JERRY CORNFIELD: What lawmakers want to do isn’t always what needs to be done

They’ve introduced 1,341 bills. It’s time they started focusing on the ones that matter most.

Jerry Cornfield

Jerry Cornfield

WITH A THIRD of the legislative session nearly gone, state lawmakers are starting to focus on matters of most importance.

Exactly what are those?

With 1,341 bills introduced since Jan. 13 — 715 in the House and 626 in the Senate — plus everything left over from 2019, it’s hard to know.

Certainly, each bill is considered vital and critical by its author.

Otherwise, why would they expend their energy and the public’s resources to write them. Right?

To help discern, let’s apply a test first espoused to me by former Snohomish representative Dan Kristiansen.

Is a piece of legislation addressing a want or a need?

Short sessions, he’d say, should be all about the latter.

This session is a mere 60 days.

I put a few topics to the test. Here are the results:

Need: A game plan for Initiative 976, the approved ballot measure which, among other things, caps the annual registration fee for most passenger vehicles at $30.

The state stands to lose $450 million from its transportation budget if the measure is found legal.

That would trigger program cuts and project delays.

Since it’s not known when the courts will act, lawmakers need a blueprint to slow-walk transportation spending now and slash spending later.

Want: A low carbon fuel standard.

Climate change is real. Carbon emissions from autos, trucks and the transportation sector contribute big-time to the problem.

A clean fuel standard would curb them.

The House planned to pass one Wednesday. But a carbon fee, cap-and-trade or an expanded Clean Air Rule could, too.

The best outcome is an agreement on something that won’t get the state sued.

Need: Funding financial aid entitlement.

Lawmakers promised last year that the state would cover most or all of a college student’s tuition. But a new surcharge on tens of thousands of businesses isn’t going to raise enough money to keep that promise. A fix is required, and soon, as initial payments from those businesses are due soon.

Want: Limiting the capacity of gun ammunition magazines.

Voters in Washington keep passing restrictions on gun sales and rules aimed at reducing firearms violence.

A bill to limit the capacity of magazines to 10 rounds is a winning idea with them. And an emotional one across the political spectrum.

It doesn’t have to be done, however.

Need: A clearer approach to homelessness.

What a conundrum.

Lawmakers direct hundreds of millions of dollars to help those without or in need of shelter and pass laws to promote housing and keep people from getting evicted.

Yet many perceive nothing is happening.

Action precipitating immediately visible results is a must.

They’re searching for how to do this.

Want: A statewide ban on plastic bags.

A bill barring stores from giving out single-use plastic carryout bags has passed the Senate for the second straight year. We’ll see what the House does. It won’t be a huge lifestyle change, since many cities already prohibit them.

Then again, not a huge deal if nothing happens.

Need: Compacts to share sales tax revenue with tribes.

This is a late add.

The Tulalip Tribes have reached a revenue-sharing deal with the state and Snohomish County.

It hinges on passage of a law letting the governor enter into compacts with tribes.

If there is no law granting that authority, the parties go back to federal court.

If the dispute reaches the U.S. Supreme Court and the tribes prevail, it will be a lot more costly to the state.

Want: Expulsion of Rep. Matt Shea.

As you know, the Spokane Valley Republican is accused in a House-sanctioned investigation of taking part in acts of domestic terrorism, allegations he rejects.

House Democrats want him gone but can’t lure enough GOP members to vote with them. At least not yet.

Need: To finish on time.

Some years a special extended session cannot be avoided. This isn’t such a year. Failure to finish in 60 days could be awkward with no crisis to manage.

Though, to be honest, everyday folks probably wouldn’t notice.

Want: To get re-elected.

It should not be a matter of importance now.

It will be around November.

________

Jerry Cornfield is a political reporter for The Daily Herald in Everett. He can be contacted at 360-352-8623 and [email protected] heraldnet.com.

More in Opinion

PAT NEAL: A ‘Dirty Thirties’ Thanksgiving

THIS IS A story of an Olympic Peninsula family celebrating Thanksgiving in… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: It’s spawning season again

IT WAS DAYLIGHT on the river on a dark and dismal day.… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: ‘Neverending Story’ shines bright

THE LIGHT BULB blazed on courtesy of Anna Andersen, director of Port… Continue reading

MoH
Four North Olympic Peninsula residents have received Medal of Honor

Veterans fought in Civil War, World War II, Vietnam

PAT NEAL: Opening day of elk season

IT WAS DAYLIGHT in the swamp on the opening day of elk… Continue reading

Jim McEntire
POINT OF VIEW: Reflections on open-carry of firearms

By Jim McEntire THERE’S BEEN TALK of post-election unrest, making me think… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The day after the election

“THE WHOLE COUNTRY is going to hell in a bucket now that… Continue reading

A labyrinth is tucked into the forest at H.J. Carroll Park in Chimacum. photo Diane Urbani de la Paz
DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Walks of life, indoors and out

RUSHING TO CATCH the water taxi, I shifted into high walking speed.… Continue reading

Becca Korby
Law enforcement aids victims of crimes

IF YOU’RE COMPELLED to call for defunding law enforcement in our community/county,… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: How to get lost

AUTUMN MUST BE my favorite time of year. There are just so… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Safe passage for wildlife and humans

INSTEAD OF DREADING the soggy Sunday, I went diving into the rain.… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: October fishing madness

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news. An invasion of desperate… Continue reading