WA Governor - Bill Action
(April 3, 2020)

Friday April 3, 2020 3:15 PM - 4:00 PM Observed

The Washington State Office of the Governor (WA Governor) hosts public bill signing ceremonies in response to the passage of legislation by the Washington State Legislature.

  • SB 6168 - "Making 2019-2021 fiscal biennium supplemental operating appropriations."

Observations

The Governor signed the supplemental operating budget with vetoes totaling $445M in savings which impact funding for three cannabis-related items.

Here are some observations from the Friday April 3rd Washington State Office of the Governor (WA Governor) Bill Action during which the Governor announced the partial veto of SB 6168 before signing the supplemental operating budget.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Governor Jay Inslee made significant vetoes to Washington’s supplemental operating budget targeting new spending in anticipation of “fiscal pain” from the novel coronavirus outbreak impacting the state.
    • Continuing socially distant bill signings with minimal staff support, Inslee gave sobering remarks before signing SB 6168 and standing for a press conference via phone. This was just one indication of how, in the Governor’s estimation, “things have changed dramatically” due to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus disease. Inslee explained that "under normal circumstances, I would not veto bills that are good policy and smart investments." However, Washingtonians “must look ahead to the fiscal pain as well as the health pain” resulting from the pandemic. Vetoed sections were outlined in a letter to the Senate. Although the Governor was “certain that we'll need to make budget adjustments in the next cycle," he was proactively removing “147 new separate expenditure items” described as "additional, new funding" rather than cutting existing expenditures. Taken together, the cuts total “about $445 million from the State’s General Fund,” with $235 million from the current budget, and $210 million removed from the next biennium. “These choices were not easy," he stated somberly, as the cuts represented the hard work of many in and out government and included issues like climate change which the Governor was personally “passionate about” (audio - 6m, video). 
    • Inslee then took questions from unidentified remote reporters, focused largely on the State’s response to the virus and impacts on the economy (audio - 17m, video).
  • The most substantive cannabis-related cut was the elimination of funding for the University of Washington to create frameworks for the future study of “cannabis induced psychosis.”
    • Governor Inslee vetoed Section 603(46) in the University of Washington’s budget which had allotted $100,000 from the general fund “solely for the center for cannabis research at the university to collaborate with the Washington State University collaboration on cannabis policy, research, and outreach to create frameworks for future studies. Each framework will include the length of time to complete, research licenses necessary, cost, literature review of national and international research, and a scope of work to be completed. The following frameworks shall be compiled in a report: (A) Measuring and assessing impairment due to marijuana use; and (B) Correlation between age of use, dosage of use, and appearance of occurrence of cannabis induced psychosis.”
      • In the March 9th Week Ahead, Cannabis Observer last addressed the potential research and its correspondence to unsuccessful legislation sponsored by Representative Lauren Davis, HB 2546 - “Concerning the potency of marijuana products.”
    • Inslee also chose to veto Section 221(61) in DOH’s budget covering SB 6254, executive request legislation on non-cannabis vapor products, as the “bill did not pass the Legislature.”
      • SB 6254 had been allotted $172,000 from the State’s general fund. After substantial revision by the Senate Ways and Means Committee (WA Senate WM) late in the session followed by further revision and passage by the Senate on the final day of the regular session, the House allowed the zombie bill to expire.
  • The Governor’s veto of funding for a new Washington State Office of Equity likely clarified one aspect of the implementation of the cannabis social equity task force.
    • Inslee vetoed section 116(9) of SB 6168 which would have provided $1,289,000 to fund the newly created Washington State Office of Equity within the Office of the Governor. Inslee’s veto letter said the Office was among those that “would be smart investments for the state under normal circumstances. However, under the extraordinary situation we now face, we cannot afford all of them at this time.”
      • HB 1783 - “Creating the Washington state office of equity” was signed into law on April 3rd with the exception of two substantive sections of the bill struck by the Governor due to “catastrophic effects” from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the law did not include a null and void clause which would have precluded its effects in the absence of funding. Therefore, the new Office appeared to still have been established but would not be directly funded from the supplemental operating budget.
    • HB 2870, signed into law on March 31st, was agency request legislation from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) establishing a cannabis social equity program. The law included a provision stating that the Office of Equity, if established, could choose to provide support staff for the cannabis social equity task force created in section five of the legislation. Otherwise, staffing responsibilities for the task force would be provided by the Governor’s Interagency Council on Health Disparities. In the absence of creative funding by the Office of the Governor, it appeared likely that staff support would be provided by the Council.
    • Support staff would be responsible for helping arrange “the first meeting of the task force and assisting the chair of the task force in arranging subsequent meetings.”Section 5(4) of HB 2870 required the task force to hold its first meeting “by July 1st, 2020.”

Documents and Links