eye as a former bike commuter was the one allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs. Some refer to this as the Idaho Stop because such a law has existed in that state since 1982, according to Sen. Andy Billig, the sponsor.

And for the second straight year, the House overwhelmingly approved Rep. John Lovick’s bill to create a special Patches Pal license plate honoring Julius Pierpont Patches the clown.

• And, finally, Tim Eyman on Wednesday announced he is going to run for governor as a Republican rather than as an independent.


What we’re writing and reading

• ICYMI: AP’s Gene Johnson reports on the I-976 ruling.

Jim Camden of the Spokesman-Review covered the House debate on the hair discrimination bill.

• As I noted in yesterday’s Cornfield Report, Tuesday’s election went badly for several school districts in Snohomish County. In my column today I ponder some of the reasons why bonds did not pass and levies failed.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal opined that things went pretty well across the state. And in a tweet to me, he wrote: “Snohomish County was a concentrated cluster of concern. Thank you @dospueblos for covering this. We would like to learn more about the unique issues of the area. Students need those enrichment programs!”


What’s happening

• A Senate bill requiring Washington to adopt California’s vehicle emission standards will be heard at 8 a.m. in the House environment committee. They’ll be talking about the substitute for Senate Bill 5811 put forth by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon.

• The House and Senate will be on the floor at 9 a.m. House members are prepped to go well into the evening.

• Gov. Jay Inslee will hold his second general news conference of the session at 10:30 a.m. In addition to comments on legislation, we might get updates on the extent of damage caused by recent flooding and landslides. TVW will livestream this event.

Editors and publishers of newspapers from around the state are spending the day at the Capitol. They’ll meet with legislative leaders and statewide elected officials and have dinner with the governor. Might the subject of public records come up?

Here’s today lineup of committee meetings.

Legislative agendas, schedules and calendars


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Beat reporters: Jerry Cornfield (Herald) | Rachel La Corte (AP) | Joseph O’Sullivan (Times) | Jim Brunner (Times) | Melissa Santos (Crosscut) | Jim Camden (Spokesman-Review) | Austin Jenkins (NW News Network) | James Drew (News Tribune)

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