Tax relief, drug possession among topics debated with WA Legislature back in session

Jan 9, 2023, 5:51 PM | Updated: 10:27 pm
Democratic House Leader Rep. Laurie Jinkins (Photo courtesy of The Office of Laurie Jinkins)
(Photo courtesy of The Office of Laurie Jinkins)

Washington’s elected officials arrived or returned to Olympia Monday, with the legislature kicking off 2023 by addressing and tackling state-wide issues, including homelessness, housing affordability, mental health, education, and inflation.

“Going into this session, the state has $4 billion in surplus. Last year? It was $15 billion,” said KIRO Newsradio reporter Matt Markovich on The Gee and Ursula Show. “Should we give that back to the taxpayers? Some people are saying yes, namely the Republicans. Republicans are saying, ‘hey, let’s just give it back to give some relief to the middle class, who are struggling just like everybody else with inflation.’ But the Democrats are saying, ‘no, we’re going to take that $4 billion, and we’re going to have some targeted tax relief.’ ”

Washington currently has a clear Democratic majority within the state’s Congress. The political party has an 18-seat majority in the House and a nine-seat majority in the Senate, capped off with a Democratic governor.

Despite a liberal majority in Olympia, Washington Democrats remain without the two-thirds majority needed to push legislation through without Republican support.

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Democratic House Leader Rep. Laurie Jinkins stated today voters have made it clear that housing and homelessness should be the priorities for the Legislature, along with providing access to behavioral health, improving community safety, and protecting abortion rights.

“For abortion rights, they want to put the protections into the Constitution, but they don’t have a two-thirds vote yet in the state, so [the Democrats] are really going to push for that because we already know that abortion is protected in this state.”

Washington legislators are also debating the controversial State v. Blake decision, a 2021 Washington Supreme Court ruling saying the state’s primary drug criminalization law was unconstitutional.

According to the ACLU Washington, “the law criminalized ‘unknowing’ drug possession and people could be arrested and convicted even if they did not realize they had drugs in their possession. The Legislature’s police power goes far, but not that far.”

“What may happen is they up the penalty to a gross misdemeanor if you have all these drugs on you,” Markovich said, expecting stringent clarifications on what police can and can’t do when perusing a suspect of drug possession.

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Other topics being discussed in Olympia include a bill banning circuses coming to Washington State if they have elephants, monkeys/apes, and tigers. Another is to increase the penalty for people verbally or physically harassing non-professional referees.

“They want to make it assault [in the third degree]. So that means you can go to jail for that,” Markovich said. “And they’re basically targeting people who are in the stands that verbally assault and physically assault a referee.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Tax relief, drug possession among topics debated with WA Legislature back in session