State legislative report 03/10: End of session is in sight

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

Tuesday marked the 57th day of the 2020 Legislative Session which is scheduled to end on March 12. Another important legislative deadline occurred last week, in which all bills must have passed out of both chambers to remain alive, unless they are deemed Necessary To Implement the Budget.

Over the next four days the legislature will focus on budget negotiations, bills that are Necessary To Implement the Budget and bills on the Concurrence Calendar. The Concurrence Calendar is a list of bills that have passed out of both chambers prior to the legislative deadline, but were amended in the second chamber. In order for this legislation to move on to the Governor to be signed into law, it must be reapproved in its new amended form. If the first chamber concurs with the amendments of the second chamber, the bill has passed the Legislature. If the first chamber disagrees with the second chamber, it can ask the second chamber to recede from the amendments or may request a conference committee where both chambers send members to a meeting in attempt to seek a resolution.

If both chambers have approved identical versions of a bill, the bill is delivered to the Governor’s Office to be signed into law. Bills received by the Governor’s Office on or before March 5 will be signed within 5 days of receipt. All other bills will be signed within 20 days of being delivered to the Governor’s Office, making April 4 the final day that bills will be signed into law. Unless indicated otherwise in the bill, bills will go into effect starting June 11.

Bills That Have Passed the Opposite Chamber:

  • Chlorpyrifos Regulation (E2SSB 6518). This bill originally banned most chlorpyrifos use, provided exceptions and created an emergency permit process. It was amended in the House Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee to remove the ban, exemptions and emergency permit process on chlorpyrifos in favor of giving the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) emergency rulemaking authority for controls on chlorpyrifos to prevent public exposures (rules to take effect by Jan. 1, 2022, the same timeline as the opt-out rules in the Senate-passed version), and removes provisions requiring water quality standards and maximum contaminant levels for chlorpyrifos. The House Appropriations added a technical fix that corrected references in the bill to the Washington Pesticide Application Act and requires funds appropriated for the bill to be spent on helping agricultural commodity groups that currently use chlorpyrifos and not those with an exemption. The bill passed out of the House on March 5 by a vote of 88-9.
  • Minimum Crew Size (HB 1841). This bill would establish minimum crew size requirements on trains transporting hazardous and non-hazardous material. The bill would require a minimum crew size of two for common carrier and passenger trains. The Senate amended the bill to exempt Class III railroads from the crew size requirement when traveling under twenty-five miles per hour. The bill passed out of the Senate on March 6 by a vote of 34-15. The bill now goes before the House for concurrence.
  • Sustainable Farms & Fields (2SSB 5947). This bill now creates the SFF program in the Washington State Conservation Commission (WSCC) and sets guidelines for how the program should be administered; requires WSCC to adopt rules on prioritizing SFF grant applications; adopt carbon equivalency metrics to use in evaluating projects, with a default metric of 3.67 mT of biogenic carbon stored for 100 years equal to 1 mT of carbon emissions avoided; lists the types of activities grants can be awarded for; and requires WSCC to report to the legislature by Oct. 15, 2021, and every two years after on program performance. The House Capital Budget Committee removed provisions added by the House Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee that delayed the SFF program from taking effect until other conservation programs were funded. The bill passed the House with a 74-22 vote and now goes to the Senate for concurrence.
  • Drought Preparedness and Response (ESHB 1622). The bill authorizes Ecology to issue drought advisories when there is a risk of drought conditions and directs it to start a pilot program to explore cost, feasibility, and benefits of entering into long term water right lease agreements. It also changes Ecology’s responsibilities when a drought order is issued, including requiring consultation with tribes prior to a drought order, considering undue hardship to local water users as a result of an order, and listing other requirements for Ecology to consider when considering an order. It also prioritizes survival of irrigated crops, fisheries, and small community water resources in emergency drought orders. The bill passed out of the Senate Ways andMeans Committee on March 2, and passed out of the Senate on March 5 with a 48-0 vote. The House concurred in the Senate amendments and it will now be delivered to the Governor.
  • State Greenhouse Gas Targets (E2SHB 2311). This bill changes the state’s greenhouse gas emissions limits to reduce state emissions to 45 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 (changed from 25 percent reduction by 2035), and adds limits of 70 percent emissions reduction by 2040 and 95 percent reduction by 2050. It also establishes an additional “net zero” emissions standard for state agencies by 2050. It also requires state government to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, includes reporting requirements for agencies, and requires agencies to take all practicable opportunities to maximize carbon sequestration in their nonland management activities. It passed out of the Senate with a 28-21 vote on March 5. It will be delivered to the Governor for his signature.
  • Soil Health Initiative (SSB 6306). The bill creates the Soil Health Initiative as a jointly administered project by Washington State University, WSCC, and WSDA in order to improve agricultural viability, food nutrition, and environmental functions by better focusing research on soil health and soil biology. It requires a progress report to the legislature by Oct. 1, 2020. It was passed by the House Appropriations Committee on March 2 and was passed by the House on March 5 with a 94-3-1 vote. It will be delivered to the Governor for his signature.
  • Food Policy Forum (SSB 6091). The bill continues the Washington Food Policy Forum as a public-private partnership to develop recommendations for improving the state’s food system. It was passed out of the House Appropriations Committee on March 2 with a unanimous vote. There were no amendments. It passed out of the House unanimously on March 6 and now goes to the Governor for his signature.

Bills That Could Be Deemed Necessary to Implement the Budget:

  • Clean Air Rule Authorization (SHB 2957). This bill is in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Department of Ecology’s Clean Air Rule earlier this year. This bill authorizes Ecology to regulate indirect emissions under the Clean Air Rule. It explicitly authorizes the agency or a clean air authority to require fossil fuel producers and distributors to comply with an air quality standard, emission standard, or emissions limits for GHGs. It could only apply transportation emissions and non-transportation emitters that emit 25,000 mega tons CO2 or more. It also includes incentives for biofuels, authorizes market-based mechanisms to regulate emissions, and gives consideration to emissions-intensive trade-exposed entities in developing rules. The bill was heard and amended by the House Appropriations Committee on March 2. The Appropriations amendment adds that any local low carbon fuel standard would be preempted if Ecology decides to enact a low carbon fuel standard of its own. It is currently in the House Rules Committee.
  • Low Carbon Fuel Standard (E2SHB 1110). This bill would create a “clean fuels standard” that would require vehicle fuels to eventually reduce their carbon content by 20% below 2017 by 2035. Opponents argue that the requirement would raise fuel prices by as much as $0.57/$0.63 per gallon on gas and diesel as more “low carbon” additives are required to be blended. There was a public hearing on March 2 in the Senate Transportation Committee. This was the first hearing of the bill in the 2020 session, and there were over 100 people that testified on the bill. Many opposing witnesses testified how an LCFS-driven increase in fuel prices would price their transportation related businesses out of business. Proponents testified that LCFS was a necessary tool for reducing carbon emissions and reducing our impact on climate change. The bill has not been scheduled for additional action.
  • Aerospace Preferential B&O Rate Suspension (SB 6690/HB 2945). These companion bills suspend the preferential aerospace manufacturing B&O rate of 0.2904 percent and imposes the normal 0.484 percent B&O rate on aerospace manufacturing. The rate would “snap back” to the preferential rate if a long running trade dispute between the US and European Union is resolved. The bill is in response to a recent WTO ruling that says Washington’s preferential B&O rate violates international trade rules, and runs the risk of the European Union tariffs on a variety of Washington products. SB 6690 passed out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee on March 2, and is now in the Senate Rules Committee. HB 2945 passed out of House Finance Committee on February 27, and is now in the House Rules Committee.