UPDATED: Rockefeller Bill Fails, Survives Through Executive Order

In an April 27 story about the possibility of a special legislative session, I included discussion by state Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, who was the one legislator who had something specific he hoped would be part of the session:

One locally authored bill that could be heard again is Bainbridge Island Democratic Sen. Phil Rockefeller’s bill, Senate Bill 5735, dealing with greenhouse gases. That bill was scheduled for a floor vote Sunday night, but budget-related bills took precedence. “The clock just ran out,” Rockefeller said.

Since it is a bill the governor wanted, however, there is a good chance it will be one of the few to be considered again.

Rockefeller said he spoke with Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown about the measure.

“I’ve made my wishes known,” he said. “I believe that bill is important and important to the citizens of our state. We did have the votes for it so I’d like to see it have its day.”

Well, as you know, there was no special session, but Rockefeller got what he wanted anyway when Gov. Chris Gregoire signed an executive order on climate change.

In fact, there’s more in the executive order than there was in the bill that didn’t get a vote. State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, sent an e-mail saying these were the items in the order that were not in the bill:

  • Developing emission benchmarks by industry sector
  • A low-carbon fuel standard
  • Working with cities and counties on adapting to sea-level rise resulting from climate change
  • Working with public agencies on changes in water resources likely to result from climate change
  • Working with public and private entities on potential changes to the vehicle-miles-travelled benchmarks.

By request, here is a copy (Download PDF) of the executive order. I don’t know if we made it available elsewhere, but in case we didn’t I thought I’d provide it.

UPDATED: I’ve been getting e-mails from the Washington Policy Center for months and the first two times I’m referencing the organization are yesterday and today. Moments after I posted this entry, I received an e-mail from WPC for a blog entry calling into question whether the governor’s executive has any force in law. From the blog:

In 1991 the Attorney General’s office issued an opinion, AGO 1991 No. 12, regarding the use of Executive Order that, in part, concluded:

“The legislative authority of the State of Washington is vested in the Legislature.  In absence of a statute or constitutional provision that serves as a source of authority authorizing the Governor to act, the Governor cannot create obligations, responsibilities, conditions or processes having the force and effect of law by the issuance of an executive order.”

In light of the AGO from 1991, perhaps the Legislature,  which chose not to implement similar policies during the past legislative session, will want to ask the current Attorney General to review Executive Order 09-05 to ensure that the Governor has not exceeded her legal authority.

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