The Gristle

Priorities

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

PRIORITIES: The opening of the 2020 legislative session in Olympia kicked into high gear last week, and Democrats wasted little time in setting their priorities and advancing bills that had stalled or languished in their session last year.

Majority Democrats elected Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) as the new Speaker of the House. She succeeds Rep. Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) who served as Speaker for 20 years, one of the longest-serving state House Speakers in the country.

Jinkins’ election is seen as a shift toward more progressive policies by House Democrats on tax and spending issues. She has sponsored legislation in the past to enact a capital gains income tax, and to that end Democrats on the first day of the 2020 session field a legal brief with the state Supreme Court asking justices to review case law that would allow for some form of graduated income tax in Washington, easing the burden on sales and property taxes.

Governor Jay Inslee delivered his State of the State address before a joint session of the Legislature, outlining what he sees as key legislative priorities, including reducing homelessness and imposing new environmental fuel standards.

On homelessness, Inslee that a statewide response is needed and stressed the importance of prevention, rent assistance and supportive housing to reduce homelessness.

“Homelessness reaches all ages, all races, all backgrounds,” Inslee said. “We know there is no one cause.”

The governor’s proposal includes using $319 million from the state’s “rainy day” fund, a diversion that would require a two-thirds majority vote of approval by the Legislature. Democrats control both chambers, but would need Republican support in order to use the emergency funds. To their credit, Republicans appear ready to consider empowering local responses to tackle homelessness.

Democrats in the Senate quickly revived two bills that languished last year—including a bill to ban single-use plastic carryout bags to their customers (SB 5323) that passed the Senate last March but failed to advance in the House before the 2019 session ended. Bellingham enacted such a ban in 2011, one of the first communities in the state to do so; Anacortes followed suit in a similar action approved in late 2019.

Senate Democrats also revived Senate Bill 5811, which would impose California’s automobile emission rules on vehicle owners in Washington. The goal of the bill is to have about 2.5 percent of all cars brought into Washington be the equivalent of zero-emission vehicles. The bill moves into the House for consideration,

In the lower House, 42nd District Representative Sharon Shewmake laid out her own priorities for this short 60-day meeting of the state lawmakers.

“My goals this session are to increase access to rural child care, reduce incarceration rates through improved data collection, green our transportation, and find ways to boost affordable housing,” the Whatcom County Democrat said.

Shewmake introduced of the Rural Childcare Access Act (HB 2619), aimed at ensuring all areas of the state have access to child care.

“Preschool access is one of my passions,” Shewmake said. “I saw the impact pre-school had on my own kids, and when you talk to kindergarten teachers they say they can tell the difference. It is clear preschool can have lifetime positive impacts.

“At the time in their lives when kids need care the most, families in rural areas are met with rising prices and a lack of options,” Shewmake said. “My bill, HB 2619, will lower costs by expanding the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) to make sure it reaches all corners of our state.”

In addition to increasing support for child care and family home providers, HB 2619 tasks the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) with developing a comprehensive plan to expand childcare options to all rural areas in Washington State.

On the topic of education, Shewmake may find an ally with 42nd District Republican Luanne Van Werven. Rep. Van Werven is pushing two bills that stalled last session—House Bill 1702, which would help lower textbook costs, and House Bill 2233, designed to expand the College in the High School program to eligible students in the ninth grade.

Shewmake also aims to achieve a safer and more efficient natural gas distribution system.

“Historically, natural gas companies have covered the costs incurred by pipeline leaks by passing the charge along to consumers. HB 2518 reforms the incentives for utilities by asking them to complete a cost-based analysis on any leaks,” she said. “If the safety risks and environmental costs are high, the utility is required to fix the leak. My goal is to save consumers money and help the environment at the same time.”

Shewmake is also currently drafting a bill aimed at reducing incarceration through streamlined data collection.

“We can’t fix what we don’t measure,” Shewmake said. “Whatcom County has been working to pioneer a better approach to collecting data on who is in our jails, which led me to ask how other counties do it. Turns out, it’s a totally dysfunctional patchwork across the state,” she said.

Shewmake saw this local work being done to address the issue and, in partnership with law enforcement groups and the ACLU, came up with an ambitious fix on a larger scale.

“I hate bad data, so this has inspired me to try to tackle this issue in a much bigger way and, so far, law enforcement and criminal justice reform advocates have been receptive in the conversations we’ve had.”

With legislative priorities well defined and oppositional Republicans in sharp minority but still available to help shape bills, this may prove a productive session.

Appreciation to Washington Votesfor their legislative reporting and analysis.

Past Columns
Another Jail Fail?

February 12, 2020

Wacko Whatcom

February 5, 2020

Shelter From the Storm

January 29, 2020

‘I Have A Dream’

January 15, 2020

Olympia Olympics

January 8, 2020

What Dreams May Come

January 1, 2020

Alt-America

December 25, 2019

Missing Middle

December 18, 2019

War Waged on Two Fronts

December 11, 2019

Work Horse, Not Show Horse

December 4, 2019

Toward A Housing Summit

November 27, 2019

Dueling Data

November 20, 2019

Of Apples and Barrels

November 13, 2019

Hide the Money

October 30, 2019

Anchors Are Weighed

October 23, 2019

A Working Waterfront?

October 15, 2019

Keep Working

October 9, 2019

Signs of Hate

October 2, 2019

Trust Gap

September 25, 2019

Netse Mot

September 18, 2019

Events
Today
Fiction 101 Short Story Contest

10:00am

My Circus Valentine

7:00pm|Cirque Lab

Murder on the Orient Express

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Curious Savage

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

The Great Northwest Glass Quest

10:00am|Camano Island and Stanwood

A Forest of Words Poetry Competition

12:00pm|Whatcom County

Red Wine and Chocolate Tour

11:00am|Whidbey Island

Vox and Friends

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Sedro-Woolley Community Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Snowshoe Walk

10:00am|Glacier Public Service Center

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Jim and Susie Malcolm

2:00pm|Nancy's Farm

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

Aizuri String Quartet

4:00pm|Lairmont Manor

Dances of Universal Peace

6:00pm|Center for Mindful Use

Tomorrow
Fiction 101 Short Story Contest

10:00am

The Great Northwest Glass Quest

10:00am|Camano Island and Stanwood

Birding for Kids

2:30pm

Bite of Blaine

6:00pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Cider University

6:30pm|Thousand Acre Cider House

Bacon and Chocolate

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Tuesday
Fiction 101 Short Story Contest

10:00am

The Great Northwest Glass Quest

10:00am|Camano Island and Stanwood

Artist workshop

6:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Racism Mapping

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

The Art of Tea

6:30pm|Lynden Library

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Chuckanut Radio Hour

7:00pm|Village Books

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

Ski Bus to Stevens Pass

9:00pm

see our complete calendar »