Big thanks to Spokane Public Radio for hosting me on a recent show to talk through health policy in Olympia this session, where we’re now past the first policy committee cutoff and the first fiscal committee cutoff. Though, as @OlympiaWatch reminds us, these cutoffs are more “guidelines” than rules. Check in on the full legislative calendar here.
With that, here are a few things to watch in Washington State policy and politics on day 51 of 105 this 2019 session.
With help from Emily Boerger and DJ Wilson
1. Inslee’s running for president
At this point, you’ve heard the news that Gov. Inslee is running for president. After a string of TV appearances over the weekend, DJ Wilson writes today that Inslee is “meeting the moment” of this presidential campaign season. In four days, Inslee has raised over $1m from 50 states.
The first big test for Inslee is making the stage in the first debate come June. To do that, he must collect 65,000 unique individual donors or raise his support numbers in public polls to over 1 percent. A super PAC supporting Inslee has started a seven-figure ad buy to drive up those numbers, the first such action by a national super PAC this cycle.
2. Q&A: Sen. Steve O’Ban on behavioral health
Sen. Steve O’Ban represents Washington’s 28th Legislative District in Pierce County, home to Western State Hospital. O’Ban has made behavioral health a priority in and out of the Legislature, where he serves as ranking member of the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee and on the Behavioral Health Subcommittee. We talk about behavioral health legislation this session in this Q&A.
“I think we need to really face this issue much like we did education over the last several years,” O’Ban says. “We understood—independently from the court, but certainly reinforced by the McCleary decision—that we needed to invest in a new way in education.”
3. Senate passes sex-education bill
Washington’s public schools could soon be required to provide “comprehensive sexual health education” in K-12. A Senate bill requiring the curricula and setting parameters for class content passed off the Senate floor last week.
Schools can currently choose whether they offer sexual health education. Critics of this year’s bill lamented a potential loss of local control in floor debate. If it becomes law, parents and guardians could still opt their children out of the classes.
4. What’s in that $17B transportation package
Senator Steve Hobbs’s $17 billion “Forward Washington” transportation package had its public hearing last week. The package of bills (SB 5970, SB 5971, SB 5972) outlines 80 different transportation and environmental projects to be tackled over the next 10 years. Included in the bills are 20 different sources of revenue, including a new carbon fee and an increase in the state gas tax.
In this piece, Emily Boerger breaks down what’s included in the bill and details some of the wide-ranging public testimony the funding package received last week. The bills are scheduled for executive session tomorrow.
5. Several bills aimed at real estate excise tax
If you sold property in Washington right now, you’d pay a flat 1.28 percent state real estate excise tax (REET), whether you sold it for $10,000 or $10 million. But several lawmakers are toying with the idea of graduating that tax. These efforts haven’t made it to the floor in either chamber, at this point.
Gov. Inslee suggested creating four thresholds ranging from 0.75 percent to 2.5 percent, depending on the property’s selling price, in his proposed 2019-20 budget. His plan puts that money toward court-mandated culvert removal. Other bills make similar changes to the tax, but put extra revenue toward other initiatives, like housing.
6. Other bills off the Senate floor
A quick note on two other bills of note that passed off the Senate floor last week: A bill to increase drug-pricing transparency passed unanimously. Among other things, the billwould establish reporting requirements for prescription-drug pricing data and require companies to justify price increases.
SB 5116, the centerpiece of Gov. Inslee’s clean-energy plan, would require all of Washington’s electric utilities to eliminate fossil fuels from their supply by 2045. That bill passed in a 28-19 vote and got a public hearing in the House Environment & Energy Committee this morning.