With a third of the legislative session nearly gone, state lawmakers are starting to focus on matters of most importance.
Exactly what are those?
With 1,341 bills introduced since Jan. 13 — 715 in the House and 626 in the Senate — plus everything left over from 2019, it’s hard to know.
Certainly, each bill is considered vital and critical by its author.
Otherwise, why would they expend their energy and the public’s resources to write them. Right?
To help discern, let’s apply a test first espoused to me by former Snohomish representative Dan Kristiansen.
Is a piece of legislation addressing a want or a need?
Short sessions, he’d say, should be all about the latter.
This session is a mere 60 days.
I put a few topics to the test. Here are the results:
Need: A game plan for Initiative 976, the approved ballot measure which, among other things, caps the annual registration fee for most passenger vehicles at $30.
The state stands to lose $450 million from its transportation budget if the measure is found legal. That would trigger program cuts and project delays.
Since it’s not known when the courts will act, lawmakers need a blueprint to slow-walk transportation spending now and slash spending later.
Want: A low carbon fuel standard.
Climate change is real. Carbon emissions from autos, trucks and the transportation sector contribute big-time to the problem.
A clean fuel standard would curb them.
The House planned to pass one Wednesday. But a carbon fee, cap-and-trade or an expanded Clean Air Rule could, too.
The best outcome is an agreement on something that won’t get the state sued.
Need: Funding financial aid entitlement.
Lawmakers promised last year that the state would cover most or all of a college student’s tuition. But a new surcharge on tens of thousands of businesses isn’t going to raise enough money to keep that promise. A fix is required, and soon, as initial payments from those businesses are due soon.
Want: Limiting the capacity of gun ammunition magazines.
Voters in Washington keep passing restrictions on gun sales and rules aimed at reducing firearms violence.
A bill to limit the capacity of magazines to 10 rounds is a winning idea with them. And an emotional one across the political spectrum.
It doesn’t have to be done, however.
Jerry Cornfield is a political reporter for The Daily Herald in Everett. He can be contacted at jcornfield@ heraldnet.com.