NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

2020 Washington State Legislature adjourns Sine Die after upping COVID-19 response

That’s a wrap, folks!

Min­utes ago, the 2020 Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture adjourned Sine Die (mean­ing, with no expec­ta­tion of return­ing) in Olympia, hav­ing vot­ed out a slew of budget/fiscal bills and hon­ored more than a dozen law­mak­ers from both par­ties who are retir­ing from leg­isla­tive ser­vice after many years.

The House­’s final leg­isla­tive act was pas­sage of an amend­ed bill to dou­ble fund­ing for nov­el coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) response from $100 to $200 mil­lion.

“With the pas­sage of [Engrossed] House Bill 2965, a total of $175 mil­lion will be direct­ed to state and local pub­lic health agen­cies and the remain­ing $25 mil­lion will be trans­ferred into the new­ly cre­at­ed COVID-19 unem­ploy­ment account to help busi­ness­es and work­ers dis­rupt­ed by the pan­dem­ic,” the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus announced in an end-of-ses­sion press release.

“It’s cru­cial that the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton have the full sup­port of the Leg­is­la­ture behind them dur­ing these chal­leng­ing times,” said Sen­a­tor Chris­tine Rolfes (D‑23rd Dis­trict), Chair of the Sen­ate Ways & Means Com­mit­tee.

“Even after we leave Olympia today, we will be col­lab­o­rat­ing close­ly with Gov­er­nor Inslee’s office to ensure they have the resources and author­i­ty they need.”

“I am so proud of the work we’ve done on behalf of the peo­ple of this state, but all of our thoughts right now are with the peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties across Wash­ing­ton impact­ed by the coro­n­avirus and with the pub­lic health pro­fes­sion­als who are work­ing around the clock to stop its spread,” said Sen­a­tor Andy Bil­lig.

“The bud­get we passed today address­es the needs we saw com­ing into ses­sion as well as those that unfold­ed in recent weeks,” added Bil­lig, who serves as Major­i­ty Leader. “The steps we have tak­en this year, and real­ly for the past three years, leaves our state in a strong posi­tion to com­bat this out­break.”

EHB 2965 passed with­out any oppo­si­tion in both cham­bers.

The final Sen­ate roll was as fol­lows:

Roll Call
EHB 2965
Coro­n­avirus response
3rd Read­ing & Final Pas­sage as Amend­ed by the Sen­ate
3/12/2020

Yeas: 48; Excused: 1

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tors Beck­er, Bil­lig, Braun, Brown, Car­lyle, Cleve­land, Con­way, Darneille, Das, Dhin­gra, Erick­sen, For­tu­na­to, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hobbs, Holy, Hon­ey­ford, Hunt, Keis­er, King, Kud­er­er, Liias, Lovelett, McCoy, Mul­let, Muz­za­ll, Nguyen, O‘Ban, Pad­den, Ped­er­sen, Ran­dall, Rivers, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Salomon, Schoesler, Shel­don, Short, Stan­ford, Takko, Van De Wege, Wag­oner, War­nick, Well­man, Wil­son (Claire), Wil­son (Lyn­da), Zeiger

Excused: Sen­a­tor Walsh

The final House roll call was fol­lows:

Roll Call
EHB 2965
Coro­n­avirus response
Final Pas­sage as Amend­ed by the Sen­ate
3/12/2020

Yeas: 96; Excused: 2

Vot­ing Yea: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Apple­ton, Barkis, Bergquist, Blake, Boehnke, Caldier, Callan, Cham­bers, Chan­dler, Chap­man, Chopp, Cody, Cor­ry, Davis, DeBolt, Dent, Doglio, Dolan, Duerr, Dufault, Dye, Enten­man, Eslick, Fey, Fitzgib­bon, Frame, Gildon, Goehn­er, Good­man, Gra­ham, Gregerson, Grif­fey, Hansen, Har­ris, Hoff, Hud­gins, Irwin, Jenkin, John­son, J., Kil­duff, Kir­by, Klip­pert, Klo­ba, Kraft, Kretz, Leav­itt, Lekanoff, Lovick, MacEwen, Macri, May­cum­ber, McCaslin, Mead, Mor­gan, Mos­bruck­er, Orcutt, Orms­by, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pel­lic­ciot­ti, Peter­son, Pet­ti­grew, Pol­let, Ramel, Ramos, Ric­cel­li, Robin­son, Rude, Ryu, San­tos, Schmick, Sells, Senn, Shew­make, Slat­ter, Smith, Springer, Steele, Stokes­bary, Stonier, Sul­li­van, Suther­land, Tar­leton, Thai, Tharinger, Valdez, Van Wer­ven, Vick, Volz, Walen, Walsh, Wilcox, Wylie, Ybar­ra, Young, Jink­ins

