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WashingtonVotes NEWS: Friday, April 9, 2021

State Senate passes cap-and-trade and low-carbon fuel standard bills after hours-long debate. Gov. Inslee signs felon voting rights measure into law.

State legislative leaders began budget negotiations behind closed doors this week, while lawmakers in both chambers continued debating and voting on dozens of bills during extended floor sessions.

Senate Democrats brought two major proposals that are part of Gov. Inslee’s climate-change agenda to the floor for a vote on Thursday. SB 5126 would establish a cap-and-trade program under which businesses would pay the state for carbon-emissions beyond a set limit. HB 1091 would establish low-carbon fuel standards.

Debate on the cap-and-trade bill, named the “Climate Commitment Act” by its sponsors, went on for hours, as Senators worked through 44 amendments, proposed mostly by Republicans. The bill passed by a narrow 25-24 vote, with four Democrats joining all Republicans to vote against it. SB 5126 will now go to the House for its consideration.

Establishing a low-carbon fuel standard program has been among Gov. Inslee’s climate-change priorities for years, and his proposals have passed the House during the last three sessions, including HB 1091 this year, which passed in February by a 56-42 vote.

Thursday’s Senate action on HB 1091, after lengthy debate on more than a dozen amendments, marks the first time a low-carbon fuel standard bill has passed the Senate. The measure passed by a 27-20 vote, with two Democrats voting against it. Two Republican Senators were excused and did not vote.

Because the Senate amended HB 1091, it must now go back to the House for consideration. If the Senate amendments are approved, the bill would be sent to the governor for his signature.

This session’s state budget proposals, as passed by both the House and Senate, assume passage of the cap-and-trade and low-carbon fuel standards bills. Critics say that, if enacted into law, the mandates would result in huge fuel cost increases for Washington businesses and consumers. Estimates indicate that the measures would add about 20 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas in 2023, increasing to between 41 and 50 cents per gallon by 2028.

These high costs would be on top of proposed increases to Washington’s gas tax, which, at 67 cents a gallon in state and federal rates combined, is already one of the highest in the country.

While floor action in both chambers continues at a brisk pace—216 bills have passed both houses so far, Governor Inslee has signed only a few measures into law. This week, he signed HB 1078, a controversial bill to restore felon voting rights, into law. The new law automatically restores voting rights to felons immediately upon their release from state prison. Under current law, released felons must wait until they finish all conditions of their release, including community supervision before they can re-register to vote.

The bill passed the House by a mostly partisan 57-41 vote in the House, and by a 27-22 vote in the Senate, where two Democrat voted against it.

WashingtonVotes.org is a free service provided by Washington Policy Center and is the go-to tracking tool to keep up with all the action in Olympia, especially during this mostly virtual session. Please check in often and follow us on Facebook and Twitter at #waleg.

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2021-2022

Bills Introduced
1059
Amendments Introduced
1155
New Laws Passed
0018