By Diana Carlen
Yesterday marked the 37th day of the 60-day session. This past week saw the passing of the second cut-off of the 2020 Legislative Session. Cut-off dates play a crucial role in the legislative process as any bill that has not made it out of a policy and fiscal committee is considered dead and no longer eligible to move forward this year. Legislation not covered by that deadline includes bills that are considered Necessary to Implement the Budget. It is important to note that bills are never truly dead because their content can be amended into other legislation or rare procedural moves can occur to keep them alive.
Over the next two days, the legislature will be focused on passing bills out of their house of origin. This means fewer committee hearings and more Senate and House floor action. The deadline to pass bills out of the house of origin is 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020.
King County Judge Rejects Most Challenges to Car Tab Challenge
On Wednesday, Feb. 12, the King County Superior court issued a ruling rejecting most of the challenges to I-976 ($30 car tabs) brought by King County and a coalition of cities challenging the initiative. The court found that that the plaintiffs challenging the initiative failed to make a showing that the initiative was unconstitutional on most of their claims. King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson did keep the preliminary injunction against the initiative’s implementation in place while two outstanding issues are litigated: (1) determining if the initiative unlawfully impairs the City of Burien’s contracting authority, and (2) determining if the initiative unlawfully favors a private company, Kelly Blue Book, in creating a new vehicle valuation scheme.
The plaintiffs are expected to appeal the ruling and seek direct review of the decision at the Washington State Supreme Court and bypass the Court of Appeals. It is also likely that plaintiffs will seek expedited review at the Supreme Court, although if the Supreme Court does accept the case on an expedited time frame, it is likely they would not issue a decision until the fall of 2020 at the earliest.
The decision by the King County Superior Court can be found here.
Bills That Passed Out of House of Origin This Week:
- Banning Chlorpyrifos (E2SSB 6518), sponsored by Sen. Kristine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island). This bill bans chlorpyrifos-based pesticides, until WSDA adopts rules on specific control measures that prevent public exposures. It exempts sweet corn; mint; onions; Christmas trees; alfalfa, including seed and hay; asparagus; brassicas, including for seed and food production; and nonfood and nonfeed uses until WSDA identifies a less toxic alternative. The bill does allow farmers to apply to WSDA for an emergency permit to use chlorpyrifos. The bill would take an important pest management tool away from farmers and set a bad precedent by taking pesticide regulation out of the science-based EPA process. Several floor amendments were adopted regarding conditions where emergency permits could authorize smaller than statutory buffers, funding to WSDA for pesticide training and enforcement, requiring WSDA to recommend maximum contaminant levels for chlorpyrifos for group A water systems and for Dept. of Ecology to develop water quality standards, and a null & void clause. It was voted out of the Senate on Feb. 17 on a 30-18-1 vote. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
- DNR Leases Terminations (SHB 2498), sponsored by Rep. Chris Corry (R-Yakima). This bill requires DNR to compensate lessees in the event that DNR terminates a state land lease for agricultural or grazing purposes. It also creates certain additional obligations for DNR if it chooses to exercise a nondefault or early termination provision. The bill includes that lessees must also be compensated for authorized improvements to the land and clarifies a lessee’s remedies and appeals of a DNR decision to terminate. The bill passed out of the House unanimously on Feb. 17.
- Soil Health Initiative (SSB 6306), sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood). The bill creates a Washington Soil Health Initiative with the goals of improving agricultural viability, nutrition, and environmental function. It is jointly administered by WSU, WSDA, and the Washington State Conservation Commission. It was voted out of the Senate on a 47-0 vote on Feb. 17.
- Amending State Greenhouse Gas Emission Limits (E2SHB 2311). This legislation amends the state’s greenhouse gas emissions limits to reduce state emissions to 45% of 1990 levels by 2030 and adds limits of 70% emissions reduction by 2040 and 95% reduction by 2050. It also establishes an additional “net zero” emissions standard by 2050. It was amended in committee to clarify that the bill does not grant any additional statutory authority to achieving reductions. A floor amendment was adopted that restricted agency sequestration efforts to non-land management programs and requires cooperation from landowners for sequestration efforts on private and trust lands. The bill passed out of the Senate 55-41 on Feb. 16.
- Sustainable Farms & Fields Program (2SSB 5947), sponsored by Sen. John McCoy (D – Tulalip, 38th LD) requires WSDA to develop a sustainable farms and fields program to award grants for carbon emission reduction and sequestration measures on farms. The bill was voted out of the Senate early in session, and it is currently in the House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee where it had a hearing on February 7. It has been scheduled for executive action on February 21.
- Farm Labor Contractors (SSB 6261), sponsored by Sen. John McCoy (D-Tulalip). The bill prohibits farmers from retaliating against a farm labor contractor for any workplace claim the contractor may bring against the farmer related to their employment. Retaliation against seasonal workers is presumed if the farmer takes “adverse action” (includes firing) if the farmer fails to rehire the former employee for the “next opportunity to work the same position” (i.e. the next season). The bill was amended in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee on Feb. 3 to require that the employer had to know about initiation of the proceeding to create the retaliation presumption. A floor amendment was adopted that removed provisions pertaining to retaliation and joint and several liability for using unlicensed farm labor contractors. The bill passed out of the Senate on Feb. 18 with a 32-16