Week of January 24-28, 2022
As the third week of the 2022 legislative session ends, one-third of the frenetic 60-day session has now passed. This week is the first deadline bills must meet to continue in the process: the cutoff to be voted out of the policy committee. Then, if the bill has a financial impact, the bill must be voted out of a fiscal committee within a swift four-day period.
Sales tax reduction
Late last week, Senator Mona Das (D-47) introduced SB 5932, a bill that reduces the state portion of sales tax from 6.5% to 5.5%. Das, the third Indian American woman elected to the Washington State Senate represents parts of Kent, Auburn, and Covington, and is up for her first reelection bid in 2022. In 2018, Das lost the primary to popular moderate Republican Senator Joe Fain. Between the primary and general, at the height of the MeToo Movement, Fain was accused of sexually assaulting a woman more than a decade prior. Das won the general election by 981 votes. Kent City Councilmember Bill Boyce (R) has filed to challenge Das. Boyce, the first Black man to serve on the Kent City Council, has worked for Boeing for more than 30 years and was the first civilian at large to serve on the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission when he was appointed by Democrat Governor Gary Locke in 2002. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Representative Sullivan’s tenure
In the same district, ten-term Democrat Representative Pat Sullivan is finishing what may be his last session. Sullivan, who serves as the House Majority Leader, retired in the final moments of the 2020 session but returned shortly after as a favor to the Speaker of the House when so much of the COVID crisis was unknown. A Republican candidate has emerged in local commercial banker and community volunteer, Carmen Goers. She was recently awarded the 2021 Martin Luther King Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest award that King County Council can bestow on a citizen. If candidates Goers and Boyce, and Representative Debra Entenman (D-47) all win seats in 2022, they will be the second all-Black delegation in the Legislature.
Senator Carlyle will not seek re-election in 2022
In other election news, Senator Reuven Carlyle (D-36) announced this week that he will not seek re-election in 2022. Carlyle, who was first elected to the House in 2008, has championed key climate change and digital privacy legislation. His seatmate Representative Noel Frame (D-36) announced her candidacy for the Senate shortly after. Frame currently chairs the House Finance Committee.
Union membership fell
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its 2021 report on union membership this week, which includes the news that union membership nationwide fell in 2021. Since 2000, only four states including Washington have seen an increase of unionization. Washington will again see gains if several bills moving through the legislative process this week pass. One of these could change the very nature of legislative life. SB 5773 (Stanford, D-1) and its companion HB 1806 (Riccelli, D-3) remove the ban on legislative employees participating in collective bargaining. HB 1806 is sponsored by 40 House Democrats, though notably missing from both bills are key members of leadership. While current legislative staff cannot legally testify, former staff appeared before the committee, suggesting collective bargaining would remedy issues of workplace harassment, burnout, and compensation. Riccelli proposed a similar bill in 2019. In 2021, staff in the Oregon State Legislature became the first in the nation to unionize. The Senate bill received executive action on Thursday, January 27, and now heads to Senate Ways & Means. The House bill is scheduled for executive action next week.
Senate Bill 5600 Concerning the sustainability and expansion of state registered apprenticeship programs
SB 5600 (Keiser, D-33), the much-watched state-registered apprenticeship bill, received a policy committee vote on Monday, January 24 and will receive a hearing in Senate Ways & Means on Friday, February 4. The substitute bill passed out of committee reflects numerous changes including:
- Requires the Apprenticeship Council to establish economic or industry sector-based platforms, rather than subcommittees. Makes language regarding the industries for the platforms permissive rather than mandatory. Requires programs seeking approval to submit an assessment, rather than a plan, for the future sustainability of the program.
- Removes the provision requiring an apprenticeship program seeking approval to demonstrate that, within 10 years of approval, the program will be financially sustainable independent of any state funds provided to start the program.
- Adds smaller employers to the types of entities L&I should include in the apprenticeship options it is required to develop.
- Clarifies language around the involvement of collective bargaining representatives in the committee on state agency apprenticeships the Governor is required to establish.
- Requires the Apprenticeship Council, when evaluating applications for new apprenticeship programs to consider whether graduates will move toward a living wage rather than earn a living wage.
- Prohibits the use of workers’ compensation funds from being used for funding the grants and driver’s ed voucher established in the bill.
Senate Bill 5764 Concerning apprenticeships and higher education
On Tuesday, January 25, the other high-profile apprenticeship bill, SB 5764 (Randall, D-26) received executive action in the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee. This bill creates pathways between apprenticeship programs and college so that students in apprenticeship programs are treated equally when it comes to tuition and grants, and successful apprenticeship graduates have a clearer pathway to earn an associate degree or four-year bachelor’s degree in the future, if they choose. Among other changes, the striker:
- Requires WSAC to contract with the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, instead of the SBCTC, to study, research, evaluate, consult with certain stakeholders, and report on further developing opportunities for registered apprentices to receive credit towards degrees.
- Clarifies that the Ruckelshaus evaluation may include reviewing credit articulation, prior learning assessments, and competency-based models.
