Major climate bills face Monday committee deadline

Monday, March 2, is the deadline for bills to get out of fiscal and transportation committees in Olympia. A slew of bills important to fighting the climate catastrophe, as well as clearing cheaters out of transit lanes, are up against this wall.

Both the House and Senate version of the bill to allow automated camera enforcement of some transit-only lanes have passed out of their original chamber. Bizarrely, both are having trouble getting out of the transportation committees in their second chamber. HB 1793 is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Transportation Committee Monday. SB 5789 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Transportation Committee today. Each has to get out of committee Monday.

Of much larger concern to those who want to see humanity survive the impending climate catastrophe, bills to require cars to emit less CO2, fuels to be less polluting, and to set an overall limit on the state’s emissions in line with 2018 science, are also having trouble getting to the floor of their second chambers. I covered these bills in a little more detail recently.

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The fight over bus lane enforcement is about cultural norms

Cars blocking crosswalk — still shot from Rooted in Rights video

In the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in “preemption” laws, whereby conservative states try to clip the wings of their liberal cities.  Examples in the Trump era include banning cities from increasing their minimum wage or acting as immigrant “sanctuary cities.”  Of the national preemption laws tracked by the progressive Partnership for Working Families, Washington State only bans rent control (and even that one is up for debate right now).  

Preemption is not inherently bad — federal preemption is an important part of the constitution! — but many of these bills simply seek to impose Republican cultural norms on Democratic cities, like removing voting rights or preventing firearm bans. While Washington does relatively little of this kind of preemption, the fight over HB1793 – automatic bus lane enforcement – shows that the desire to impose cultural norms is alive and well. 

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Floor Amendments May Block the Box for Final Approval of Bus Lane Cameras

Traffic cameras could help bus commuters from over 20 legislative districts
Credit: Zack Heistand / twitter

Update 1: Y’all wanted to know why Sen. Saldaña proposed her amendment exempting transit from citations. The answer is at the bottom of the post. I promise you won’t have to click 10 times to get to it.

Update 2: Sen. Saldaña has submitted a striker amendment, with the effects listed below.

Update 3: Sen. Saldaña has submitted a second striker amendment, with the effects listed below. The first four amdendments have all been pulled, leaving just the last two eligible for floor discussion and action.

Update 4: Sen. Hasegawa has submitted two amendments to Saldaña’s second striker to push Seattle to operate camera enforcement in-house. Those two make four that could come up on the Senate floor.

Final Update: The bill did not get brought up on the Senate floor by adjournment for the year, midnight Sunday. It goes back to the start line in 2020.

Both chambers of the State Legislature took the morning off while various conference committees (some formal and some informal) and party caucuses try to iron out disagreements on various bills, including biennial transportation appropriations (Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1160). Both chambers are scheduled to reconvene in voting session at 2 pm. The session ends at midnight Sunday.

The bill to add additional allowed uses of automated camera enforcement for traffic violations, including bus lanes, crosswalks, and blocking the box (ESHB 1793), is 53rd – and last – on the Senate’s regular floor calendar, after having gotten voted out of the Senate Rules Committee at first asking yesterday.

Eight floor amendments to ESHB 1793 have been proposed:

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Lane Cam Bill Alive Again, Passes House

Addendum: Ryan Packer live-tweeted the floor debate.

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon

The State House voted 57-41 Monday to pass Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1793, which would allow automated camera enforcement of various traffic laws, including bus-only lanes. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D – Burien).

The bill was amended in the House Transportation Committee to be limited to Seattle. The bill was amended further on the House floor Monday to be a pilot project through 2021, with only warnings being issued in 2019, and then giving a warning for the first offense thereafter. Additionally, half the net revenue will go to the Highway Safety Fund. The area where the cameras would be allowed was also reduced to the general vicinity of downtown.

Four Republicans — Mary Dye (Pomeroy), Carolyn Eslick (Sultan), Morgan Irwin (Enumclaw), and Drew Stokesbary (Auburn) — voted for the bill.  Four Democrats — Brian Blake (Aberdeen), Steve Kirby (Tacoma), Jeff Morris (Mount Vernon), and Derek Stanford (Bothell),  — voted against the bill.

The bill still has to go through the Senate Transportation Committee and get passed in identical language in the Senate. Since the bill is considered necessary to the transportation budget, it has until the last day of the session — April 28 — to get passed.

