Feb 27 – March 3, 2023
The legislature has now passed the half-way point of the 105-day session and majority Democrats are hard at work passing their 2023 priorities including abortion, the environment, labor and workforce issues, rental housing, and gun violence. They certainly have the margins to do it with 58 Democrats / 40 Republicans in the House and 29 Democrats / 20 Republicans in the Senate. Some bills will die during this floor period because they are simply not one of the majority party’s priorities or they lack adequate yes votes. Other bills that are indeed majority caucus priorities will die on the floor calendar because the bills get laden with time-consuming amendments from the minority party. Still other bills will become the victims of too little time and too many bills moving through the process. Bills have until Wednesday, March 8 to pass the floor in the house of origin. If a bill does not pass the floor in its house of origin, the policy idea moves closer to the dead end of the legislative life continuum and options to revive the concept become fewer.
Early in the week, both chambers began addressing the fallout from the 2022 Dobbs decision. The House passed HB 1469 (Hansen, D-23) also known as the Shield Law, which protects patients and providers of reproductive and gender-affirming care in Washington from retribution by other states, and HB 1340 (Riccelli, D-3) ensuring that Washington providers cannot be disciplined in Washington state because they provide reproductive or gender-affirming care in accordance with Washington state law, regardless of where their patients reside The Senate passed SB 5242 (Cleveland, D-49) prohibiting out-of-pocket costs for abortion and later in the week, the Senate passed SB 5599 (Liias, D-21) which provides that a licensed shelter for runaway or homeless youth does not need to contact the youth’s parents if there is a compelling reason not to, which includes a youth seeking protected health services such as abortion or gender-affirming care and allows host homes to house youth without parental permission if a youth is seeking or receiving protected health care services.
Environmental issues have been on the agenda for majority Democrats this week as well. The House passed HB 1085 (Mena, D-29) this week, which seeks to address plastics use by eventually prohibiting hotels from providing small plastic bottles of soap and shampoo, requiring new construction that provides a drinking fountain to provide water bottle refill stations, and prohibiting the sale of expanded or extruded plastic foam overwater structures. Another Rep. Mena bill, HB 1047 passed this week as well. The legislation bans formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers, PFAS, lead, phthalates, and other chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products by 2025. The Senate passed SB 5447 (Billig, D-3) this week, a bill that among other elements, proposes a B&O and public utilities tax credit for sales and purchases of alternative jet fuel upon notification of a production facility operating in Washington. The Senate also moved legislation aimed at reducing the amount of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) entering Washington state waters. 5369 (Billig, D-3) would petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lower the level of PCBs in consumer products and require the state Department of Ecology to make rules prohibiting paints and inks containing PCBs in Washington.
Labor and workforce issues came into play this week with the passage of SB 5550. Among other items, the bill requires Washington State Ferries to adopt a formal DEI strategy and allows WSF employees to gain maritime credentials and pilotage on the job. After a lengthy debate and a number of proposed amendments, the Senate also passed SB 5217 (Dhingra, D-45), the bill to reinstate L&I’s ability to regulate ergonomics. Last year’s version of the bill died in the Senate, so this may indicate the bill will indeed make it over the finish line this year. The House passed HB 1176 (Slatter, D-48) enacting the Washington Climate Corps Network to help transition Washington’s workforce to a clean energy economy.
Rental housing was a focus for House Democrats this week as they passed HB 1074 (Thai, D-41) after a long debate. The bill would provide a three-year statute of limitations for landlords to file a lawsuit to recover expenses exceeding a damage deposit, prohibits landlords from withholding tenant deposits in certain instances, and requires landlords to substantiate the cost of any damages withheld from a tenant deposit with repair estimates, invoices, or other documentation.
The Senate began the majority’s work on gun violence prevention this week with the passage of SB 5078 (Pedersen, D-43). The bill requires firearm industry members to establish, implement, and enforce reasonable controls regarding the manufacture, sale, distribution, import, use, and marketing of the firearm industry members’ firearm and firearm related products. It also prohibits firearm industry members from creating or maintaining a public nuisance and authorizes the attorney general to investigate suspected violations of firearm industry members’ duties and to enforce actions against such firearm industry members.
The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council met Friday. Revenue collections since the November forecast are $89 million (1.1%) above expectations. The report warns of a possible recession in the next year as inflation remains high, leading the Federal Reserve to continue to raise interest rates and layoff notices have increased. The next monthly revenue collection report will be available on March 14 and the revenue forecast will be presented on March 20. These reports help inform budget writers as they craft upcoming proposals.
Mask Restrictions Lifted
The Washington State Department of Health announced Friday that effective April 3, masks will no longer be required in healthcare, long-term care, and adult correctional facilities. The end of Washington’s universal masking requirements aligns with a similar announcement made Friday by the state of Oregon. DOH continues to recommend masks for patients, healthcare providers, and visitors in healthcare settings. Several worker protection requirements enforced by the Department of Labor & Industries remain in effect, including that employees and contractors may choose to use facemasks or other personal protective equipment on the job without employer retaliation. Additionally, under the state Health Emergency Labor Standards Act rules, several key worker protections remain in place until the federal pandemic response declaration ends May 11.
- March 8 – Floor cutoff – house of origin
- March 29 – Policy committee cutoff – opposite house
- April 4 – Fiscal committee cutoff – opposite house
- April 12 – Floor cutoff – opposite house
- April 23 – Sine Die
Source: Brynn Brady, Ceiba Consulting, Inc. | ceibaconsulting.com