Week 12 Legislative Update: Budget negotiations ramp up

By: Boswell Consulting and Brooke Davies Consulting Posted: 04/05/2021

Both Chambers Return to the Floor and Operating, Capital, and Transportation Budgets Advance

Today, Monday, April 5 marks the 85th day of the 105-day legislative session. Friday, April 2 was the opposite house fiscal cutoff when all bills that are still in play needed to be voted out of their opposite house fiscal committee to stay alive. Last week was full of long fiscal committee hearings and executive sessions with little floor action, other than passing their respective budget proposals. Both the House and Senate passed their Transportation, Capital, and Operating budget bills and now, negotiations between the two chambers will begin. For updated budget proposals click here. After a long week of fiscal committee meetings, on Saturday both bodies went back to the floor, the House passed their version of the Operating Budget and the Senate ran policy bills. 

On Monday, March 29, the House Transportation Chair, Representative Jake Fey, introduced his new transportation spending plan HB 1564, which was heard on Thursday, April 1 in the House Transportation Committee. This proposal is a 2-year spending plan that allots $893 million in additional funding to transportation in the 2021-23 biennium. Rachel Smith testified in support of passing a comprehensive transportation plan this year. You can watch the public hearing here. Her testimony starts approximately 2 hours, 35 minutes into the public hearing.

On Wednesday, March 31, Governor Inslee announced that beginning on April 15, all Washingtonians age 16 and up will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The expanded eligibility is in part due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases. In the coming weeks, a modest increase in the direct vaccine supply given to the state is expected. On April 12, the state will reevaluate every county's phase three status and at this point several counties, including King County, could be moving back to phase two. 

This week, both chambers will be on the floor passing policy bills until the opposite house cutoff on April 11. To view bills that have been signed by the Governor click here. To watch a summary of the highlights from this week click here.

Economic Recovery and COVID Relief

The Washington equitable access to credit act, HB 1015, which 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 passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee 20-5. The bill was amended significantly in the Senate Business, Financial Services, and Trade Committee. Current language in the bill shortens the program from 10-years to 2-years and changes the funding sources from a B&O tax credit to one-time federal funds. Proponents, including the Chamber, have concerns with the amended version. The bill is now in Rules.

New Revenue

Last week, the House Finance Committee took executive action on Rep. Noel Frame’s wealth tax proposal, HB 1406, which establishes a 1%  tax on intangible financial assets of more than $1 billion. The bill has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee for further consideration. As a reminder, bills that are necessary to implement the budget (NTIB), like revenue bills, are not subject to cutoff deadlines.

Housing Affordability

Legislation sponsored by Senator Mona Das, SB 5287, concerning the multi-family tax exemption (MFTE), passed the House Finance Committee 12-4 on Wednesday, March 31. The committee adopted a striking amendment, and one additional amendment

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Ryu, 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 out of the Senate on Tuesday, March 30 with a 36-13 vote. The bill has been signed by the Speaker of the House and will now head to the Governor's desk to be signed into law. The Chamber supports this legislation, which would make changes to support King County’s Health through Housing program. 

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, sponsored by Senator Kuderer passed the House Appropriations Committee before the fiscal cut off. The bill is now in Rules. 

The “just cause” bill sponsored by Representative Macri, HB 1236, is currently on the Senate floor calendar. The official title of the legislation is an act relating to protecting residential tenants from the beginning to end of their tenancies by penalizing the inclusion of unlawful lease provisions and limiting the reasons for eviction, refusal to continue, and termination. Housing providers continue to have major concerns with the bill. 

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, was passed this afternoon 45-2. The legislation passed the House last month, but since the Senate made changes, the bill has to go back to the House for concurrence, where the House accepts the Senate’s changes. The Chamber supports the bill.

Employment and Workplace Legislation

Legislation expanding coverage of Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program, SSB 5097, continues to move through the legislature. The bill was heard in the House Appropriations committee on Tuesday, March 30, with executive action taken on March 31. This legislation expands the definition of family member, for purposes of the Paid Family and Medical Leave program. The was one amendment adopted by the Appropriations Committee that clarifies that the definition of "family member" for PFML does not include an individual who resides in the employee's home with no expectation of care.

Legislation establishing health emergency labor standards, SB 5115, has become problematic for many stakeholders. The House adopted a striking amendment offered by Rep. Liz Berry (D-36) that makes several changes to the underlying bill. The amendment includes specific language affecting retrospective rating programs and state fund claims. As a result, many are now opposing the bill. 

Legislation concerning unemployment insurance claim adjudicators, SB 5193, was pulled from Rules and placed on the House floor calendar.

The controversial “Qui Tam” legislation, HB 1076, was scheduled for executive action on Friday, April 2 in the Senate Ways and Means Committee but no action was taken. With the opposite house fiscal cut off behind us, the bill is unlikely to be moving forward this session. 

Police Reform

After passing out of the Senate Law & Justice committee, HB 1310, which is legislation concerning permissible uses of force by law enforcement and correctional officers sponsored by Rep. Jesse Johnson, was heard on Tuesday, March 30 in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. 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 instinct and that deadly force should only be a truly necessary, last resort. Executive action was taken on April 2; the bill has been referred to Rules. 

Legislation sponsored by Senator Jamie Pedersen, 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. This bill was heard in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, March 31, and passed out of the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, April 1. The legislation is now in Rules. 

Legislation concerning an officer's duty to intervene, SB 5066, had a public hearing on Tuesday, March 30. The following day, executive action was taken with a do pass recommendation made. This legislation requires a peace officer to intervene when the officer witnesses a fellow peace officer engaging in the use of excessive force.

HB 1054 sponsored by Representative Jesse Johnson was pulled from Rules and is now on the Senate floor calendar. 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.