Wk 13: 2021 Legislative Update

Each week, Trent House AFA's Government Relation's Director, gives you insight into Olympia, providing an update on the week's proceedings.


Join Trent every Friday during session for a discussion of activities in the Legislature via Zoom. Register at https://www.afa-wa.com/events/2021-legislative-review-w-trent-house


Week of April 5-11


With today’s, April 11th, Opposite House floor cutoff looming, both the House and Senate spent this week on the floor voting on bills to send the governor or return across the virtual rotunda to the other chamber. Majority priorities remain bills that address COVID-19 challenges, improve racial equity, advance economic recovery, address climate change, and increase revenue or create savings.


$18 billion Forward Washington transportation package


Senate Transportation Chair Steve Hobbs unveiled his updated 16-year, $18 billion Forward Washington transportation package this week. The package is primarily funded by a 9.8 cent increase to the gas tax and $5.1 billion from a proposed cap-and-invest program, 5126 (Carlyle, D-36). An additional $1 billion of the Forward Washington package comes from the transfer of sales/use tax on electric and hybrid vehicles from the general fund to transportation funds. $800 million would come from a new statewide special transportation benefit assessment, and $700 million of the package would be funded through new per-trip fees for third-party delivery services. The package funds major projects statewide.


Climate Change Policies


The Senate passed a suite of Governor Inslee’s long-desired priority climate policies on Thursday, April 8. 5126 (Carlyle, D-36), the historic “Climate Commitment Act” mentioned above passed 25-24 after a long debate and 44 amendments. Senators Hasegawa (D-11), Lovelett (D-40), and Van De Wege (D-24) joined Republicans in voting against it. The bill creates a cap-and-invest program whereby funds generated from auctioning the rights to create carbon emissions will be invested into capital transportation infrastructure. 5126 will next be heard Wednesday, April 14 in the House Environment and Energy Committee. Later Thursday night, the Senate passed the low carbon fuel standard, 1091 (Fitzgibbon, D-34) in a 27-20 vote, with Senator Hobbs (D-44) joining Republicans in opposition. The bill requires fuel companies reduce the carbon in their product and creates a marketplace that incentivizes the production of alternative fuels through a credit system whereby carbon producers can buy credits from those clean fuel producers. 1091 will return to the House for further consideration.


Landlord/Tenant Policies


The legislature passed several bills this week addressing landlord/tenant issues, a subject laid bare during the pandemic. 5160 (Kuderer, D-48) passed the House on Thursday, April 8 in a 72-26 vote. The bill would provide attorneys to tenants facing eviction provided they receive certain public assistance, have been involuntarily committed to a public mental health facility, can’t afford a lawyer, or who have incomes at 125% or below the federal poverty level. An amendment added to the bill would end the current eviction moratorium June 30, the same day it is scheduled to expire. The bill, which would be the first of its kind in the nation, must now return to the Senate. 1236 (Macri, D-43) passed the Senate on Thursday, April 8 in a 28-21 vote. The bill aims to reform the eviction process by requiring landlords to provide a “just cause” reason for ending a tenant’s lease. The bill also limits the reasons for eviction. The bill now returns to the House.


Police Reform


The majority party’s police reform agenda continued to advance throughout the week. 1054 (Johnson, D-30), the legislation on police tactics passed the Senate floor on Tuesday, April 6. The bill passed 27-22, with Senators Hobbs (D-44) and Van De Wege (D-24) joining Republican colleagues in voting against the bill. The legislation bans chokeholds, neck restraints, no-knock warrants, and the acquisition of certain military equipment. Among other items, the amended striker limits the use of tear gas to correctional, jail, or detention facilities; allows law enforcement agencies to continue to acquire or use a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle acquired from the military; requires WASPC to submit a report to the legislature and governor detailing an inventory of military equipment possessed by law enforcement agencies; adjusts requirements for vehicular pursuit when there is probable cause to believe a person has committed an escape or when there is reasonable suspicion a person has committed a driving under the influence offence. The bill must now return to the House for further consideration.


5066 (Dhingra, D-45), the officer “duty to intervene” bill passed House floor on Wednesday, April 7. Under the legislation, officers must intervene to stop excessive force if they see it being used by another officer and they are in a position to do so. It also requires police to report wrongdoing by another officer to that officer’s supervisor, including criminal acts or violations of professional standards, and it forbids retaliation against police who intervene or report wrongdoing. The bill passed 71-27 and will now return to the Senate.


Late Wednesday night, the House also passed 5051 (Pedersen, D-43). Under the bill, The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) will greatly expand its capability to investigate police misconduct and revoke or suspend a police officer’s license. The bill passed 54-43, with Representatives Chapman, Shewmake, and Rule joining Republicans in voting no. It will now return to the Senate.


