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Morning Wire: AG Bob Ferguson, B&O tax, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon

Good midday to you —

Happy Election Day! There is the New Hampshire primary, of course. But, also mobile voting in King County, and a host of local bond measures. Super Tuesday for Democrats is March 3rd where delegates from California and Texas, among others, will be decided. Meanwhile, today is day 30 of our 60 day session – half way through what is becoming a steady and manageable session, so far.

With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Why Attorney General Bob Ferguson is pushing a “Domestic Workers Bill of Rights”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson is making a concerted effort this session to enshrine what he and Governor Inslee have called a “Domestic Workers Bill of Rights” into state law. A pair of companion bills aim to safeguard against exploitative dynamics that exist in domestic service employment relationships, such as reporting harassment and threats regarding workers’ immigration status. 

While the House version is scheduled for executive session in Appropriations this morning. Amendments to the bill remove certain economic provisions, such as protections mandating an hourly minimum wage. Reporter Michael Goldberg spoke with AG Ferguson yesterday to discuss the bill’s progress and the rationale for some of the compromise language.   

2. Pierce, Clark, North Central to face new tax on crisis services

In what appears to be an accident resulting from the complexity of Medicaid policy, Pierce, Clark and counties in North Central Washington now face a new B&O tax on mental health crisis services. The tax does not apply to King, Spokane, or other counties in the state.

An amended bill to address the issue, HB 1483, passed out of House Finance last year with unanimous and bi-partisan support but stalled in Rules. It didn’t move before cutoff this year, though it could come back if the tax is addressed in the supplemental budget. The tax appears to be the first time Washington State has applied the B&O tax to mental health services, and it’s the only state health care-related tax to target some counties and not others that I can find.

3.  Wire Insider: Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon 

In comments ahead of the session, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon spoke in this edition of Wire Insider about the need for legislating incremental progress.on climate policy. Fitzgibbon’s clean fuel standard has already passed the House and has become one of this session’s most notable partisan divisions. If it passes the full legislature, the bill would become one of the biggest wins for Democrats of the session. 

“The area where we still haven’t made substantial progress is in reducing transportation emissions, which constitutes between 42 and 45 percent of Washington’s overall emissions. The main vehicle to achieve that is with the passage of a low carbon fuel standard although there are other strategies, including a zero emissions vehicle mandate and improving the deployment of electric vehicles more broadly.”  

4. The gap in transpo policy vs. politics

Sen. Steve Hobbs re-introduced his transportation package last week, which relies on significant funding from a carbon tax. The policy position would appear to better align with Gov. Inslee’s long standing interest in addressing carbon. A spokesperson for the governor told us “The governor is glad to see that legislators are exploring a variety of funding mechanisms, including carbon revenues.” 

While policy differences may be narrowing, it remains to be seen whether political rhetoric will also align. Sen. Hobbs said it “doesn’t help” to call those with concerns about carbon tax “climate deniers.” After more than a decade of discussion about carbon pricing, going back to Gov. Gregoire’s administration, it’s remains unclear whether a majority exists for the package.

5. Rep. Debolt reflects on 24-year career

Rep. Richard Debolt, the former House Republican Leader and affable senior appropriator, announced his retirement last week. He is serving his 24th year in the House of Representatives. I spoke with him at length yesterday about his time in office, the changes in the chamber, and lessons from a career in politics.

During his announcement from the floor, Debolt received a standing, bi-partisan ovation from the House members. He left his comments citing the need for camaraderie in the House in a time of polarizing politics.  “It’s ok to disagree. And, we can’t fall into the trap of today where if you disagree with me, I hate you. We disagree on this bill, and we move to the next.”

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