The Gristle

Halfway Houses

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

HALFWAY HOUSES: Last week marked the halfway point of the Legislature’s 105-day regular session in Olympia, and the cutoff for new bills to be passed out of their original chambers. The deadline left just 681 bills out of some 2,150 bills introduced still under consideration for this session.

Some bills had early bicameral support, including a measure that would move the state’s presidential primary from May to March of next year; and a more generous approach to allowing members of Washington’s tribes to register and vote.
More contentious is Senate Bill 5078, which would require that presidential and vice-presidential candidates release copies of their federal income tax returns for the last five years if they want to appear on the state presidential primary ballot. The law is similar to one passed by the New Jersey legislature in February.

In law enforcement, the two chambers readily brought Initiative 940, the measure voters passed in November making it easier to prosecute police officers for negligent shootings, into alignment with earlier legislation. The changes were supported by both backers of the initiative and police groups. And lawmakers fully funded a buyback program for bump stocks. The Legislature banned the rapid-fire devices in 2018, but neglected to allocate money for the buybacks in the budget that year.

A measure to remove the death penalty from state law has passed the Senate and awaits action in the House. The move comes after the state Supreme Court unanimously struck down capital punishment as arbitrary and racially biased. The legislation would make that court ruling permanent by removing capital punishment as a sentencing option for aggravated murder. The governor has pledged to sign the order.

Among the most hotly debated issues as the chambers approached their deadline were a broad range of health care issues, from universal health care and a public option, to telemedicine and behavioral health.

A proposal from Gov. Jay Inslee to create a limited public health care option cleared the House and awaits action in the Senate. Dubbed “Cascade Care,” the law would require the state to contract with a private insurer to offer plans with capped administrative costs and doctor’s fees, which backers hope would translate to competitive premiums.

Passing the House along strongly partisan lines, the bill was supported by Democrats Reps. Jeff Morris and Debra Lekanoff in the 40th Districts and Rep. Sharon Shewmake in the 42nd District. Republican Luanne Van Werven voted against expansion of the public health care option.

A companion bill in the state Senate similarly passed along party lines. Senate Bill 5526, which would increase the availability of quality, affordable health coverage, passed 36-13., with Anacortes Sen. Liz Lovelett favoring the bill and Ferndale Sen. Doug Ericksen rejecting it.

The two bills will likely be combined and a single version would then be considered for final passage.

A similar rift split support for Senate Bill 5822, which would provide a pathway to establish a universal health care system for the residents of Washington state. This bill would set up a work group to design a government-run, socialized health care system available to all residents. The measure passed the senate by a vote of 28-21 after Republicans offered a number of amendments that would reinforce the private insurance market—essentially undermining the original intent of the bill. The amendments failed.

Republicans fought hard in lengthy sessions against measures intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase fuel efficiency standards in Washington.

House Bill 1110 would direct the state Department of Ecology to impose low-carbon fuel limits on gasoline and other transportation-related fuels with a “clean fuels” program. Under the bill, carbon emissions of transportation fuels would have to be reduced to 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. The measure would require utilities to eliminate coal as an energy source by the end of 2025 as the first step toward the goal for utilities to provide carbon-free electricity by 2045. Rep. Van Werven voted against HB 1110, while Democrats in the 40th and 42nd districts supported it.

Ericksen stormed against a companion bill in the Senate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, speculating “this will become the vehicle for a cap and trade program that will hammer Washington consumers with higher costs for gas and diesel.”

The Legislature also made progress in the areas of housing security and homelessness, passing a range of bills that make it easier for local governments to respond to a growing crisis.

Making good headway, freshman Sen. Lovelett cosponsored a bill that streamlines permitting for communities that have declared a state of emergency due to the level of homelessness.

Joint bills might similarly ease the restrictions of cities and counties to adopt ordinances, development and zoning regulations that authorize creating accessory dwelling units within designated urban growth areas. Others would require at least 15 percent of the money used in a given funding cycle to be used for the benefit of homeownership projects for lower- income households. Particularly innovative bills would allow cities and counties to use real estate excise taxes (REET II) for the construction of affordable housing projects and rehabilitation of facilities for those experiencing homelessness. 

The realities of the Legislature are these: In times of their majority or in times of deadlock, Republicans get their way. Given the rigid divisions of the state, that’s most of the time. Only when they’re out of power can state government make significant progress on responsive legislation.

