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week 7-2024 LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

Updated: Mar 21

By Trent House, AFA Government Affairs


Week of February 19, 2024

 

Wednesday was the cutoff for bills to be voted out of their policy committees in the chamber opposite to where they started. Bills with a financial impact to the state must make a quick journey through the fiscal committees, with a deadline of Monday, February 26th. After that, the chambers will return to the floor full-time to debate bills until Friday, March 1 when they will turn attention to final concurrence and passing final budgets until Sine Die. 

 

The end of session is nearing and some legislators are beginning to make other plans. In response to the impending retirement of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-5th Congressional District), Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber (R-7) has announced her intention to run for the seat. Maycumber, a former legislative assistant, was first elected to the House in 2017 and serves as the minority floor leader for her caucus. Another Republican will be handily elected to that safe seat. On the west side, Rep. Spencer Hutchins (R-26) has announced he will not seek reelection, noting the part-time legislature has taken a financial toll on his business. This will be an expensive swing race for Gig Harbor and the east side of Kitsap peninsula. On Tuesday, the Lewis County Board of Commissioners voted to appoint Joel McEntire’s (R-19) stepdaughter Lillian Hale to temporarily serve as his replacement beginning at the end of session as he has been called to active service in the Marine Corps reserve. Hale is studying nursing at Lower Columbia College. While not required, it is customary for a family member to fill in for deployed state officials. And finally, Senator Sam Hunt (D-22) has announced his retirement after nearly 24 years in the legislature. Rep. Beth Doglio (D-22) has indicated she is not interested in the seat, but Rep. Jessica Bateman (D-22) has announced she will seek it.

 

House Speaker Jinkins (D-27) and Senate Majority Leader Billig (D-3) have announced which of the six Initiatives to the Legislature will be heard during session and which will advance directly to the ballot. The House and Senate will hold joint public hearings on February 27th and 28th on I-2113 (police pursuits), I-2111 (state income tax), and I-2081 (parental rights). These are the initiatives that would have been more likely to pass at the ballot and would have made it more difficult for voters to simply reject all initiatives. I-2117 (repeal of the Climate Commitment Act), I-2109 (repeal of the capital gains tax), and I-2124 (opt-out of Washington’s long-term care program) will go to the ballot. These three are higher stakes for Democrats and their supporters and in their estimation, worthy of a greater, more expensive fight. If passed at the ballot, a repeal of the Climate Commitment Act would cost the state dollars that are currently being spent on environmental programs, $1.8 billion already. If repealed, the capital gains tax would remove state money being spent on education and childcare. The state has already raked in nearly $900 million from the tax. And the third initiative, a repeal of the long-term care program would cut funds that ultimately go to SEIU 775, one of the most powerful unions statewide that represents long-term care workers.

 

Supplemental budgets are passed in even-numbered years and allow the state to make mid-course corrections to the two-year budgets passed in odd-numbered years. It also gives the state the opportunity to adjust spending to address emergent needs. On Sunday, Senate budget writers released their $71.7 billion supplemental operating budget. This budget adds nearly $1.9 billion in new spending to the two-year budget passed by lawmakers in April 2023. The budget plan includes no new general taxes and complies with the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement. It leaves $4.3 billion in total reserves at the end of the biennium.  The proposal highlights include a focus on education and behavioral health, including $242 million in new spending for K-12 schools, including funding for student meals, special education, and staffing needs, like paraeducators; $252 million in new spending to support efforts to transform the state’s behavioral health system, including funding for facilities and staffing; $135.9 million to operate 72 beds at Olympic Heritage Behavioral Health; $20 million for the University of Washington Behavioral Health teaching hospital; and $19 million to establish a psychiatric residential treatment facility in Lake Burien for youth, aged 12-18, with complex needs.

House budget writers released their $71 billion operating proposal on Monday, along with a capital and transportation budget. Highlights of the operating proposal include:

  • Low and moderate-income clean energy assistance: $150 million 

  • Support for immigrants, refugees, asylees, and people who are undocumented: $35 million 

  • Health care for uninsured adults: $28 million

  • Recognizing and supporting tribal sovereignty in the budget: $34 million

  • Housing vulnerable populations, tenants’ rights, and homeownership support: $26 million

  • Increased provider rates and reimbursements including basic foster care and ECEAP: $26 million

  • Staffing at Echo Glen for education, behavioral health supports, and increased security: $22 million 

  • Increased childcare slots, expanded eligibility and technical assistance: $13 million 

  • Special education, including increasing the cap to 17.25%: $35 million 

  • Materials, supplies, & operating costs: $44 million 

  • Existing student transportation: $77 million 

  • UW Hospital Support: $50 million

  • Expansion of workforce and training: $73 million

  • Low and moderate–income clean energy assistance: $150 million (Climate Commitment Act) 

  • Increased need for local homeless services: $40 million 

  • Support to existing local housing programs to backfill the document recording fee: $31 million 

  • Housing vulnerable populations, supporting tenants’ rights and homeownership: $26 million 

  • Food assistance for seniors, summer EBT for kids, and food banks: $73 million 

  • Additional support for refugees, asylees and newly arriving individuals: $35 million 

  • Increased access to opioid use disorder treatment, programs, and supplies: $151 million

  • Public health awareness, outreach, and data dashboards: $13 million

  • Outreach and support for Tribes: $6 million

  • Increased state inpatient behavioral health capacity: $210 million

  • Increased rates for long–term civil commitments in the community: $47 million

  • Behavioral health personal care for those with exceptional needs: $34 million

  • Continues the Medicaid Transformation Project to improve health care outcomes: $270 million

  • Funding for health equity for uninsured adults: $28 million

  • 5% assisted living rate increase: $31 million

  • 2.3% rate increase for supported living providers: $20 million

  • Provider rates & reimbursements, including specialty dementia, adult day and SNF: $8 million

  • New beds for youth with complex I/DD and BH needs: $15 million

  • Clean energy and climate programs: $63 million (CCA) 

  • Payments to exempt agricultural fuel users: $30 million (CCA) 

  • Forest health & wildfire protection: $72 million 

  • Water quality & availability: $22 million 

  • Salmon production, habitat & recovery: $21 million 

 

Upcoming Dates:

 

February 26 - Opposite House Fiscal Committee Cutoff

March 1 - Floor Cutoff

March 7 - Last day of Regular Session

 

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