Preview of the 2022 Legislative Session
The 60 day (short) legislative Session starts on Monday, January 10 and will run through March 10. A copy of the Cutoff Calendar (in draft form until adopted) lists key dates in the legislative process. We are in the second half of the 2021-22 Biennium, meaning that bills introduced in the Legislature last year that weren’t already enacted are again eligible for consideration this year. Additionally, there are over 415 pre-filed new bills so far (listed here). This is a heavier than usual load for the shorter Session, but the pace of new bills is expected to slow after the opening weeks. The volume of bills may be up, but the passage rate is expected to be slower (similar to last year) because of the remote nature of the Session. And, as always, far more bills are introduced than are ever passed. We will have a better sense of which bills are expected to move next week.
COVID protocols in place
Because of an uptick in COVID cases, the Legislature decided to again conduct Session remotely, with procedures almost identical to those of 2021. For members of the public (including lobbyists), procedures are unchanged: legislator offices, the galleries, and committee rooms are closed. No on-campus in-person meetings with the public are permitted, and facilities are generally closed to the public. Committee meetings and testimony will be conducted entirely online over Zoom, with prior online registration required to secure a testimony slot (no registration is required to watch or listen to the hearing). Floor proceedings will again be largely online, although both chambers are allowing more members to be on the Floor. The Senate will allow up to 15 Senators at a time to be on the Floor (eight Democrats; seven Republicans). The House will allow up to two members from each caucus to be on the Floor. There are further routine testing, vaccination, and distancing requirements for legislative staff and members on-campus. Most staff will be working remotely. All of this may change (it has changed multiple times in just the past few weeks), but these are the announced opening conditions.
Majority-minority balance unchanged
The Senate opens with the majority-minority split unchanged (29-20), with one vacancy in the Republican Caucus until Senator Ericksen’s successor is chosen later this month. He tragically passed away from COVID in late December, and his successor should be appointed soon. The House of Representatives likewise opens with the majority-minority split unchanged (57-41).
No significant leadership changes but changes in some committees
There are no significant leadership changes in either chamber (Senator Billig remains Majority Leader, and Representative Jinkins remains Speaker of the House). Senator Liias moves from Floor Leader to chair the Transportation Committee, and Senator Pederson is now Floor Leader (he was the Chair of the Law & Justice Committee, which is now chaired by Senator Trudeau). There are no changes to the committee names or jurisdictions this year, but there are some membership changes expected. The attached Senate committee assignments should be complete, with the exception of some vacancies that won’t be filled until Senator Ericksen’s replacement is appointed. The attached House committee assignments are expected to change: newly-appointed House member Representative Donaghy is expected to be appointed to the Community & Economic Development; Housing, Human Services, & Veterans; and Transportation Committees. Representative Thai is expected to move off of the Housing, Human Services, & Veterans Committee and move on to the Transportation Committee. Finally, Representative Bronoske is expected to be appointed to the Rules Committee.
Priorities on climate, social justice, voting, fiscal issues
Although it is a short Session, it is expected to be an active one across all issue areas, with particular focus on climate, social justice, voting, and fiscal issues expected. Because of the logistics associated with conducting things remotely, legislators have been asked to limit bill activity, but it is still likely to be a busy 60 days!
Ceiba Consulting | Martin Flynn Public Affairs, Inc.