Lawmakers disappointed by Gov. Inslee’s veto pen

May 17, 2021, 4:07 PM
Gov. Inslee signed his climate priorities package, composed of HB 1050, HB 1091 and SB 5126 on Monday at Shoreline Community College. (Office of Governor Inslee)
(Office of Governor Inslee)

Governor Inslee signed a series of bills to address climate change on Monday, but he also vetoed a compromise that linked two of the bills to the passage of a future transportation package.

That compromise was highly negotiated in talks led by Senate Transportation Chair Senator Steve Hobbs, who says it is the only reason moderates voted for these bills.

Keep up with the hundreds of bills Gov. Inslee has signed

Hobbs said the governor vetoed linkage language in the Cap and Trade bill (SB 5126) and did a line item veto on the Clean Fuel Standard bill (E3SHB 1091).

“You’re not allowed to do that as governor,” Hobbs said. “It’s illegal.”

While that line item veto will prompt a lawsuit, Hobbs said the bigger issue is mistrust.

“It blows up the trust, compromise that we try to give these bills together. It’s very disappointing,” he said.

Hobbs is now calling on legislative leadership to unite and override what he calls a gross overuse of executive power.

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) echoed the same sentiment in a statement:

“Washington Courts have consistently held that as a co-equal branch of government, the legislature is responsible for drafting laws and the executive branch is responsible for implementing them. The Constitution provides the governor only limited powers to veto legislation. The governor’s partial veto today of E3SHB 1091, the clean fuel standard bill, reaches beyond his constitutional powers and we will ask the Washington courts to again rule on the balance of legislative and executive branch powers.”

The Washington Policy Center pointed out that voters adopted the current veto language in 1974. The amendment reads:

“If any bill presented to the governor contain several sections or appropriation items, he may object to one or more sections or appropriation items while approving other portions of the bill: Provided, That he may not object to less than an entire section, except that if the section contain one or more appropriation items he may object to any such appropriation item or items.”

Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) had a similar reaction. In part, his statement reads:

“My votes were contingent on the bills’ funding for transportation projects. There is absolutely no reason that Gov. Inslee should veto portions of these bills that would help us tackle our state’s transportation needs.

“The governor has the authority to veto bills or sections of bills. But the Washington State Supreme Court says that he does not have the authority to veto sentences in bills, as he did today. Not only is what he did today bad policy, it is unconstitutional.”

The governor signed two other environmental impact bills that ruffled far fewer feathers on Monday.

Senate Bill 5141, the Healthy Environment for All Act (HEAL Act), implements recommendations from the Environmental Justice Task Force to reduce health disparities when launching programs and policies. It acknowledges the disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards to Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, along with low-income communities.

Inslee also signed SB5022 that promises to reduce plastic pollution and improve recycling in Washington state. The bill bans certain expanded polystyrene products (mostly used for takeout food), requires an opt-in for things like utensils, straws, cup lids, and condiments, and mandates post-consumer recycled content in bottles and trash bags.

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Lawmakers disappointed by Gov. Inslee’s veto pen