‘Positive kind of vibe’: Inslee assesses legislative session

An ebullient Gov. Jay Inslee addressed a number of topics during a Thursday afternoon press conference from the Capitol Campus in Olympia.

“Well, I feel very positive about it,” he said of the legislative session so far, which is on day 39 of 105 days. “Almost all of the bills that I’ve proposed are still alive and kicking, so that’s good.”

Those bills are on track for major progress, the governor said.

“And there is a really positive kind of vibe around the session this year,” Inslee added. “Legislators are getting along well. When you talk to legislators, they’re telling me there seems to be better bipartisan communication going on, which is really a positive thing. And all our efforts are still very vibrant and moving forward, so I’m real happy about it.”

It remains to be seen whether those good feelings lasted beyond Friday’s cutoff date to pass bills out of committee and read them into the record on the floor in the chamber of origin, except for House fiscal committees and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation committees.


Washington has a housing deficit that the Legislature is attempting to deal with, according to the governor.

“And right now we have good discussions underway to increase the places we can build housing by changing some of our onerous restrictions, government regulations and zoning that today is preventing us from building the housing we need,” Inslee said. “I think people know this. We’ve had a million people move into our state. We’ve only built 350,000 units and we’re going to have a homeless crisis unless we build more housing.”

Cost is part of the challenge.

“But we also have to finance this housing, and we know that the private market cannot totally finance low-income housing, and we need to provide for people who are today homeless,” Inslee said. “We have probably 25,000 people who are homeless in the state of Washington, and for them to get housing we need a substantial investment to build that housing and provide the supportive services for those who need it.”

The governor referenced his own proposal to put a $4 billion bond measure on next year’s ballot to provide money to build more affordable housing units in the next six years.

“This is getting a good look and I’m pleased about where we are in the discussions about that provision,” Inslee noted.


Inslee touted the Working Families Tax Credit, which will distribute $300 to $1,200 to those who qualify, that began accepting applications on Feb. 1.

“We’ve already had 65,000 Washingtonians avail themselves of this tax reduction — this is a tax reduction,” Inslee said. “We have reduced taxes potentially for 400,000 households.”

The governor reiterated the positive response to the kick-off of the tax credit.

“But we’re off to a great start,” he said. “Very pleased we’ve already got 65,000 people who are availing themselves of this tax break.”


Inslee spoke on the contentious issue of police pursuit reform legislation just hours after a House committee gave a do-pass recommendation for a substitute bill that appears to scale back House Bill 1363 that would restore the reasonable suspicion standard for allowing police to pursue drivers they believe have committed crimes.

The bill will now go to the full body of lawmakers, where its fate remains uncertain.

“I am quite willing to accept some changes in those rules to open up in certain circumstances where officers can have flexibility to do pursuits,” Inslee said. “I think that is the right approach.”

HB 1363 was introduced in response to House Bill 1054 — passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Inslee in 2021 — which upped the police pursuit threshold to probable cause from reasonable suspicion.

Since HB 1054 went into effect nearly two years ago, there has been a marked increase in auto thefts and drivers refusing to stop for police.

“We’ve learned some things since the bill originally passed, so I’m open to those ideas,” the governor continued. “But obviously I can’t sign a bill that doesn’t get to my desk, so I hope legislators will continue to discuss that. I hope some bill can get to my desk.”


Inslee expressed optimism that lawmakers would come up with a fix to the Washington State Supreme Court’s February 2021 Blake decision that effectively decriminalized possession of most drugs.

The ruling came in the case of a Spokane woman, Shannon Blake, who had received a pair of jeans from a friend with a small bag of methamphetamine in a pocket.

“I do believe the Legislature is going to succeed in sending me a bill that will not decriminalize drugs,” Inslee said. “What it will do is it will focus on getting people into treatment but maintain the ability to given them an incentive to go into treatment.”

Senate Bill 5536 is currently working its way through the Legislature.

The legislation would strengthen penalties against “knowing possession of a controlled substance or counterfeit controlled substance” by changing the crime from a simple to gross misdemeanor.

The maximum punishment for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in county jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

SB 5536 would also create a pretrial diversion program for those charged with possession of prohibited substances and provide for vacating a possession conviction contingent upon completion of a substance abuse disorder treatment program.


The governor once again defended his COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees, even as King County and Seattle recently dropped their respective vaccine requirements for city and county employees.

“I believe it is justified by the effectiveness of the vaccine that is very, very effective at reducing your chance of hospitalization and death,” Inslee said. “You might get the disease, but it significantly reduces your chance of hospitalization and death.”

A healthy workforce is paramount, he stressed.

“We want a workforce that is healthy because we care about them, but we also want them to be able to come to work,” Inslee reasoned. “And when they get sick, they can’t come to work. So, this is a provision that is good, both for our employees, but also for the public.”


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