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WEEK 2 - 2023 LEGISLATIVE SESSION UPDATE

by Trent House, AFA Government Affairs


January 16-20, 2023

It is week two in the 2023 Washington State Legislative Session, and legislative democrats rolled out several of their high-profile priorities including policies on guns, nurse staffing, recycling, middle housing, and a wealth tax - priorities that also tend to bring out huge numbers of supporters and opponents. By comparison, a bill like SB 5052, concerning leasehold taxes on arenas garnered 7 sign-ins by lobbyists and members of the public. But these high-profile bills attracted thousands both pro and con, virtually and in-person filling the halls and surely the e-mail boxes of legislators.

The majority party made good this week on their bold declaration that voters have called on them to make gun violence a priority in 2023. On Tuesday, 4,406 people signed in not wishing to testify in House Civil Rights & Judiciary on HB 1240 (Peterson, D-21), a Governor and Attorney General request bill that prohibits the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, or offer for sale of any assault weapon, with a few exceptions. This is the seventh session Attorney General Bob Ferguson has requested this bill and democrats hope this is the year they will succeed. Also heard on Tuesday, were HB 1178 (Hackney, D-11), which repeals the statute that preempts local jurisdictions from adopting laws relating to firearms, HB 1143 (Berry, D-36) which would require gun buyers to obtain a permit before purchasing a firearm, and HB 1144 (Berry, D-36), which would require safety training and an extended waiting period before acquiring a firearm. Over in the Senate, the Law & Justice Committee heard SB 5078, which creates a private right of action towards firearm industry members for those harmed by guns.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee heard SB 5236 (Robinson, D-38), bringing out a huge number of participants in the legislative process. 3,015 people signed in not wishing to testify on this bill that directs the Department of Labor and Industries to set staffing standards for health care workers, and specifically, set minimum nurse to patient ratios. Unlike a bill from 2022, this proposal does not set the standards, but has the state develop them over the next two years with input from stakeholders. The bill is supported by labor and is opposed by the Washington State Hospital Association.

The WRAP Act, SB 5154 (Rolfes, D-23), was heard this week, as was its companion HB 1131 (Berry, D-36). This is the latest in a series of bills over the past few years that attempts to overhaul the recycling system in Washington. This proposal implements an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program for packaging and printed paper and establishes minimum post consumer recycled content requirements on single use consumer products. The bill also authorizes the establishment of an Oregon-style bottle deposit return system. If passed, consumers will pay a 10 cent fee on beverage containers and then redeem the 10 cents at drop locations. The redemption is credited to the consumer’s online account and the funds can be redeemed for cash, put into a college savings account, or donated to nonprofits. The bill is supported by environmentalists and local governments and opposed by industries including waste collectors, grocery stores, and the hospitality industry.

Medium density, or “middle” housing took the stage this week with HB 1110 (Bateman, D-22), a bill that would force cities to allow more housing density in single-family neighborhoods. The bill effectively ends single-family zoning, something the state of Oregon did in 2019 and California did in 2021. Representative Andrew Barkis (R-2), the owner of a property management company, is the second sponsor of the bill, though no other republicans signed onto it. The bill is supported with great enthusiasm by urbanists and builders, but legislators will face criticism from those who enjoy living in single-family zoning. 1,950 lobbyists and members of the public signed in on it.

Senator Noel Frame (D-36) and Representative My-Linh Thai (D-41) introduced a Wealth Tax bill this week at a news conference. The bills, HB 1473 and SB 5486, would create a property tax on the ownership of stocks, bonds, and other financial assets over $250 million. The revenue generated is dedicated to four funds - the Education Legacy Trust Fund, which is a dedicated funding source for early learning, K-12, and higher education; the Housing Trust Fund, which pays for the construction of affordable housing, and two new funds created in the bill: a Disabilities Care Trust account that will pay for services for Washingtonians with disabilities, and a Taxpayer Justice account, that will offer credits against taxes paid by low and middle-income families.

Next week, legislative democrats have reproductive rights on their agenda and will bring forward bills in several committees, including policies on access to abortion, consumer health data, and protecting employers that provide access to reproductive care services.

Upcoming Dates


February 17 - Policy committee cutoff - house of origin

February 24 - Fiscal committee cutoff - house of origin

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



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