Week of March 8-12
The House and Senate returned to the floor Monday and Tuesday after a long weekend voting on bills in advance of the Tuesday, March 9 deadline for bills to pass off the floor in the House of Origin. Now bills must travel to the opposite chamber and start the process all over. On floor cutoff day, there is always speculation as to what the “5:00 bill” will be. On the last bill of the day, the 5:00 bill, the debate can continue for as long as it takes so long as it began before 5:00, usually just minutes before. The 5:00 bill is often controversial, so this rule allows for the bill to be debated without taking up precious floor time ahead of a cutoff. But sometimes the bill is symbolic, as was the bill the Senate picked this year, a House bill with bipartisan support not subject to the 5:00 cutoff, HB 1088 (Lovick, D-Mill Creek). The bill, part of the majority’s police accountability agenda, requires law enforcement agencies to inquire whether an officer with previous law enforcement experience is subject to potential impeachment disclosures prior to hiring, and share potentially exculpatory information with local prosecuting authorities at the time of hire and anytime such conduct is discovered during an officer’s employment. The bill received a 46-3 vote. 42 Senate bills remained on the calendar at 5pm.
Over in the House, the 5:00 bill did not happen at all, leaving 20 bills to expire on the calendar. The chamber adjourned at 3:45pm after passing another bipartisan piece, the bill that funds the Working Families Tax Credit, HB 1297 (Thai, D-Bellevue). The working families tax credit dates back to 2008, when the Legislature passed a tax exemption for low-income workers, which works similarly to the federal earned income tax credit. Then Governor Christine Gregoire chose not to fund it. In the years since, Governor Inslee and legislators have introduced proposals to fund it, none of which have passed. The bill has bipartisan sponsorship and would give eligible filers a base credit of $500, plus $150 per child (up to three children). Notably, ITIN filers would also benefit. More than 500,000 families would qualify, approximately 1 in 6 Washingtonians. The bill passed 94-2.
Overall, the House passed 200 of its 747 bills and the Senate passed 208 of its 695 bills. Bills left on the calendar and presumed dead for the time being include HB 1202 (Thai, D-Bellevue) which would have allowed individuals to sue and recover damages from a police officer or agency for violating their state constitutional rights as a result of police misconduct; HB 1019 (Kloba, D-Kirkland) which would have allowed Washingtonians over the age of 21 to grow 6 cannabis plants for personal use; SB 5010 (Das, D-Kent) which would have cut the link between credit scores and insurance rates; HB 1156 (Harris-Talley, D- Hillman City) which would have allowed cities and counties to implement ranked-choice voting in local elections; HB 1075 (Berry, D-Queen Anne) which would have directed the state to set mandatory emission-reduction targets for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft; and SB 5170 (Carlyle, D-Seattle) which would have prohibited certain state officials from getting paid to lobby until one year after they leave their public position.
Hearings resumed on Wednesday, March 10. In the House, the College and Workforce Development Committee heard a package of bills that would incorporate equity and inclusion training in institutions of higher learning and medical schools. SB 5227 (Randall, D- Bremerton) establishes programs for students and faculty at institutions of higher learning on diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism and requires institutions conduct campus climate assessments on diversity, equity, and inclusion. SB 5228 (Randall, D-Bremerton) requires students at public medical schools complete a course on health equity prior to graduating and requires each school create a goal regarding student representation and report on that goal annually. Senate Republicans fought both bills on the floor, offering many amendments. They are scheduled for an executive session on Thursday, March 18.
After lengthy debate, 28 proposed amendments, and a 54-44 passage over the weekend, HB 1236 (Macri, D-Capitol Hill) was heard in the Senate Housing and Local Government committee on Thursday, March 11. The bill aims to reform the eviction process by requiring landlords to provide a “just cause” reason for ending their tenant’s lease. Current state law allows for termination of month-to-month leases with or without reason so long as the tenant is informed 20 days in advance. The bill also aims to limit the reasons for eviction. Under the bill, unless the landlord first offers a repayment plan for tenants who are behind on their rent because of the pandemic, they cannot evict the tenant based on failure to pay rent unless a 14-day period passes without the tenant accepting the plan. Landlords can only evict tenants for reasons including engaging in unlawful activity, causing a nuisance, or when the landlord decides to sell.
On Friday, March 12 the Senate Early Learning & K12 Education Committee heard HB 1356 (Lekanoff, D-Mt. Vernon). The bill prohibits public schools from using Native American names, symbols, or images as school mascots, logos, or team names. Exceptions are made if certain requirements are met, including tribal consultation and authorization and a phase in and grant program are available for transition. The bill passed the House 92-5 and will receive executive action in its Senate committee on Monday, March 15.
The Economic Revenue & Forecast Council will receive the state’s quarterly outlook on Wednesday, March 17. It is expected that the combined caseload and revenue projections will show strong revenue collections and a continued decline in the state deficit from the $3 billion projected last November to a rumored $2 billion. Traditionally, each chamber releases their proposed biennial budgets shortly after the forecast. The recent passage of the American Rescue Plan Act may delay the release as budget writers work to understand how the approximate $4.2 billion for the state and the $2.4 billion for local governments may be spent.
Both chambers will continue to hear bills next week and the following as we lead up to the March 26 deadline for bills to pass out of policy committees in the opposite House.
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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