Week eight is now complete and the 2021 legislative session is more than half over. Last week was filled with floor action in both chambers. The House and Senate have until Tuesday March 9, to vote bills out of their house of origin. (Bills introduced in the House of Representatives must have passed out of the House, and bills introduced in the Senate, must have passed out of the Senate.) Bills deemed necessary to implement the budget (revenue bills) are not subject to cutoff. At this point there have been a total of 1,371 bills introduced; the House has passed a total of 187 house bills and the Senate has passed 151 bills. Eleven bills have passed both chambers.
The priority of the legislature continues to be COVID-19 relief and recovery, on Sunday February 28th Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 5272 into law, which temporarily waives certain liquor and cannabis board annual licensing fees for businesses impacted by the pandemic. For a full list of bills that have been signed by the Governor click here.
Following the house of origin cutoff on Tuesday, March 9, the legislature will go back to committee hearings until the opposite house policy cutoff on March 26. Washington’s next revenue forecast will be released on March 17, and many expect that will show higher anticipated revenue than the previous forecast. Following the release of the forecast the House is expected to release their proposed budget on March 22. The Senate will release their version soon after, and then negotiations will begin.
Economic Recovery and COVID Relief
Washington equitable access to credit act, HB 1015, would direct the Department of Commerce to create a program to award grants to qualified lending institutions to provide access to credit for historically underserved communities. The grants are funded by taxpayers who may receive a B&O tax credit for contributions to the program. The bill has been pulled from Rules and is currently on the House floor calendar. The Seattle Metro Chamber supports this legislation and hopes that it will pass ahead of tomorrow’s deadline.
On Saturday, March 6, the Senate spent the entire day on the floor debating Senator June Robinson’s Capital Gains tax bill, SB 5096. After several hours, the capital gains tax narrowly passed the Senate 25-24 with a handful Democrats joining Republicans to vote against the bill. The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Legislation sponsored by Senator Mona Das, SB 5287, concerning the multi-family tax exemption (MFTE), passed the House on Tuesday 43-5. There were two amendments adopted on the floor. The first was sponsored by Senator Rivers and the second was sponsored by Senator Wagoner. The bill now moves to the House and has been referred to the House Finance Committee.
Legislation addressing landlord-tenant relations by providing certain tenant protections during and after public health emergencies, providing for legal representation in eviction cases, and authorizing landlord access to state rental assistance programs, SSB 5160, also passed the House this week 29-20. Many housing providers believe the amended bill is an improvement over the original legislation, but there will likely be additional negotiations as the bill moves to the House.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Ryu and supported by the Seattle Metro Chamber, HB 1070, which would modify allowed uses of local tax revenue for affordable housing and related services to include the acquisition and construction of affordable housing and facilities passed the House last week 56-42. The bill would make changes to support King County’s Health through Housing program. The bill has been scheduled for a public hearing on March 10 in the Senate Committee on Housing & Local Government at 10:30 a.m. The Chamber will be signing in pro at the hearing.
On Saturday, March 6 and Sunday, March 7, the House debated HB 1236, Rep. Nicole Macri’s “just cause” bill. The legislation would limit the allowable reasons for eviction and termination. The bill passed the House 54-44, and is now scheduled for public hearing on Thursday, March 11 in the Senate Committee on Housing & Local Government.
Tax Increment Financing
Legislation authorizing local governments to designate tax increment financing areas and to use increased local property tax collections to fund public improvements, HB 1189, passed the House on Wednesday 64-33. The bill has now been scheduled for a public hearing on Thursday in the Senate Committee on Business, Financial Services & Trade at 8:00 a.m. The Chamber will be signing in pro at the hearing.
Employment and Workplace Legislation
Legislation concerning qualifications for unemployment insurance when an individual voluntarily leaves work, HB 1486, is still in Rules. This legislation would increase the voluntary quit section of the statute. A similar piece of legislation is moving through the Senate, SSB 5064. The bill remains on Senate floor calendar and has not been brought up for a vote.
Legislation expanding coverage of Washington’s Paid Family Leave program, SSB 5097, passed the Senate 29-19 on Tuesday, March 2. The Senate adopted a striking amendment and one additional floor amendment to the striker. Similar legislation in the House, HB 1073, passed the House 56-40 on Wednesday, March 3, and now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
Legislation establishing health emergency labor standards, SB 5115, was voted out of the Senate on Tuesday, February 23 with a 48-1 vote. This bill is now scheduled for public hearing in the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee on Friday, March 12.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Chopp that targets business that use 1099 contractors, SHB 1474, remains in the House Rules Committee. The bill would give the Employment Security Department the authority to impose stiff penalties on busines.
Rep. Drew Hansen’s qui tam bill, HB 1076, passed out of the House 53 to 44 on Friday, March 5. The bill has been referred to the Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Affairs Committee.
Legislation concerning unemployment insurance claim adjudicators, SB 5193, passed the Senate last week. The Senate adopted a striker offered by Senator King. The legislation aims to expand the number of adjudicators trained to answer eligibility questions and resolve disputed unemployment claims. A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, March 10 in the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee.
Last week there was a public hearing in the Senate Environment Energy and Technology Committee on a proposal that proponents are calling Washington STRONG. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Lovelett, SB 5373, imposes a carbon pollution tax equal to $25 per metric ton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the sale or use of all fossil fuel within the state of Washington. This bill is being framed as an alternative to Senator Carlyle’s Cap and Invest proposal.
On Saturday, March 6 the House passed Rep. Jesse Johnson’s HB 1310, concerning permissible uses of force by law enforcement and correctional officers. Current law allows police to complete an arrest by any means necessary. HB 1310 sets the expectation that de-escalation should be an officer’s first approach and clarifies that deadly force should only be a last resort.
Senator Jamie Pedersen’s SB 5051 modifies the priorities and composition of the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) and expands the background investigation requirements for persons applying for peace officer, reserve officer, and corrections officer positions. After passing out the Senate, a public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, March 11 in the House Public Safety Committee.
Legislation concerning an officer's duty to intervene, SB 5066, will now move to the House Public Safety Committee for a public hearing on Friday, March 12. This legislation requires a peace officer to intervene when the officer witnesses a fellow peace officer engaging in the use of excessive force.
On Thursday, March 11, Representative Jesse Johnson’s HB 1054 will be heard in the Senate Law & Justice Committee after passing out of the House last month. The bill establishes requirements for tactics and equipment used by peace officers, prohibiting chokeholds and neck restraints, use of dogs during arrest, and tear gas and certain types of military equipment.