SMART Transportation Division Washington State Legislative Director Herb Krohn reports that, despite a last-ditch effort by Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler to quash it, the two-person freight crew legislation bill passed through the state Senate by a 34-15 vote.
Schoesler, a Republican, attempted to adjourn the legislative session rather than have the bill come up to a vote five minutes before the close of the legislative session on Friday afternoon, Krohn said.
“Schoesler attempted to shut down the Washington State Senate rather than allow our crewing bill to come to the floor for consideration and a vote,” Krohn said. “It’s an example of just how far the rail carriers and their allies are willing to go to kill off our safe train crewing bill as well as any other railroad safety legislation they oppose!”
That motion to adjourn was defeated by a party-line vote, and the bill subsequently was heard and voted upon early Friday evening.
Five Republicans and a Democrat who caucuses with them voted with every Senate Democrat in favor of the bill. The 15 senators who voted against H.B. 1841 were all Republican.
Krohn and the Washington State Legislative Board have been working for seven years to get the two-person crew legislation passed. Krohn has affectionately referred to H.B. 1841 as a “zombie” bill — it has been buried and put on hold numerous times by legislators but keeps coming back. It now enters the reconciliation phase because of differences in language involving short-line carriers between the Senate and House versions of the bill.
Krohn said the state House will consider amendments adopted by the Senate, and if representative do not agree upon the Senate amendments, a conference committee of two Democrats and one Republican from each chamber of the Legislature will be assigned to attempt to work out differences between the versions of this bill.
The deadline for the process is midnight March 12 — the last day of the 2020 legislative session. Once the reconciliation process is completed, the bill will be sent to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee.
“We may need to mobilize again to generate high levels of constituent contacts with state legislators to get this bill across the finish line,” Krohn said.
He urged members to be on the lookout for email blasts — contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org — to add your name and stay up-to-date.
He thanked all TD members, their families and friends and all who helped for their persistence in advocating for the legislation and getting it closer to the governor’s desk.
“We wouldn’t be here without your support and willingness to take action to help push our train crewing bill forward,” Krohn said.