Legislative update 0226: Transportation packages unveiled

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

Last Friday was the first cut-off of the 2019 Legislative Session. Cut-off dates play a crucial role in the legislative process as any bills that have not made it out of a policy committee are considered “dead” and no longer eligible to move forward this year. Legislation not covered by Friday’s deadline include bills that have been moved to fiscal committees and bills that are considered necessary to implement the budget. It is important to note, however, 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.”

The next deadline is March 1 when all bills must make it out of their fiscal committees. The fiscal committees will be working late into the night this week to pass bills out of committee.

Transportation chairs release their proposed transportation bills

Both transportation chairs have released their proposed transportation packages. Notably, both bills are not subject to the policy cut-off deadline since they have budget implications.

Rep. Jake Fey, chair on the House Transportation Committee, recently introduced a green transportation funding measure, HB 2042. Here are highlights from the legislation:

  • New incentives for people to buy electric vehicles, including a pilot program to promote electric vehicle use by low-income residents;
  • Help to build the network to charge electric cars in Washington state, with a permanent infrastructure bank;
  • Authorizing electric utilities to make cost-effective investments in electric technologies and infrastructure;
  • Incentives for alternative fuels, including a Business & Occupation Tax exemption, that’s extended to 2029 and expanded to include alternative fuel infrastructure projects;
  • Green transportation capital grants to help transit agencies to electrify their vehicle fleets, upgrade their electrical transmission and distribution systems or construct charging and fueling stations;
  • Reforms to aid the development of electric car-sharing services and businesses;
  • Solving the last-mile problem in mass transit, to get you from a ferry terminal, bus stop or train station to your final destination; and
  • Enhancing efforts to get cars off the road through increased carpooling, vanpooling, telecommuting, walking, biking or taking mass transit to work instead of driving alone to work every day.

Last Thursday, Sen. Steve Hobbs, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, released his proposed transportation revenue package,SB 5970, SB 5971, and SB 5972. The 10-year comprehensive package generates funding for several key projects across the state, including I-5/JBLM.  For a full list of projects, see here.

The package’s primary revenue source is a new carbon fee, fixed at $15 per metric ton. Notably, the money generated from the carbon fee would be spent on environmental projects. Other sources of revenue include a 6 cent gas tax increase, transportation impact fees, vehicle weight fees for trucks and motorhomes and more. A full list of funding sources can be found here.

Notable bills that  are still alive:

  • SB 5693, creating transparency in agricultural supply chains, is sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldana (D-Seattle). The bill insinuates that there is a problem in the agriculture industry of engaging in human trafficking and slavery. The bill requires certain Washington state retail sellers and manufacturers of agricultural products to make annual disclosures on their websites’ homepages about their efforts with respect to their product supply chains to eradicate slavery and human trafficking and to ensure compliance with employment laws. It would provide for statutory damages between $500 and $7,000 for violations, punitive damages for willful violations and other relief. The bill was amended in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee to change the definition of agricultural product. The amended bill only applies to the following agricultural products: cocoa, dairy, coffee, sugar, fruit products. Wheat, potato, onions, asparagus or other vegetable products are not defined as agricultural products under the bill. The bill passed out of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee on a party-line vote. It is currently in the Senate Rules Committee. WAWG is opposed to this bill.
  • SB 5438, dealing with H2A workers, sponsored by Sen. John McCoy (D-Tulalip). This bill would require those who use H-2A temporary workers to pay an additional state fee (farmers who utilize these workers currently pay a fee to the federal government) to hire H-2A temporary workers. This bill is opposed by agriculture, including WAWG, because the cost of this bill will make the use of the workers in an already tight labor market cost prohibitive. A hearing was held in the Senate Ways & Means Committee yesterday.
  • SB 5550, implementing recommendations of the pesticide safety workgroup, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldana (D-Seattle). The bill establishes the pesticide application safety committee to explore how state agencies collect and track data and consider the feasibility and requirements of developing a shared database, including how the Department of Health could use existing tools to better display multiagency data regarding pesticides. Tom Dent is the prime sponsor of the companion bill in the House, HB 1725. WAWG supports this legislation.
  • HB 1964, regarding early termination of Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) leases, sponsored by Rep. Chris Corry (R-Yakima). This bill requires the written consent of a lessee before DNR can terminate an agricultural lease. WAWG testified in support of this bill. It passed out of the House Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee last week. The bill has been referred the House Appropriations Committee but has not been scheduled for a hearing yet.