If there really was ever any chance the Legislature would take up sweeping climate change legislation next year, it seemed to melt away faster than the polar ice caps Friday. A state task force charged with designing a greenhouse-gas attack plan finally had that breakdown that seemed so long in coming, and the main question now is whether it will produce a report later this year that anyone will find useful. And you have to love some of the comments from the meeting: The atmosphere in the room got a bit hot.
Looks like lawmakers can start making holiday plans as negotiations on a transportation deal remain snarled by demands for big reforms, and all thought of a pre-Christmas special session has gone out the window. But some lawmakers are talking up the possibility of an unusual new-year special session that might be held in January before the Legislature launches its regular session on Jan. 13. All depends on whether a deal can be struck in time. Biggest sticking point appears to be a Senate proposal to end the diversion of gas tax money to the general fund; Democrats plan to unveil a counteroffer Monday as back-room talks continue.
An unprecedented Inslee Administration tactic apparently aimed at blocking development of coal ports in the state of Washington could mean big trouble for American exporters, warns the National Association of Manufacturers. It says a plan by the state Department of Ecology to write an unusually broad environmental impact statement for a coal terminal near Bellingham could lead to sanctions from the World Trade Organization. Not a pleasant thing to contemplate in one of the nation’s most trade-dependent states.
The Department of Labor & Industries is getting set to hike workers’ comp rates again next year, but the reaction seems to be a great big yawn. Next year’s modest 2.7 percent rate increase is overshadowed by an enormous $2 billion problem in the agency’s long-term financials. Olympia needn’t worry about a big legislative fight next session. Of course there’s going to be one. And the big question is whether Boeing will be a player.
One by one, Washington’s old liquor stores are going dark, and the poor schnooks who bought them want their money back. They have been hammered by competition from supermarkets and big-box stores, hamstrung by distribution deals that give them the worst prices around, and they say their leading product has become buyer’s remorse by the case. Normally this wouldn’t be the Legislature’s problem – people make dumb business decisions all the time. The trouble is that it was the state that sold the stores. So now lawmakers have to decide whether the naïve entrepreneurs deserve a break, or whether it was their own darn fault for trusting government in the first place.
Washington state better think twice before it joins California in imposing low-carbon fuel standards, warns the association that represents the state’s oil refiners. A looming meltdown in the Golden State appears likely to create chaos as the effect of an unworkable policy hits home—and dramatic increases in fuel costs are just the start. Severe market disruptions, refinery closures and long lines at the gas pump all appear likely, says Western States Petroleum Association President Catherine Reheis-Boyd. And as Gov. Jay Inslee signs a west-coast pact promising to follow California’s lead, Washington perhaps ought not to be so eager.
Tom McCabe, the love-him-or-hate-him former director of the Building Industry Association of Washington, is returning to the Olympia scene in a new role — as CEO of the Freedom Foundation. During his 21-year reign at BIAW, McCabe built the organization into a political powerhouse on the Republican side of the aisle, every bit as powerful as the labor and trial-lawyer organizations that bankroll Democratic campaigns. One can only wait and see what McCabe does with this scrappy think tank.
What might have been a quiet ouster for two top Senate employees has become a public imbroglio, as minority Senate Democrats complain that the other team is violating normal procedures in seeking the resignations of two top non-partisan staffers. Normally it wouldn’t be worth a whit of attention beyond the Capitol Dome. But by going public and naming names, the Dems have created needless embarrassment for the staffers for political gain, charge members of the majority coalition. it is the first indication of the leadership style of newly elected Democratic leader Sharon Nelson — and it appears to be a combative one.
Washington might have one of the best track records in the country as Obamacare gets under way, but the national huzzahs for a website that actually functions and the hoopla about big signups are overblown, lawmakers said Thursday. Here’s what the numbers don’t tell you: 90 percent of the signups have been for free Medicaid coverage, and signups for regular policies have been dismal. Public furor seems to be growing about the high cost of premiums, lawmakers say — for many policies are less affordable than before. We’ll find out in five weeks how it all turns out, but disaster could be around the corner.