We are at day 95 of the session, with essentially no talk of a special session. It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed like special sessions were an every year sort of thing. It’s not even on the radar screen this year.
When the legislature runs smoothly, there are a lot of folks who deserve credit. The bi-partisan leadership of the “four corners” all deserve praise this year. One key wrench that can be thrown into this goodwill is the vote on the capital budget, the bonds for which require 60% in both chambers. That doesn’t appear likely to be held up, but with 10 days to go, this end-game period is where the pressure is highest and the toughest questions are still outstanding.
With help from Michael Goldberg
1. Capital gains tax scheduled for executive session Friday
The capital gains tax bill passed by the Senate last month, SB 5096, has been scheduled for executive session by the House Finance Committee for Friday. The bill levies a 7% tax on capital gains in excess of $250,000 to invest in K-12 education, early learning and child care.
While Rep. Noel Frame’s striker amendment did not put an emergency clause back in the bill, it added a section which says the tax “is necessary for the support of the state government and its existing public institutions.” Opponents say this is an alternate way of preventing people from running a referendum. Sen. Hobbs’ amendment removing the emergency clause also removed language “specifying that the tax is necessary for the support of state government and its existing institutions.” If this amendment is adopted, it could be the main sticking point back in the Senate.
2. Republicans will attempt to force vote on emergency powers Friday
Republican Rep. Drew MacEwen will bring forward an 8th order motion Friday to force a vote on HB 1557, a bill that would limit gubernatorial emergency proclamations to 60 days without subsequent approval by the Legislature. An 8th order motion isn’t debatable and goes straight to a vote. If the motion is approved by a majority of the House, the bill can be considered by the full chamber. Rep. Vicki Kraft, who introduced a more aggressive emergency powers bill this session, said the minority could also unite against the capital budget bond, which needs 60 percent to pass.
The Washington Policy Center points out that other states with Democratic trifectas, such as Hawaii, New York and New Mexico, have worked to put a check on gubernatorial emergency powers during the pandemic. One study says Washington ranks among the bottom of states when it comes providing legislative oversight of executive emergency actions.
3. US Rep. Kim Schrier on bipartisanship in a broken Congress
In a recent issue, I mentioned a conversation I had recently with US Rep. Kim Schrier, so I wanted to share it with you. She sees Washington’s 8th Congressional District as a microcosm of the country as a whole. With constituents spanning the suburbs of Seattle, rural Pierce County, into agriculture-heavy Chelan and Kittitas counties, Schrier told me in a recent interview that her district offers a read into where the country is.
“A bipartisan bill is not necessarily what you accomplish in a bipartisan fashion in Congress. Washington DC is broken. There is just a lot that is broken about the system. But if you look at a bill like the American Rescue Plan, and you look out there across the country, you’ve got 70-75% of Americans saying ‘Yes, I like this. This is a good idea. This will help me. This will help my family. I want that.’ That’s a bipartisan bill.”
4. Paid Family and Medical Leave will be expanded to additional 42,000 workers
There are an estimated 42,000 workers who became ineligible for Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program after getting laid off during to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Legislature took a step toward addressing that Tuesday, sending a bill to Gov. Inslee’s desk expanding access to these ineligible workers by allowing them to use their 2019 hours worked in lieu of their 2020 hours. Freshman Rep. Liz Berry is having a good session. This is her third bill to make the governor’s desk this year.
A one-time general fund appropriation of federal stimulus dollars will be the primary funding mechanism for the bill. The operating budgets being negotiated in both chambers currently contain $200 million for this purpose. Republican Rep. Jenny Graham broke with her caucus to support the bill while Democratic Reps. Mike Chapman and Amy Walen voted against it.
5. Campaign job ad: Female candidates must “demonstrate their commitment”
The campaign of former Nascar driver Jerrod Sessler, who is challenging Congressman Dan Newhouse, posted an ad on Craigslist which said “female job candidates, although welcome, will need to demonstrate their commitment to the mission in writing and with references to protect the candidate from future false claims that could damage his reputation.” In subsequent posts on Facebook, Sessler said the ad “was written with the assumption that someone could falsely accuse me of something” and was driven by “the idea of being falsely slandered.”
In a statement to the Wire, Sessler says the ad was “misunderstood” and “clumsily and stupidly written.” The ad has been deleted and he has apologized. Sessler was motivated to run against Newhouse after the four-term Congressman voted to impeach former President Donald Trump. State Rep. Brad Klippert is also running and former gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp is mulling a run.
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