Tensions flared in the capitol last week as lawmakers raced against the clock to keep measures alive before the first major deadline of the session. Thursday marked the first “chamber of origin” deadline, leaving any bill remaining in its original policy committee effectively dead. This thinning of the herd typically shifts the attention of the legislature to a narrow set of measures remaining for the session, but not this session, as three-quarters of the introduced bills remain in play.
Lawmakers advanced the cap-and-trade measure to the Ways & Means Committee, upping the ante on the politics for the session and, perhaps, increasing the likelihood of Republicans once again fleeing the building. During a radio interview with Lars Larson on Thursday, Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger reaffirmed his caucus’ willingness to leave to prevent a floor vote on the measure. Meanwhile, Democratic leadership advanced several bills, including a gun storage requirement and ban on a widely used pesticide, as potential bargaining chips in the negotiation.
Taxes typically play an outsized role in these short sessions as politicians ready for the campaign cycle but these debates have largely stayed above the fray, focusing on technical and industry-specific issues. Behind the scenes, however, the politics of carbon and tax policy are converging and will become more apparent in the week ahead. The revenue committees appear to be considering an exemption to the new business tax on gross receipts for sales of carbon offset credits sold under the cap-and-trade program. The concept may bring the weight of the cap-and-trade debate to an otherwise bridled policy space, opening the door for a new frontline in the negotiation.