The Senate took further action to advance the police reform agenda on Thursday, April 8 when they passed 1267 (Entenman, D-47) in a 27-22 vote. The bill establishes the Office of Independent Investigations within the Office of the Governor for the purpose of investigating deadly force incidents involving peace officers. The legislation was requested by Governor Jay Inslee and is based on recommendations made by the Governor’s Task Force on Independent Investigations of Police Use of Force. The Task Force was created in June 2020 following the disclosure that the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office had conducted the investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis despite the fact that one of their deputies was on scene, in violation of Initiative 940 which banned law enforcement agencies from investigating their own officers.


On Saturday, April 10, the Senate passed 1310 (Johnson, D-30), requiring officers to use de-escalation tactics and the minimum level of force possible during encounters with members of the public, taking into consideration a person’s characteristics such as whether they are a youth, in a mental health crisis, or living with a disability. The bill further requires deadly force only be used as a last resort when necessary to protect against imminent threat of serious physical injury or death. The bill passed 26-23 with Senators Hobbs and Van De Wege joining Republicans in opposition.


Unemployment Insurance


The Senate passed 5478 (Keiser, D-33), on a 49-0 vote on Thursday, April 8. The bill provides hard-hit businesses with $500 million from a state funded unemployment relief account to reduce unemployment insurance (UI) premium taxes in 2022. The bill would provide $250 million in relief to employers in economic sectors that were required to close to the public due to COVID-19 measures in 2020 and 2021, including restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms, bowling alleys, retail outlets, and others. Absent legislative action, those businesses will see a massive spike in UI taxes in 2022 due to the historically large number of their workers who received UI benefits during the pandemic. Under SB 5478, state funds would be used to prevent many of those tax increases. Another $250 million would be used to minimize tax increases for other employers in sectors that were not required to close but nevertheless suffered significant effects of the pandemic recession and would otherwise see large UI tax increases. This tax relief for Washington businesses would come on top of 5061(Keiser, D-33), which prevented $1.7 billion in UI tax increases due to the pandemic.


Honoring Billy Frank Jr.


On Monday, April 5 the Senate passed 1372 (Lekanoff, D-40), the bill to honor the late Billy Frank Jr. with a statue at the U.S. Capitol. In a 44-5 vote, the Senate approved replacing Washington’s Marcus Whitman statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection with a statue of Billy Frank Jr, a Nisqually tribal member who championed treaty rights and environmental protection. The National Statuary Hall Collection features 100 statues, with each state contributing statues of two notable, deceased residents. Washington’s other statue is Mother Joseph Pariseau, a Catholic nun who founded Providence hospitals and schools in the mid-1800s. 10 other states have changed their statues since 2000. The bill now heads to Governor Jay Inslee for signature.


Broadband Infrastructure


Though Washington state is home to one of the nation’s fastest growing technology hubs, some communities throughout the state lack adequate broadband infrastructure. This issue became especially relevant during the pandemic when most people in Washington were forced to rely on home internet access for school, work and even legislative business. On Sunday, April 11, the chambers voted on two bills, 5385 (Wellman, D-41) and 1336 (Hansen, D-23), aiming to grant public entities, such as PUDs and ports, the authority to operate as Internet Service Providers. Currently PUDs and ports can build broadband networks but must offer wholesale access to private ISPs and are prohibited from offering direct retail services to residents and businesses. The bills being considered now would allow them to deliver internet access directly to customers. 5385 (Wellman, D-41) passed the House 62-36. 1336 (Hansen, D-23) passed the Senate 27-22. The bills will now head for negotiation.


At the next stage in the Washington state legislative process, there are a few paths an amended bill may take: concurrence, dispute, or conference. If a bill has been amended by the opposite house, the house of origin has to decide whether it will concur in the amendments or not. Leadership decides which bills returned from the opposite house will be discussed and places those bills on the concurrence calendar (House) or concurring calendar (Senate). If the house of origin concurs in the amendments, it is called concurrence and the bill has passed the legislature and goes to the governor. If the house of origin disagrees with the opposite house, it can ask the opposite house to recede from the amendments. This is called dispute. If the opposite house recedes, the bill has passed the legislature and goes to the governor. If the two houses cannot resolve their differences, one of them can ask for a conference committee. Members from each house meet to discuss the differences. If they agree on what is to be done, the conference committee makes a report. Both houses must adopt the conference committee report for the bill to pass the legislature and proceed to the governor. If one house does not adopt the conference committee report (whether by vote or inaction), the bill has not passed.



Sunday, April 25 – Sine Die


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