By Trent House, AFA Government Affairs
Week of January 29, 2024
Wednesday, January 31, the day by which policy bills must be voted out of policy committees, has passed and bills with a financial impact to the state must now quickly be heard and voted out of a fiscal committee by Monday, February 5. The exception of course, are bills that are NTIB, or “necessary to implement the budget,” a designation the majority can place on bills. Bills that are NTIB live on until the end of the session regardless of whether they have passed the usual requisite hurdles.
The Senate Early Learning & K-12 committee heard SB 5964 (Nobles, D-28) on Monday, a bill that would require school districts, charter schools, and state-tribal compact schools to provide breakfast and lunch at no charge to any requesting student beginning in the 2024-25 school year. The companion, sponsored by Rep. Riccelli (D-3) is currently in the House Appropriations committee. A similar idea was attempted by Rep. Riccelli last year but was gutted by the end of session due to the high fiscal note. Over a thousand people signed in pro, representing school districts, faith communities, PTAs, pediatricians, children's advocacy groups, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The race for the Superintendent of Public Instruction got a bit more interesting this week. Former Representative and current Bellevue computer science teacher Chad Magendanz (R) joined incumbent Chris Reykdal (D) and fellow teacher Reid Saaris (D). Magendanz, who served in the House between 2013-2017 left state politics when he narrowly lost his bid for Senate against Mark Mullet (D), who is now running for Governor. Magendanz’s website suggests he will campaign on “challenges to our cherished way of life in the decline of student achievement, the erosion of local control and parental rights, and promotion of partisan political ideology in our classrooms.”
On Tuesday, Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order to develop guidelines for how the state adopts generative artificial intelligence into its own systems to ensure its ethical and transparent use. WaTech, the agency operating the state’s technology and information security services, will work with the governor’s cabinet agencies to submit a report identifying potential generative AI initiatives that could be implemented in state operations. The plan would develop initial guidelines for how the government may procure, use, and monitor the use of generative AI.
Current Attorney General and frontrunner candidate for Washington state Governor, Bob Ferguson (D) filed suit on January 15 to block the proposed Kroger-Albertsons grocery merger nationwide, asserting the merger of the two largest supermarket companies in Washington state will limit shopping options and eliminate competition. More than half of all grocery stores in Washington are currently owned by either Kroger or Albertsons. Kroger alone has more than 21,000 workers in Washington. This proposed merger received legislative attention Tuesday when SB 6007 (Conway, D-29) was voted out of the Senate Labor & Commerce committee. The bill would require the successor grocery employer to maintain a preferential hiring list of current eligible grocery workers and retain those workers for a 180-day transition period. Unions say SB 6007 protects the safety of food and medicine sold to Washington State families by preventing sudden mass layoffs of skilled and licensed employees. The Washington Food Industry Association was opposed when the bill was heard originally.
After the February 5 fiscal committee cutoff, both chambers will turn their attention to floor debate. They will spend long days and nights voting to send bills to the opposite house until February 13.
February 5 - Fiscal Committee Cutoff
February 13 - House of Origin Cutoff
February 21 - Opposite House Policy Committee Cutoff
February 26 - Opposite House Fiscal Committee Cutoff
March 1 - Floor Cutoff
March 7 - Last day of Regular Session