Excused: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Paul, Shea

The Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion restricts ses­sions held in even num­bered years to a max­i­mum of six­ty days. Ses­sions in odd-num­bered years can last twice as long… up to one hun­dred and five days. From 2013–2017, when Repub­li­cans con­trolled the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, the Leg­is­la­ture reg­u­lar­ly went into over­time (spe­cial ses­sion) to hash out bud­gets, but this prac­tice end­ed fol­low­ing the elec­tion of State Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra in late 2017.

The Leg­is­la­ture adjourns hav­ing adopt­ed a num­ber of bills that our team at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute worked hard for, espe­cial­ly the Reusable Bag Bill and com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion. The Leg­is­la­ture also passed bills spon­sored by NPI’s Gael Tar­leton to strength­en elec­tion secu­ri­ty and com­pen­sate the coun­ties for elec­tion costs in even num­bered years.

Anoth­er win was the VOTE Act, which allows sev­en­teen year olds who will be eigh­teen by a gen­er­al elec­tion vote in pres­i­den­tial pri­maries or Top Two elec­tions.

Some of our oth­er favorites include:

With all that said, the Leg­is­la­ture also once again decid­ed to hit the pro­cras­ti­nate but­ton and defer tak­ing need­ed actions to pro­tect Wash­ing­ton’s fis­cal health.

The House and Sen­ate approved a sup­ple­men­tal trans­porta­tion bud­get that does­n’t address the giant hole Tim Eyman’s I‑976 would cre­ate if it ulti­mate­ly goes into effect. (The ini­tia­tive is on hold and has been since last Novem­ber.)

The bud­get does un-freeze some projects that Gov­er­nor Inslee’s office had paused in the wake of I‑976’s pas­sage, but oth­er­wise, it does not respond to I‑976. A legal chal­lenge to the mea­sure’s con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty is ongo­ing; the mea­sure was ruled par­tial­ly uncon­sti­tu­tion­al today by Judge Mar­shall Fer­gu­son.

The two cham­bers also neglect­ed to adopt any sub­stan­tive pro­gres­sive tax reform mea­sures this ses­sion, leav­ing Wash­ing­ton even more reliant on the sales tax as an all-in-one fund­ing mech­a­nism for every­thing from pub­lic schools to tran­sit to fos­ter care to Dis­abil­i­ty Life­line to Apple Health and behav­ioral health.

What hap­pens if our cur­rent pub­lic health cri­sis trig­gers a reces­sion and sales tax rev­enue falls off a cliff? The fis­cal hole that a sig­nif­i­cant reces­sion cre­ates may not be patch­able with the mon­ey that’s cur­rent­ly in the Rainy Day Fund. And fed­er­al assis­tance may or may not be forth­com­ing.

Then there is the issue of equi­ty.

How much longer do low and mid­dle income Wash­ing­to­ni­ans have to wait for the Leg­is­la­ture to act to fix our upside down tax code?

How much longer do local lead­ers have to wait for pro­gres­sive rev­enue options that they bad­ly, sore­ly, des­per­ate­ly need to escape being chained to reliance on sales tax­es and prop­er­ty tax­es, both of which have got­ten very high?

And how much longer can rur­al com­mu­ni­ties hold every­thing togeth­er? They’re slow­ly being choked to death by old Tim Eyman ini­tia­tives the Leg­is­la­ture inex­plic­a­bly refus­es to repeal and replace.

There were oth­er missed oppor­tu­ni­ties, as well.

