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WashingtonVotes NEWS: Friday, January 17, 2020

Senate Democrats rush through plastic bag ban and imposition of California’s car emissions rules in first days of session.

After opening ceremonies on Monday and the governor’s State of the State address on Tuesday, majority Democrats in the Washington State Senate moved quickly on Wednesday to pass sweeping new environmental regulations that would affect consumers statewide.

A bill to ban stores from giving single-use plastic carryout bags to their customers (SB 5323) passed the Senate last March, but failed to advance in the House before the 2019 session ended. Majority Democrats in the Senate brought the bill back up for a vote on Wednesday with less than 24 hours’ notice and no opportunity for public input. It passed without amendments by a 30-19 vote. Democrats have a 29-20 majority in the Senate, but Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Mason County) works and votes with Republicans, giving Democrats a 28-21 effective margin of control.

The ban would also bar the use of paper and recycled plastic bags unless they meet stringent recycled content requirements. Retailers would also be required to collect an 8-cent per bag tax for each recycled content large paper or plastic carryout bag provided. These provisions would supersede local bag ordinances, except for ordinances establishing a 10-cent per bag charge in effect as of January 1, 2019.

Led by majority Democrats, the Senate also passed SB 5811 on Wednesday by a 26-23 vote. It would impose California’s automobile emission rules on vehicle owners in Washington. Under the bill, car makers would be assigned credits based on the kind of fuel efficient cars they bring into the state. Those credits would then be used to set quotas for how many zero-emission vehicles manufacturers must ship into the state and for dealers to offer for sale, regardless of whether consumers want them or not. The stated goal of the bill is to have about 2.5 percent of all cars brought into Washington be the equivalent of zero-emission vehicles.

This bill also passed the Senate last year but did not advance before the end of the 2019 session.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have already introduced nearly 1,000 new bills for the 2020 session, including measures that would restrict the power of the people to vote on initiatives and referenda (HB 2529), and to dictate what kids can eat and drink in restaurants (HB 2383). A bi-partisan sponsored measure (SB 6462) would re-affirm the constitutional prohibition against imposing local income taxes.

Lawmakers also established the cut-off deadlines for action on bills in this year’s session. The last day to move bills (other than budget and transportation measures) out of committee is February 7th, the last day for consideration of bills in their originating chamber is February 19th, and the last day to consider policy bills from the opposite house is March 6th. After that, only proposed initiatives, budget bills and bills necessary to implement the budget will be considered.

The 2020 session is scheduled to end on March 12th. Keep up with all the action by visiting washingtonvotes.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter #waleg.

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