Bus lane enforcement / pedestrian safety bill may fail

As we mentioned yesterday, HB 1793, a bill that would authorize automatic cameras to prevent bus lane cheating and blocking the box, is in danger of failing.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, Seattle), would allow Seattle to install cameras that would take photos of a violator’s license plate when a driver blocks an intersection or crosswalk, or illegally uses a bus lane.

Transportation Choices Coalition issued an action alert to its social media and email followers, asking supporters “to stand up for safe streets and transit reliability” by sending a comment to legislators.

The concerns about disproportionality have it backwards. Traffic stops by police create the opportunity for discrimination, and are more dangerous to everyone involved. Indeed, traffic stops during peak hour, when most of the cheating occurs, end up gumming up traffic worse.

You can also call the toll free Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to voice your opinion, or call your representatives’ offices directly after looking up their Olympia office phone numbers here. The calls will get faster attention than emails. Doing both says you care. The cut-off for getting non-budgetary House bills out of the House is 5:00 this afternoon.

You can watch the House proceedings on TVW, and follow the details online.

Brent White contributed to this post.

Two Key Climate & Transit Bills Face Wednesday Deadline

Update: Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1110 passed 53-43-0-2 this evening after 9 amendments and hours of debate. It now goes to the Senate, where it faces an even tougher audience.

5:00 Wednesday is the deadline for bills to get voted out of their original chamber.

Second Substitute House Bill 1110, which would bring Washington up to speed with California and Oregon on fuel pollution standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is still sitting on the floor calendar. Even though the bill won’t get Washington’s climate emissions headed downward by the 2020 deadline set by many scientists, every bit helps.

SHB 1793, the surviving bill to allow Seattle to use automated camera enforcement for its bus lanes, is also still on the floor calendar. The bill would allow Seattle to use the cameras for other neat purposes too, like fining box blockers, crosswalk blockers, and emergency vehicle blockers.

These bills might not come to a vote at all if representatives don’t hear from their constituents that the bills are important.

You can look up your legislators’ contact information here.

27 Multi-Modal/Climate Bills Survive Transportation Committees

Northgate Link Construction
Northgate Link, which will relieve I-5 of tens of thousands of peak commuters, but is nevertheless not considered a “highway purpose”. A little negotiation on a bipartisan Constitutional Amendment could fix that.
Credit: Atomic Taco

Friday was the deadline for bills in Olympia to get out of the fiscal committees. Now, all the survivors have to get through their chamber’s Rules Committee, and get passed on 2nd/3rd reading on their chamber’s floor, by 5 pm on Wednesday, March 13.

The extremely user-friendly state legislative website lists bills that have made it out of each committee.

Among the 50 bills that got voted out of the House Transportation Committee, 13 substantially impact transit, bikes, and pedestrians:

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Four Bills Aim to Clear Unauthorized Cars Out of HOV and Bus-Only Lanes

Video courtesy Rooted in Rights

Update: The two automated camera enforcement bills are scheduled for hearings next week. Senate Bill 5789 will be heard Monday at 3:30 pm. House Bill 1793 will be heard Thursday, February 14 at 3:30 pm.

Four bills were introduced last week — two pairs of identical “companion” bills – to give WSDOT and local governments more tools to get cars out of lanes they aren’t supposed to be in. Senate Bill 5695 had its hearing (TVW recording) in the Senate Transportation Committee Tuesday.

House Bill 1710, by Rep. Jake Fey (D – Tacoma) and SB 5695, by Sen. Marko Liias (D – Lynnwood), would raise the fine for high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane violations. The current fine is $136. Under the bill, the fine for a first infraction would be $242. The second violation would cost $499. Additional infractions would cost $755 per occurrence. The two bills were requested by WSDOT.

At the hearing for SB 5695, Sen. Liias gave anecdotal testimony, from the experience of a friend who has a baby in the back seat, that lane violators are probably being caught roughly once per hundred times they wrongfully enter HOV lanes.

Travis Snell, Government Relations Liaison for WSDOT testified:

The current penalty of $136 for an HOV [lane] violation provides little deterrent to violators. In some places as many as 50% of HOV [lane] users do not meet minimum occupancy requirements. HOV lanes carry more people than adjacent general-purpose lanes due to higher occupancy of each vehicle.

However, only 1 of the 10 monitored HOV peak-direction corridors met the state performance standard in 2017, down from 2 corridors previously. The degree of compliance with the performance standard worsened for all 10 monitored locations in 2017 compared to 2016.

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