Week of March 1-6
The Washington State Legislature has now passed the half-way point in the 105-day session. As the March 9 House of Origin cutoff approaches, both the House and Senate have spent this week in caucus and voting bills off the floor, sending them to the other body. The next cutoff date is March 26, opposite policy committee cutoff. Tax and bills considered necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) are exempt from these deadlines.
The state’s Economic & Revenue Forecast Council quarterly forecast is scheduled for March 17. Shortly after this date, House and Senate majorities will unveil their proposed FY21-23 operating, capital and transportation biennial budgets. Federal aid dollars, estimated to be roughly $4.2 billion for the state and $2 billion for local governments, will help budget negotiations.
The Senate passed SB 5141 (Saldaña, D-Seattle), known as the HEAL Act, on a party-line vote on Monday, March 1. The bill implements recommendations from the Environmental Justice Task Force (established by the Legislature last year) regarding how state agencies should incorporate environmental justice principles when implementing policies and programs. Environmental justice is defined in the bill as the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” The bill establishes requirements for seven state agencies (the Departments of Health, Ecology, Agriculture, Natural Resources, Commerce, and Transportation, as well as the Puget Sound Partnership), creates a permanent environmental justice council and interagency workgroup, and develops timelines for guidance, recommendations, implementation of environmental justice assessments, measurements and public reporting of progress. Republican opponents of the bill say the fiscal impacts and implementation are too vague and that the legislation poses a threat to the state’s economy. The bill has been scheduled for a hearing in the House Environment & Energy Committee on Friday, March 12.
Also, on Monday, March 1, the House passed a set of bills sponsors say would create second chances for people who have criminal records. HB 1399 (Vick, R-Vancouver) creates a process for a person with a criminal conviction to request a determination of whether that criminal history is disqualifying for obtaining a professional license administered by the Department of Licensing. The bipartisan bill passed 98-0. HB 1411 (Simmons, D-Bremerton) prohibits the Department of Social and Health Services from automatically disqualifying a person who has a criminal record containing certain crimes from working with vulnerable people or acting as a long-term care, vocational, or employment services provider. The bill also establishes a work group to identify an informed consent process to allow older adults and people with disabilities to hire an individual with a criminal record that would otherwise disqualify the person from providing paid home care services. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tarra Simmons who herself is formerly incarcerated, passed 58-39.
The Senate passed SB 5401 (Nguyen, D-White Center) on Tuesday, March 2 in a 48-0 vote. The bill authorizes Washington’s community and technical colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in computer science. Supporters contend 50,000 computer-related jobs will be created in Washington in the next decade. Currently Washington currently imports four computer science graduates for every one Washington computer science graduate. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on College & Workforce Development on Thursday, March 11.
SB 5022 (Das, D-Kent) passed the Senate on Tuesday, March 2 in a 31-17 vote. The bill requires increased recycled content in plastic beverage containers, trash bags and bottles for household products; bans expanded polystyrene food ware, recreational coolers and packing peanuts; and requires that utensils, straws, cup lids and condiments only be provided to customers on request. The legislation builds on a bill Das championed in 2020 that banned thin plastic carry-out bags and required that thicker plastic bags consist of 40% post-consumer recycled content. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House Environment & Energy Committee on Thursday, March 11.
On Tuesday, March 2, the Senate approved SB 5097 (Robinson, D-Everett), which expands the definition of family member, for the purposes of family leave, to include anyone with a relationship that creates an expectation and dependence on care. Since its initial passage in 2017 and its implementation in 2020, the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program has served nearly 100,000 Washington workers. It provides up to 18 weeks of paid family and medical leave for workers to: recover from a serious medical condition; care for a family member experiencing a serious medical condition; bond with a child brought into a family through birth, adoption, or foster placement; or support military family members preparing for or returning from deployment. The bill passed 29-19.