Silver Reef House
Past Columns
A Change in Climate

April 24, 2019

The Raucous Caucus

April 17, 2019


April 10, 2019

Edge City

April 3, 2019

Fixing the Fix

March 27, 2019

New Directions

March 13, 2019

Fire and Ice

March 6, 2019

The Big Short

February 27, 2019

Marina Lacuna

February 20, 2019

New Bites at the Apple

February 13, 2019

Coal Folds

February 6, 2019

Refocusing the Narrative

January 29, 2019

Old Town, Old Story

January 23, 2019

Ranker Unanchored

January 16, 2019

‘Alternative Methods’

January 9, 2019

Top Stories, 2018

January 2, 2019

Et Tu, #MeToo

December 26, 2018

Turn That Corner

December 19, 2018

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Student and Community Job Fair

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Skagit Valley College Sustainability Fair

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Parkinson's Dance Class

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English Country Dancing

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Alt Reads

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Kids for Peace Write Now

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Robin Hood, a Musical

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Balkan Folk Dancers

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Salish Sea Intertidal Life

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Unstable By Design

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Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

10:00am|Skagit Valley

Bellingham Beer Week

12:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition


Robin Hood, a Musical

7:00pm|Sedro-Woolley High School


7:00pm|Squalicum High School,

Unstable By Design

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Spring Book Sale

10:00am|Deming Library

Chanticleer Authors Conference

12:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Valley Writers

1:00pm|South Whatcom Library

SPA Talk with Bradley James Lockhart

2:30pm|St. Paul's Academy

Linuxfest Northwest

3:00pm|Settlemyer Hall

Peace Vigil

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

First Friday Art Walk

5:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Poetry Party

5:00pm|Upper Skagit Library

Building Dreams Dinner and Auction

5:00pm|Maplehurst Farm

Raise the Roof Auction and Trashion Show

5:30pm|Depot Market Square

North Cascades Community Orchestra

7:30pm|Central Lutheran Church

The Coronation of Poppea

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Skagit Community Band

7:30pm|Maple Hall, Anacortes-Westminster Presbyterian Church

Genre Legends, Hot Dogs

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Village Books Trove Web
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

10:00am|Skagit Valley

Bellingham Beer Week

12:00pm|Throughout Bellingham

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition


Robin Hood, a Musical

7:00pm|Sedro-Woolley High School


7:00pm|Squalicum High School,

Unstable By Design

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Chanticleer Authors Conference

12:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Linuxfest Northwest

3:00pm|Settlemyer Hall

Genre Legends, Hot Dogs

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Skagit Community Band

7:30pm|Maple Hall, Anacortes-Westminster Presbyterian Church

The Coronation of Poppea

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Pancake Breakfast

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Dealer Demo Day

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Everson Garden Club Plant Sale

9:00am|Everson Elementary School

Have a Heart Family Fun Run

9:00am|Edgewater Park

Anacortes Vintage by the Sea

9:00am|Anacortes Port Transit Event Center

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association

Independent Bookstore Day

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Rise Against Hunger

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Seedlings, Starts and Garden Goodies Swap and Giveaway

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Backyard Habitat Native Flora Fair

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Contemplative Brush and Japanese Washi Papers

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Local Author/Illustrator Open House

10:00am|South Whatcom Library

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Dia de los niños/Dia de los libros

10:00am|Lynden Library

We Are Skookum Scavenger Hunt

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Dakota Art Store Anniversary Art Expo

10:00am|Dakota Art Store

Vaisakhi Festival

11:00am|Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Tomato Growing Tips and Tricks

11:00am|Joe's Gardens

Getting Your Hand Dirty

11:00am|North Fork Library

The Greatest Sideshow in Sedro-Woolley

12:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Learn to Grow Fruit Trees

1:30pm|Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Little Farm Homegrown

2:00pm|Everson Library

Garage Wine Company Tasting

2:00pm|Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants

Sudden Valley Jazz Series

3:00pm|South Whatcom Library

Interwoven Lives

4:00pm|Village Books


4:00pm|Maple Hall

April Brews Day

6:30pm|Depot Market Square

Guemes Island gets lit


Contra Dance with Heliotrope

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Poetry Duo

7:00pm|Village Books

Swing Into Spring

7:00pm|Pioneer Pavilion Community Center

Bellingham Community Band's Appalachian Spring

7:00pm|Syre Center

Jennifer Scott, Rene Worst, and Bill Coon

7:30pm|Jansen Art Center

Skagit Valley Chorale's American Journeys

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7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

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