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Morning Wire: Clean energy, Reporter position, Bob Ferguson

With the weather generally so great right now, it’s an easy time to focus on things less important than our politics — and you should! But, campaigns are gearing up. Interim committees are getting to work. And, folks are starting to return from post-session vacations — and illnesses! We’ve got some of that teed up for you in this week’s Morning Wire.

With help from Emily Boerger and Sara Gentzler

1. PUDs advocate for role in clean energy rule-making

We published an op-ed last week from George Caan, Executive Director of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association. In his letter, Caan lauds the consideration the Legislature gave to PUD engagement in its drafting of the state’s new 100% clean energy law

Caan says state agencies need to continue recognizing the value of existing hydropower resources as they begin rule-making for the policy. “The bill signed by the Governor reflects a balance between stakeholder fundamental positions and compromises that must be implemented with thought and care to achieve the law’s stated goals,” Caan writes

2. Want to cover state politics?

We’re looking for a strikingly smart person to join the team at the Wire — and would love your help in finding the unicorn we’re looking for! This might be a legislative aide that has just wrapped up the session. Or maybe someone with a few years of policy analysis that’s looking for a different platform. Or maybe someone wanting to get into “digital first” reporting, but the timing wasn’t quite right.

Maybe now the time is right… And we’d love to hear from you, if so. Take a look at the job description and see what you think. You can drop me a line with any ideas for great folks you think might be interested.

3. Where the “fix our tax code plan” stands now

Remember the “Fix Our Tax Code Plan” that would’ve introduced a capital gains tax and used the resulting revenue to fund tax-relief efforts? Senate Democrats introduced that bill alongside their budget proposal in late March, but it didn’t see any action past an April 8 public hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Most of what was in the bill — e.g. a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products, funding for the Working Families Tax Credit, etc. — didn’t show up in the final budget, but Sen. Joe Nguyen thinks the attention given to a possible capital gains tax helped other changes come to fruition. More on what’s next for the efforts in that bill here.

4. Ferguson vs. the Trump Administration, Rd. 38

Last week, Attorney General (and likely gubernatorial candidate in 2020) Bob Ferguson filed a suit challenging the Dept. of Health and Human Service’s recently issued “conscience rule,” which will allow health professionals to delay or refuse certain types of medical care based on their moral or religious beliefs, with no exceptions in the case of emergencies. The filing marks Ferguson’s 38th lawsuit against the Trump Administration.

Ferguson argues the rule will harm Washingtonians and disproportionately impact poorer individuals and those in rural areas, which is a reason he cited for filing the suit in Spokane. Roger Severino, Office for Civil Rights Director at HHS, argues that the rule “ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.”

5. What’s next for a clean fuel standard

In other clean-energy news: Last week, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon and Sen. Rebecca Saldaña updated press on their efforts to establish a clean fuel standard in Washington State. The two legislators sponsored companion bills last session that would’ve created a standard, both of which stalled in the Senate.

To get the bill past the Senate Transportation Committee, Saldaña mentioned shaping work sessions for the Joint Transportation Committee, defeating an initiative from Tim Eyman, and educating Senate Democrats as priorities in the interim. Meanwhile, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has adopted more aggressive greenhouse gas targets than the bill looks to adopt, and is moving forward with rule-making for a regional clean fuel standard.

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