Week of January 17-21, 2022
Legislature busy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is annually one of the busiest days on campus, with busloads of constituents traveling from every corner of the state to meet with their legislators. Not so this year. The Senate and House quietly passed resolutions honoring Dr. King, the capitol largely closed. And while there may not be constituents on campus, the public has been turning out in droves for perennially contentious issue areas.
On Monday, January 17, 4,858 people signed in on 5217 (Kuderer, D-48), which, except under certain circumstances, bans the manufacture, possession, distribution, import, transfer, sale, offer for sale, or purchase of an assault weapon. Were this not a virtual session, this hearing would have undoubtedly overwhelmed the hearing rooms and capitol campus with 166 people signing in to speak on the bill. SB 5568 (Kuderer, D-48) was also heard in the Senate Law & Justice Committee on Monday, January 17. The bill restores local governments’ ability to enact laws and ordinances restricting the open carry of weapons at any public meeting; any building or facility owned or operated by a city, town, county, or other municipality; or any permitted demonstration within their respective jurisdictions.
Legislators up for election in 2022
In 2022, all Washington State Representatives and two dozen Senators will be up for election. One of the key swing districts year after year is the 26th, which includes Gig Harbor, Port Orchard, and Bremerton. In recent decades, the Senate seat has been held both by Democrats and Republicans including Republican Jan Angel and Democrat Derek Kilmer. Senator Emily Randall (D-26), who has two Republican seatmates in Rep. Michelle Caldier (R-26) and Rep. Jesse Young (R-26), is up for her first reelection bid in 2022 having won by only 104 votes in 2018. Young has filed to challenge Randall, in what will undoubtedly be a very expensive race and high priority for both caucuses. Senator Randall has introduced several voter-friendly bills this session.
On Monday, January 17, the Senate Transportation Committee heard SB 5488 (Randall, D-26). This bold bill pays off the $772 million outstanding debt on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from the general fund, making it a toll-free bridge. Senator Randall also introduced legislation republicans have been clamoring for in SB 5909 this week. SB 5909 gives the four corners of the legislature the power to terminate Governor Inslee’s state of emergency. The bill would similarly allow the four corners to terminate prohibitive emergency orders like vaccine mandates or an eviction moratorium during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. The bill also makes permanent the Bicameral Legislative Unanticipated Revenue Oversight Committee that gives the legislature involvement in the allocation of federal funding. It will be heard Friday, January 28 in Senate State Government & Elections.
Workplace ergonomics and injuries
In 2000, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) adopted specific workplace ergonomics regulations requiring employers to reduce worker exposure to hazards that cause or contribute to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. But Initiative 841, passed by the voters in 2003, repealed the existing ergonomics regulations and prohibited L&I from adopting similar regulations or otherwise regulating working practices to prevent musculoskeletal disorders. L&I retains general authority to enforce against ergonomic-related workplace hazards under the general duty clause of the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA). HB 1837 (Bronoske, D-28), heard Tuesday, January 18, repeals the restriction on the regulation of work-related musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomics. The committee heard from a variety of workers who have experienced job-related repetitive motion injuries. The bill is opposed by the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Association of Washington Business, and the Food Industry Association.
Washington Cares Act
The House continued the fast-tracking of their long-term care fix on Wednesday, January 19. On two bipartisan votes, the House passed HB 1732 (Sullivan, D-47) delaying implementation of Washington Cares until July 2023 and HB1733 (Paul, D-10) establishing exemptions for certain veterans, spouses, and registered domestic partners of military service members, nonimmigrant temporary workers, and employees who work in Washington and maintain a primary residence outside of Washington. House Republicans attempted to bring up their own long-term care bills through procedural motions, including a bill that would repeal the underlying program, but motions failed. Several Republican amendments were offered, including one that would require voter approval, but all were rejected or ruled out of order. Both bills now go to the Senate where they are scheduled for public hearing and may be passed as soon as next week.