The House has, con­found­ing­ly, still not vot­ed to repeal the state’s uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and inac­tive death penal­ty statute. The Sen­ate vot­ed to get it off our books for a third con­sec­u­tive year, but the House nev­er fol­lowed suit.

69% of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans sup­port life in prison alter­na­tives to the death penal­ty — a find­ing we announced almost two years ago — but the House, even under new man­age­ment, did not take up the cause.

The Leg­is­la­ture also failed to repeal Tim Eyman’s push polls, which means there will be more Eyman pro­pa­gan­da on this year’s gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot.

Two oth­er areas where the Leg­is­la­ture fell short were cli­mate jus­tice and gun safe­ty. The House and Sen­ate did­n’t approve a bill to give the exec­u­tive depart­ment clear author­i­ty to reg­u­late the emis­sion of green­house gas­es. Gov­er­nor Inslee’s clean fuels leg­is­la­tion also died in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate again at the hands of Trans­porta­tion Chair Steve Hobbs.

A bill to ban high capac­i­ty mag­a­zines, mean­while, could not over­come the oppo­si­tion of gun enthu­si­asts in both par­ties.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee voiced the same mix of sen­ti­ments — hap­pi­ness and frus­tra­tion — in a state­ment reflect­ing on the ses­sion.

“I am pleased the Leg­is­la­ture agreed with my plan to tack­le home­less­ness and pro­vide shel­ter­ing for some of our most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple. There was good progress made on a num­ber of fronts dur­ing this sup­ple­men­tal bud­get year,” Inslee said at a media avail­abil­i­ty. “How­ev­er, I am dis­ap­point­ed that the Leg­is­la­ture failed to act on oth­er impor­tant pieces of cli­mate leg­is­la­tion as well as pub­lic safe­ty leg­is­la­tion that would have reduced gun vio­lence in Wash­ing­ton.”

“While I wish they would have gone far­ther on a num­ber of impor­tant issues, I thank the Leg­is­la­ture for their work on behalf of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans.”

So now, with much accom­plished and much left unad­dressed, the 2020 inter­im begins. The Leg­is­la­ture does not have an “off sea­son” — leg­is­la­tors plan­ning to return next Jan­u­ary will be tak­ing con­stituent meet­ings, serv­ing on task forces, and devel­op­ing bills in the months lead­ing up to the 2021 ses­sion.

But not every­one will be return­ing.

As men­tioned above, around a dozen incum­bent law­mak­ers have announced that they won’t seek reelec­tion this year, includ­ing Sher­ry Apple­ton, Richard DeBolt, Eric Pet­ti­grew, Chris Klduff, Mau­reen Walsh, and Ran­di Beck­er.

Oth­ers are leav­ing to run for high­er office, includ­ing Mike Pel­lic­ciot­ti, NPI’s Gael Tar­leton, and Beth Doglio. Jared Mead is on the verge of mov­ing from the state lev­el to the local lev­el as a final­ist for a Sno­homish Coun­ty Coun­ty vacan­cy.

And some incum­bents who are run­ning again are fac­ing intra­party chal­lenges, includ­ing Frank Chopp, Zack Hud­gins, and as of today, Mark Mul­let.

The 2018 midterms pro­duced a Leg­is­la­ture that was more diverse than ever before, but still con­tained many vet­er­an law­mak­ers. In 2020, the insti­tu­tion seems poised to under­go yet anoth­er trans­for­ma­tion. And that’s a good thing.

The Leg­is­la­ture needs more sen­a­tors like Man­ka Dhin­gra and Joe Nguyen. It needs more rep­re­sen­ta­tives like Debra Lekanoff and My-Linh Thai. It needs bold­ness and courage to over­come its stub­born, bad insti­tu­tion­al habits of pro­cras­ti­na­tion and tak­ing the path of least resis­tance on fis­cal mat­ters.

Will the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton deliv­er? We’ll find out this autumn.

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One Comment

  1. There should have been more cli­mate bills act­ed upon, for sure.

    # by Ruth LaBelle :: March 14th, 2020 at 12:46 AM