Washington State Legislative & Elections Update – August 24
New Senator Drew Hansen
Rep. Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island) has been appointed to represent the 23rd Legislative District in the Washington State Senate. Hansen replaces Sen. Christine Rolfes, who resigned to fill a vacant seat on the Kitsap County Commission. Hansen, who has served in the state House of Representatives since 2011, was selected to fill the open seat following a vote of the County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.
He has chaired the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee since 2020; before that, he chaired the House Higher Education Committee from 2014 to 2020. Hansen has led efforts on historic legislation in recent years, including this year’s Shield Law (HB 1469) to protect those who pursue or provide legal reproductive care in the state. He also sponsored Washington’s landmark free college tuition law and the nation’s first state-level net neutrality law. He also led efforts on the New Hope Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill that helps people who have spent time in prison rebuild their lives, the DREAM Act 2.0 to protect state financial aid eligibility for DACA students, and the Public Broadband Act, which opens up opportunities for public broadband networks in Washington State.
He will serve the remainder of Sen. Rolfes’ term which ends in 2024, requiring him to run for the seat in order to retain it.
Tax Structure Work Group Disbands
The Washington State Tax Structure Work Group has officially ended its work, as the legislature did not provide funding in the 2023 session for it to continue. In 2019, the Washington State Legislature established the Tax Structure Work Group (TSWG) to identify options to make the Washington State tax code more “fair, adequate, stable, and transparent. ” The TSWG was composed of bipartisan Washington State legislators, as well as representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Washington State Department of Revenue, the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC), and the Association of Washington Cities (AWC). The TSWG facilitated public discussions throughout the state about the advantages and disadvantages of the state’s current and potential tax structure to inform recommendations to improve Washington State’s tax structure to benefit individuals, families, and businesses in Washington State. In 2023, the group produced SB 5482 (Margin Tax), and SB 5618 / HB 1670 (Property Tax Revenue Growth Limit), neither of which passed.
2023 House and Senate Committee Days
2023 House and Senate Committee Days are scheduled as following:
- Senate – Thursday, November 30 – Friday, December 1
- House – Monday, December 4 – Tuesday, December 5
15th Legislative District to be Redrawn
A Federal Judge has ruled that Washington State must adopt and enact new legislative maps for the Yakima Valley region by February 2024. The decision came after Latino voters filed a lawsuit in January 2022 over the state redistricting plan, regarding Legislative District 15th boundaries. The suit claims the plan dilutes the Latino vote and violates the federal Voting Rights Act Section 2.
The court decision directs that the parties involved in the lawsuit shall file a joint status report in January 2024, “notifying the Court whether a reconvened Commission was able to redraw and transmit to the Legislature a revised map by that date.” In case the Commission is not able to redraw the maps, the parties shall present jointly or separated proposed maps for the Court’s consideration before January 15, 2024. The new redistricting plan “will be transmitted to the Secretary of State on or before March 25, 2024” to be in effect for the 2024 election, according to the court document.
Rep. Jim Walsh elected state GOP Chair
Often outspoken social conservative Republican Jim Walsh (R-19) has been elected chair of the Washington State Republican Party. Walsh takes the helm of a party that serves in the deep minority in the House and Senate, holds no statewide offices, and has not produced a governor since 1981, when John Spellman began his term. Walsh has represented the 19th Legislative District since 2016 when he beat long-serving moderate Democrat Representative Brian Blake. Walsh gained national notoriety in 2021 when he wore a Star of David while speaking to a conservative group in Lacey in protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. He later apologized. Walsh has told reporters he has not decided whether to keep his legislative seat, though he was “inclined to.” He says he has spoken to the Public Disclosure Commission and House counsel and “got a clearance” to recuse himself from fundraising efforts when lawmakers are subject to freezes. The party could still operate its fundraising efforts during those periods.
July 11-August 10 State Tax Collections
The state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) recently issued its monthly report on general fund revenue collections. This report covers payments received between July 11 and August 10 for the sales tax, the use tax, the business and occupation tax, the public utility tax, the tobacco products tax, and penalties and interest (collectively the Revenue Act receipts), and it covers payments received between July 1 and July 31 for liquor taxes, cigarette tax, property tax, real estate excise tax, unclaimed property and other sources.
The total amount received this month was $2,310.9 million, $81.2 million (3.6%) greater than the amount expected under the forecast that ERFC adopted on June 22nd. The amount received last month exceeded the amount forecasted by $101.1 million.
For the most recent month, Revenue Act taxes (primarily the sales, use, utility, and business and occupation taxes) exceeded forecast by $75.3 million (3.7%). Retail sales tax collections were up 3.9% year over year, while B&O tax collections were up 2.1%.
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