Wednesday, January 19 was prescription drug affordability day in the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee. SB 5532 (Keiser, D-33) revises a bill that Governor Inslee vetoed in 2020, mere days into the global pandemic when the economic future of the state seemed unsure. The bill creates a prescription drug affordability board that would produce payment ceilings for up to 12 prescription drugs per year. The bill also requires the Department of Revenue to impose an 80% penalty on increased revenue from price increases deemed to be excessive. Additionally, it bars manufacturers from taking drugs off the market in Washington to avoid the penalty. The bill is opposed by the pharmaceutical and biosciences industries. The committee also heard SB 5546 (Keiser, D-33) which limits out of pocket expenses for a 30-day supply of insulin to $35 and directs the Total Cost of Insulin Work Group to develop strategies to provide a once yearly emergency 30-day supply of insulin, SB 5551 (Randall, D-26) which requires Medicaid to cover the cost of all HIV antivirals, and SB 5610 (Frockt, D-46) a bill that requires insurance carriers to count co-pay coupons toward deductibles.
Hospital staffing legislation
Also on Wednesday, January 19, the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee heard one of the labor community’s priority bills, HB 1868. Chair Sells devoted the entire 2-hour hearing to this legislation for which 49 people testified and 2,291 people registered their opinions with the committee. The bill, sponsored by 42 of the 57 House Democrats, requires the Department of Labor and Industries to regulate and enforce hospital staffing committees and minimum staffing standards, establishes minimum staffing standards for specific patient units. It also amends the meal, rest breaks, and overtime provisions for health care employees and includes a private right of action for violations. The bill is strongly opposed by hospitals.
Cannabis and employment
The Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee heard SB 5517 (Keiser, D-33) on Wednesday, January 19, concerning the employment of individuals who lawfully consume cannabis. Under the bill, employers are prohibited from refusing to hire a prospective employee and terminating a current employee due to a positive cannabis test. Exceptions are provided for the following: where compliance would cause an employer to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law; where inconsistent or otherwise in conflict with an employment contract, a collective bargaining agreement, or federal law; and where a position of employment is funded by a federal grant. The states of Nevada, New York, and Maine, the cities of New York and Philadelphia, and the District of Columbia have adopted laws prohibiting, with various exceptions, refusal-to-hire or pre-employment marijuana drug testing.
On Thursday, January 20, the Environment, Energy & Technology Committee heard yet another iteration of another enduring issue, data privacy. The chair’s bill, the Washington Privacy Act 5813 (Carlyle, D-36) regulates the collection and security practices for personal data of children and adolescents; requires data brokers to register with the state and to comply with consumer requests to exercise rights of access, delete, or correct, provides consumers the right to opt out of processing for purposes of targeted advertising or the sale of personal data beginning July 1, 2024; and requires the attorney general, in consultation with the state privacy office, to adopt rules establishing technical specifications for one or more do not track mechanisms by July 1, 2023. Carlyle’s bill is not the only data privacy bill this session. Representatives Vandana Slatter (D-48) and April Berg (D-44) have introduced the Washington Foundational Data Privacy Act, HB 1850. The bill contains an annual registration requirement, would create the Washington State Consumer Data Privacy Commission (similar to the California Privacy Protection Agency), and contains a private right of action. The bill will be heard on Tuesday, January 25 in the Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee.
Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
On Friday, January 21 the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee heard two bills related to the office of the superintendent of public instruction. SB 5820 (Carlyle, D-36), appointing the superintendent of public instruction and SJR 8212 (Carlyle, D-36), removing the superintendent of public instruction as a statewide elected official. The enactment of these bills would free up a significant amount of political spending. In his 2020 race, Democrat Superintendent Chris Reykdal’s campaign raised $368,372.79 to challenger Republican Maia Espinoza’s $231,478.52. These numbers pale to the $712,749.12 raised by a Pro-Reykdal independent expenditure campaign called Strong Public Schools. The top spender for this effort was the Washington Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, contributing $609,040.20.
- February 3 – House of Origin Policy Cutoff
- February 7 – House of Origin Fiscal Cutoff
- February 15 – House of Origin Floor Cutoff
- February 24 – Opposite House Policy Cutoff
- February 28 – Opposite House Fiscal Cutoff
- March 4 – Opposite House Floor Cutoff
- March 10 – Sine Die
Brynn Brady, Ceiba Consulting