Sound Transit in court, Inslee on climate, milk on the menu

Day 33 of 60 of the 2020 session of the Washington Legislature in Olympia.


2020 Washington Legislature, Day 33 of 60

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 14, 2020 — We’ve reached the end of a frantic week.

The state Supreme Court delivered a huge save to Sound Transit on Thursday. It upheld the law that allows the regional transit authority to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in vehicle-license taxes that voters approved in 2016. Had the court decided the law was unconstitutional, as a group of taxpayers insisted, it could have doomed the ST3 expansion plan.

Interesting timing. It came the day after a King County Superior Court judge ruled the major pieces of Initiative 976 are legal — including the provisions which repeal the very 2016 increase in vehicle taxes at the heart of the Supreme Court case.

• Gov. Jay Inslee spent a half hour taking questions from reporters Thursday. In that time, he really turned up the rhetorical pressure for passage of a clean fuels standard, his top legislative priority this session.

We all know this bill is stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee where the chairman, Sen. Steve Hobbs, a moderate Democrat, opposes it. And there are at least three other moderate Dems in the same camp.

Inslee said there is “an expectation” of action this year and “no person” among 7 million Washingtonians can stand in the way of this climate-change-fighting policy. He went on to insist “it is an obligation of the Democratic Party and the state Legislature to not follow Donald Trump by denying climate change.”

By the way, Inslee had a meeting later Thursday with Hobbs and Rep. Jake Fey, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

• It was an entertaining day in the Senate. Majority Democrats pushed through a bill requiring restaurants to provide a healthy drink alternative like milk or water with every children’s meal. Such a mandate drew the ire of Republicans.

“I am baffled by this bill,” said Sen. Keith Wagoner. “This is government overreach in the worst way. We’re literally telling restaurants what to put on the menu.”

• They also passed bills allowing 17-year-olds to vote in state primaries in even-numbered years — if they’ll be 18 by the November general election. And they approved creation of a specialty apple license plate celebrating the state apple industry.

What we’re writing and reading

• From the legal files: Here is the Supreme Court ruling and dissent in the Sound Transit case.

• The state House approved a bill Thursday night to allow sports betting in tribal casinos, reports Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times.

What’s happening

• The House and Senate each are planning to take the floor at 9 a.m. Looking ahead, the House will end early and return Sunday. The Senate, I understand, will not work the weekend but will return to business Monday.

My Family My Choice Coalition, which looks to be a politically conservative organization, is expecting as many as 1,000 people to show up today for a rally at the Capitol before they fan out to talk with lawmakers.

• Two front-running Democratic presidential candidates will be in Washington this holiday weekend. Pete Buttigieg will hold an 11 a.m. brunch in Seattle on Saturday. Bernie Sanders will hold a campaign rally at 7 p.m. Monday in the Tacoma Dome. Mike Bloomberg isn’t coming, but he’s opening a campaign office in Everett at 2920 Colby Ave,, Suite 102. A grand opening is set for 2 p.m. Saturday.

Here’s the very abbreviated lineup of committee meetings.

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Beat reporters: Jerry Cornfield (Herald) | Rachel La Corte (AP) | Joseph O’Sullivan (Times) | Jim Brunner (Times) | Melissa Santos (Crosscut) | Jim Camden (Spokesman-Review) | Austin Jenkins (NW News Network) | James Drew (News Tribune)