Senator Carlyle’s Data Privacy bill passed out of the Senate on Wednesday, March 3 on a 48-1 vote. SB 5062 (Carlyle, D-Seattle) would provide Washington state residents with rights to determine what type of data is being collected by companies and the ability to review, correct, or delete that data. Among other elements, it requires companies to let people opt out of the processing of their information. Violations of the law would be enforced by the state Attorney General’s Office under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. The bill will now go to a House that hasn’t agreed with Senator Carlyle’s bills for the past several sessions. Members in the House prefer an opt-in provision rather than opt-out and have in the past had strong leanings toward a private right of action.
The House took further action to advance the majority party’s police reform agenda on Wednesday, March 3 when they passed HB 1267 (Entenman, D-Kent). The bill establishes the Office of Independent Investigations within the Office of the Governor for the purpose of investigating deadly force incidents involving peace officers. The legislation was requested by Governor Jay Inslee and is based on recommendations made by the Governor’s Task Force on Independent Investigations of Police Use of Force. The Task Force was created in June 2020 following the disclosure that the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office had conducted the investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis despite the fact that one of their deputies was on scene, in violation of Initiative 940 which banned law enforcement agencies from investigating their own officers. The bill passed 57-39.
On Thursday, March 4 the Senate passed SB 5203 (Van De Wege, D-Sequim) on a 28-21 vote. The bill allows the Health Care Authority (HCA) to enter into partnerships with other states, state agencies, or nonprofit entities to produce, distribute, or purchase generic prescription drugs. A floor amendment added insulin as another class of drugs for the HCA to explore purchasing partnerships. It also requires state purchased health care programs to purchase generic drugs through the partnership and allows other entities to purchase through the partnership voluntarily.
The House of Representative passed HB 1076 (Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island), known as the Worker Protection Act, on Friday, March 5 in a 53-44 vote, with Representatives Springer, Tharinger and Walen joining Republicans in opposition. The bill allows aggrieved persons, whistleblowers, or their representative entity to bring a qui tam action as a relator and seek damages on behalf of the state for violations of workplace protections. Qui tam is an abbreviation of a Latin phrase meaning “who as well for the king as for himself sues in this matter.” Republican opponents offered 26 amendments, none of which were adopted over the course of the hours long debate.
On Saturday evening, after a four-hour debate, the Senate passed the much-anticipated capital gains bill, SB 5096 (Robinson, D-Everett). The striker that ultimately passed includes a few notable changes: Eliminates the maximum number of employees a business may have for its sale to qualify for the small business deduction; Increases the qualifying gross income threshold for the small business deduction from $6,000,000 to $10,000,000; Removes the section of the bill that would require ambiguities to be construed in favor of the application of the tax;
Removes the section of the bill that would authorize reciprocal tax collection agreements; Modifies the deposit and distribution of tax collections: Deposits the first $350,000,000 collected each fiscal year into the Education Legacy Trust Account, deposits the next $100,000,000 into the general fund, and deposits the remainder into a newly created taxpayer fairness account; Provides annual inflationary adjustments for the $250,000 exclusion amount, $10,000,000 gross income threshold for the small business deduction, and account distribution amounts. Two amendments to the striker were adopted. An amendment offered by Senator Marko Liias (D-Lynnwood) will exempt the sale of a controlling interest in a business entity from capital gains for the portion of the sale attributable to real estate if the transaction is also subject to the real estate excise tax. The most notable amendment though is the removal of the emergency clause through an amendment offered by Senator Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens). At this stage in bill’s evolution, citizens may now file a referendum measure to repeal the tax.
This week former State Treasurer Duane Davidson announced his intention to run for the Legislature in the 8th LD. That seat recently opened up after Republican Brad Klippert announced he plans to challenge Dan Newhouse for the 4th Congressional seat. In a statement, Davidson notes his desire to run for the Legislature is inspired by the majority’s legislation for increased revenue, something he opposes.
Next week, the chambers will return to the virtual policy committee hearing rooms to hear and vote on bills that have crossed over from the opposite chamber.
Tuesday, March 9 – House of Origin Cutoff
Friday, March 26 – Policy Committee Cutoff (opposite House)
Friday, April 2 – Fiscal Committee Cutoff (opposite House)
Sunday, April 11 – Opposite House Cutoff
Sunday, April 25 – Sine Die
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