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Legislative Highlights – April 12-16, 2021

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Monday, April 12

Monday, April 12th, marked the 92nd out of 105 days of the legislative session. As the countdown continues, we started this week’s coverage with a review of both the House and Senate weekend floor debates.

Both chambers held full days of debate, working to beat a 5pm Sunday deadline to vote on bills from the opposite chamber.

As its last bill before the deadline, the House took up Senate Bill 5044, which aims to dismantle institutional racism in the public school system by requiring training in equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism for k-12 teachers, staff, and school board directors.

The bill, as amended, won House approval, and is slated to go back to the Senate for further consideration.

Meanwhile, as its last bill before the Sunday 5pm cutoff, the Senate debated House Bill 1336, which would give broad authority to public utility districts, port districts, and other public entities to provide retail telecommunications services, like broadband, to residents in their service areas.

The bill passed out of the Senate, and heads back to the House with four pending amendments for review.

On Monday, April 12th the Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing on the transportation funding proposal package, “Forward Washington” which is a $17.8 investment plan spread throughout the span of 16 years.

Introduced by Committee Chair Senator Steve Hobbs, “Forward Washington” is a comprehensive transportation and environmental plan that aims to fund statewide transportation projects such as transit investments, bike and pedestrian projects, fish passage improvements, and ferry electrification, among others.

Forward Washington will be funded in part by a cap and trade program, a 9.8 cent gas tax, a car sales and use tax on electric vehicles and other vehicle and licensing fees.

The committee took no further action on the proposal on April 12th. it has been scheduled for an executive session at a later date.

Tuesday, April 13th

Democratic leaders gave an update on the current legislative session at a virtual press conference held tuesday April 13th.

Some of the bills that gained traction this session are those aimed at addressing the state’s child care crisis, covid relief, tax reform, police accountability, and– climate change, in particular. has sparked intense debate on the ‘cap and trade’ bill.

Both the House and Senate held floor sessions this week, to either concur with amendments made to their bills by the opposite chamber–or dispute them,setting the stage for negotiations to try to come to a consensus on the bills.

The House met Tuesday in floor session and refused to concur with Senate amendments to House Bill 1476 — a bill that aims to help school districts deal with enrollment declines due to Covid-19.

The refusal to concur sets the stage for negotiations to see if a compromise can be reached on the bill.

On other bills, the House concurred with Senate amendments. One of those bills was House Bill 1097, a bill that drew contentious debate earlier in both House and Senate.

Requested By Governor Inslee, the bill proposes new policies related to workplace safety violations and penalties.

After concurring with Senate amendments, the House put the bill to a final vote,and gained the concurrence required from both chambers to reach the Governor’s desk.

The House also concurred House Bill 1236–which was also one of several contentious bills debated this session. it aims to regulate landlord-tenant relations during Covid-19. The bill also moved forward to the Governor’s office on a 54-44 vote.

Wednesday, April 14th

On Wednesday, April 14th The House Environment & Energy Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 5126, also known as the Climate Commitment Act.

Requested by Governor Jay Inslee, The Climate Commitment Act aims to build a clean-energy economy and create accountability by limiting emissions across Washington state through establishing a cap and trade program.

The committee took no further action on the bill on April 14th. It passed out of the Senate earlier this month with 25 in favor and 24 opposed.

Republican leaders gathered Wednesday morning during a virtual press conference to give their perspective on the legislative session so far. The discussion included the capital gains tax bill, the wealth tax bill, and the State v. Blake bill, which aims to decriminalize simple drug possession.

They also shared the caucus’ areas of concern that they plan on focusing on in the remaining days of session.

Also on Wednesday, members of the Nisqually tribe gathered at the Wa He Lut Indian School to witness Governor Jay Inslee sign into law House Bill 1372–an act that replaces the statue of Marcus Whitman in D.C. with a statue of Native American treaty rights activist Billy Frank Jr.

On the evening of April 14th, state representatives convened for a floor session to discuss concurrence on Senate amendments to a number of House bills. One of them was House Bill 1267–concerning independent investigations on police use of force.

The bill aims to establish a new state office under the Governor, to look into incidents that involve peace officers’ use of deadly force.

It passed out of the House floor in early March, and won Senate approval last week on an almost party line vote. On April 14th, it was time for the House to review Senate amendments and decide on whether or not to concur.

Thursday, April 15

State senators also convened April 15th to vote on the concurrence over House amendments to Senate Bill 5172–an act that aims to modify overtime standards for farm workers. With 42 yes votes and 6 opposed, the bill moved forward to the Governor’s office.

Meanwhile, in the House, representatives also voted on concurrence over House Bill 1297–which aims to provide a tax exemption for low-income working families–in the form of a remittance or tax credit–after January of next year.

The bill passed out of the House in early March, and just last weekend in the Senate, almost unanimously. After being voted on, it gained concurrence from both chambers, and is headed to the Governor’s office for signing.

In the afternoon of Thursday, April 15th, the Senate held a floor debate on Senate Bill 5476, a response to the Washington Supreme court’s recent “Blake” decision that decriminalized personal possession of certain amounts of drugs.

The bill, as amended on the floor, brings back criminal penalties for drug possession in the wake of the Blake decision — but makes such possession a misdemeanor, rather than a felony as it was before the supreme court decision.

The contentious and interesting debate ended with one key amendment being attached to the bill– causing Manka Dhingra, the bill’s prime sponsor–to vote against it.

During final passage, an unusual mix of majority Democrats and minority Republicans expressed their support for the bill, as well as opposition

With a final vote of 28 in favor and 20 opposed, the bill moves forward to the House for further consideration.

Friday, April 16

On Friday. April 16th, the House Finance Committee convened for an executive session on several bills–among them, was Senate Bill 5096–also known as the ‘capital gains tax bill’.

The bill aims to impose a 7% tax on the sales of high-valued assets, such as stocks and bonds–if the profits are greater than $250,000. Proceeds from the tax will go to the state general fund as well as address the state’s child care crisis, education, and economic relief efforts.

The bill passed out of the Senate in early March with 25 in favor and 24 opposed. It received 11 yes votes and 6 no votes and, having won committee recommendation, is headed to the House for a floor debate and final passage.

Also during a floor session Friday, minority House Republicans moved that the House amend House rules for the session — with the ultimate goal of pulling to the floor a bill that would limit Governor Jay Inslee’s emergency powers.

The Republican motion aimed to exempt the emergency powers bill from the so-called “cut-off” resolution–that was adopted at the start of session — which sets various deadlines bills must meet to be considered.

The Republican effort was defeated on a vote of 41 yesses against 56 nos.