The Washington state legislature adjourned its 60-day session March 10 after approving a large transportation package and some legislation that will affect the Key Peninsula region, raising state spending to about $64 billion over the next two years — an increase of $5 billion from the budget approved last April.
The increase will be paid through existing taxes, which state officials predicted will come in higher than previously projected. The Legislature also has more than $1 billion left in federal COVID-19 relief money that it will spend on schools, housing programs and public health.
There were a few developments of interest to KP dwellers:
SB 5488 sponsored by Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton) will reduce the Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll by 75 cents beginning in September, with the intention it remain until the bridge is fully paid for in 10 years. However, the Transportation Commission, which sets the rate, will retain the final authority. The shortfall is to be paid for by the Legislature transferring money from the general fund; if it stops doing so in the future, the commission is empowered to raise tolls again.
Randall’s original bill sought to pay off the $772 million still owed on the bridge and to eliminate tolls before it was pared back to the 75-cent savings. The $772 million also would have included the $57.6 million in deferred sales taxes and $43 million in state loans used to stabilize tolls. More than $700 million has already been paid.
SB 5974 is a 16-year, $16.8 billion “Move Ahead Washington” transportation package with few benefits for the local region. There is $74.3 million for the Gorst-area widening of State Route 16, $25 million for the Warren Avenue Bridge in Bremerton, and $6.5 million for an all-electric ferry for Kitsap Transit’s Port Orchard-Bremerton route. There is also funding of free transit rides for kids 18 and under and removal of fish-blocking culverts.
The Legislature also sought to amend or clarify police reform laws it passed last year.
HB 2037 will allow police to use physical force against people who try to flee when they are stopped for questioning based on reasonable suspicion, which is a lower standard than the probable cause needed to arrest someone. The new law formerly required the higher standard, generally allowing officers to use force only when there is an imminent threat of injury or probable cause to make an arrest.
HB 1735 stated that police can still use physical force to help transport people to mental health treatment.
SB 5919, another reform-related bill, failed to make it out of the Senate for a vote, leaving in place last year’s strict limits on when police can engage in high-speed vehicle pursuit.
SB 5078 instituted a ban on selling large-capacity magazines for firearms. Such magazines in circulation will not be criminalized but new sales will be illegal.
HB 1630 bans open carry of firearms at city council meetings, school board meetings and election offices.
In healthcare, HB 1732 delayed the statewide CARES long-term care payroll tax passed last year until July 2023 while the Legislature revises existing law to address who pays the tax and who will benefit from it.
HB 1851, or the Affirm Washington Abortion Access Act, reaffirms that nurse practitioners and physician assistants can provide abortion care in Washington and protects patients from prosecution. This comes after Idaho and other states recently passed bills resembling a Texas law allowing lawsuits by members of the public against any woman seeking to end her pregnancy after six weeks or for assisting someone who is pregnant from obtaining an abortion.
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