- Requires WSAC to report on the Ruckelshaus Center’s progress annually.
- Requires the Ruckelshaus Center’s report in 2026 provide viable policy options for degree pathways for individuals who complete state registered apprenticeship programs.
- Clarifies that the public institutions of higher education must establish credit or course equivalencies for active registered apprenticeship programs during or before July 1, 2022, by the 2028-29 school year. All registered apprenticeship programs approved after July 1, 2022, must have credit or course equivalencies established at public institutions of higher education within 6 years of registration.
- Establishes that credit or course equivalencies are at the sole discretion of each institution of higher education and must be determined in consultation with their faculty representatives.
Data privacy rights
On Tuesday, January 25, the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HB 1850, legislation developed by House Democrats to address data privacy rights. The bill contains numerous provisions of concern to the business community, including a private right of action (PRA) and damages for emotional distress and reputational harm. The ACLU testified opposed to the bill, claiming the bill does not go far enough. Consumer Reports testified in support and numerous business groups testified as opposed to the PRA and sunset of the right to cure provision. As in previous debates related to data privacy, disagreement among stakeholders remains in the type and level of enforcement provided in this bill. The bill is scheduled for executive action on February 2. Meanwhile, in the Senate, last year’s Washington Privacy Act (SB 5062) is still eligible for floor consideration. A new Senate data privacy bill, SB 5813, is not yet scheduled for executive action and may die as a result of next week’s cutoff. HB 1697 relating to data access and advertising restrictions to minors is in the House Rules Committee.
Senate Bill 5891 Concerning (non-agricultural) warehouse distribution centers
On Thursday, January 27, the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee heard SB 5891, a bill that would apply new regulations at all large non-agricultural warehouses, including those owned by Amazon, the largest private employer in Washington and the second-largest private employer in the U.S. The bill would ban quotas that prohibit warehouse workers from going to the bathroom or taking meal and rest breaks. Each worker would receive a written description of his or her quota, including the quantified tasks to be done within a defined time period, any potential adverse employment action that could result from failure to meet the quota, or bonuses, and incentives for meeting or exceeding the quota. These new regulations apply to warehouse employers with 100 or more employees at a single warehouse distribution center or 1,000 or more total employees at distribution centers in the state.
Senate Bill 5911 Providing hazard pay retention bonuses to certain health care employees
The Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee also heard SB 5911 (Cleveland, D-49) on Thursday, a bill that requires the State of Washington to provide a one-time hazard pay retention bonus to certain eligible health care employees practicing in specified COVID units. The bill also prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions to prevent or diminish the receipt of bonuses. The amount would be dependent on how much is appropriated by the legislature. The bill is supported both by the labor community and the Washington State Hospital Association. Workers who testified recommended including all frontline workers, not just those in COVID units. The proposal has not yet been scheduled for executive session.
Senate Bill 5822 Concerning insurance coverage for biomarker testing
According to the National Institutes of Health, a biomarker is a biological molecule found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that is a sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease, which may be used to see how well the body responds to a treatment for a disease or condition. Biomarker testing has been used in a number of clinical applications, including screening and diagnostic tests, treatment and post-treatment monitoring, prognostic tests for estimating risk or time to clinical outcomes, and to predict patient response to specific treatments. On Friday, January 28, the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee heard 5822 (L Wilson, R-17), a bill that requires insurance coverage for biomarker testing when supported by medical and scientific evidence. The bill is opposed by health plans and supported by the bioscience community and patient advocates. It has not yet been scheduled for executive action.
Senate Bill 5909 Concerning legislative oversight of gubernatorial powers concerning emergency proclamations and unanticipated receipts
On Friday, January 28, the Senate State Government & Elections Committee heard SB 5909 (Randall, D-26), the legislation that 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. 157 people signed in to testify and 5,457 signed in to have their position on the bill noted, the vast majority of whom were in support.
Senate Bill 5843 Making it unlawful for public officials and candidates to knowingly make false statements and claims regarding the election process or results of elections conducted within the state
Governor Inslee himself testified in the same committee hearing on Friday, in support of SB 5843 (Frockt, D-46). This Governor-request legislation prohibits candidates or elected officials from knowingly, recklessly, or maliciously making false statements regarding the election process or election results to produce lawless action, undermine election processes or results, or falsely claim entitlement to public office. The offense is punishable as a gross misdemeanor and causes any elected official convicted of the offense to vacate their office. This idea, which Governor Inslee announced on the one-year anniversary of the January 6 Capitol Insurrection in Washington, D.C., faces harsh criticism from Republicans. 763 people signed in on this bill, the majority of whom were opposed.
Governor signs bills about Washington Cares Act
Governor Inslee signed the first bills of the 2022 session on Thursday, January 27, HB 1732 (Sullivan, D-47) and HB 1733 (Paul, D-10). These are of course the two policies that delay and provide exemptions to the WA Cares program. Collection of premiums is now delayed until July 2023. Any premiums collected so far by private employers are to be refunded within 120 days.
- 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