Mixed environmental results marked the whirlwind 60-day session of the 2018 Washington Legislature, which brought a few environmental firsts but also some significant losses on climate change that go beyond their inability to pass a carbon tax.
With just over a week before the Washington Legislature adjourns for the year, the question recurs: Will legislators make Washington the first state in the nation to tax greenhouse-gas emissions to fight climate change? Lurking in the background as state legislators debate a carbon tax is the threat of a citizens’ initiative on the November 2018 ballot to tax carbon emissions. In Olympia, legislation has passed three Senate committees, the latest on Wednesday. That alone is historic, said to be the first time that a carbon fee was approved by any panel of state politicians.
With just over two weeks left in the 2018 Washington State legislative session, InvestigateWest is tracking key environmental bills. Which are dead? Which are alive? Exciting questions remain. Will Washington become the first state to ban toxic chemicals in food packaging?
Even with Democrats in charge of both houses of the Washington Legislature and the governor’s mansion, the 2018 legislative session is far from a sure-fire win for environmentalists. Climate, water use, oil spill prevention and more are being discussed. Can anything significant pass?
Three bills that “substantially weaken” Washington state’s Growth Management Act were passed this year. Democrats largely went along with the concerns that traditionally have been embodied in Republican critiques of the law, in an attempt to close an extremely lenient loophole for developers. But Republicans refused to reciprocate.
Republicans and Democrats in Olympia insist they want to shore up the state’s failing foster care system, but major reforms could falter as they head into a special legislative session to hammer out budget and policy proposals that remain miles apart.
The Washington Legislature passed two bipartisan wildfire prevention bills unanimously. But funding for those and other restoration programs is still up in the air as the Legislature struggles over intense budget pressures.
OLYMPIA – Could 2017 be the year Washington emerges as the first state to tax emissions of a greenhouse gas? Barring some unusual turn of events as legislators finalize the state budget here, don’t count on it. But that assessment comes with an asterisk. There are signs that business opposition to the idea is softening. Meanwhile, environmentalists and their allies have made it clear that if the Legislature doesn’t act this spring, they’ll bring to issue to voters next year.
A recent report by the Children’s Administration shows how many of the highest-needs foster children in its custody are falling through the cracks. This “placement crisis,” as agency leaders and lawmakers have taken to calling it, has largely been the result of insufficient and unpredictable state budgets. A bill that would have improved funding for the state’s foster care system has died in the Senate.
An expected expansion of Canada’s Kinder-Morgan pipeline could increase the number of oil-carrying vessels in the Salish Sea seven-fold. In preparation for that, Washington Democrats are trying to pass legislation that would improve oil transportation safety, particularly on the water. But it’s an uphill battle and the clock is ticking.