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 February 8-12
At 1,058 bills, both the House and Senate have introduced half as much legislation in the virtual session as compared to prior sessions. Committees in both chambers were busy voting out this smaller selection of policy bills this week as the February 15 approached. This deadline, which does not apply to fiscal bills and those deemed “necessary to implement the budget,” is the first of the winnowing hurdles a bill must clear in the legislative process.
CARES Act Relief Bill Heading for Governor's Desk
On Wednesday, February 10, 1368 (Ormsby, D-3) received a 47-2 floor vote in the Senate and is on the way to Governor Inslee for signature. Because the legislation has an emergency clause, it will take effect immediately upon signature, likely this week. The bill appropriates $2.2 billion in federal funding from a combination of the federal CRRSA Act, the CRF under the federal CARES Act, and Medicaid for public schools, public health, healthcare, assistance to individuals and families, housing assistance, and business assistance. As was the case in the House, minority Republicans attempted to amend the bill, but majority Democrats held firm. Notably, Senator Doug Ericksen (R-42) proposed an amendment to allow all counties in the state to move to Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan but was ruled outside of scope.
Employment Barriers for Criminal Convictions
On Monday, February 8, the Consumer Protection & Business Committee heard a package of bills sponsors say would remove barriers to professional licensure for traditionally marginalized communities. 1399 (Vick, R-18) creates a process for a person with a criminal conviction to request a determination of whether that criminal history is disqualifying for obtaining a professional license administered by the Department of Licensing. The bipartisan bill is supported by interests as diverse as the Washington State Labor Council and conservative think-tank, the Washington Policy Center. Two other bills on the agenda attracted broad interest, but not the support of organized labor: 1400 (Vick, R-19) allows the Department of Licensing to consider competency-based standards for professional licenses and 1401 (Vick, R-18) requires the Department of Licensing to expedite the professional license of any person licensed and in good standing in another state. All three bills are scheduled for executive session on Monday, February 15.
The House Healthcare committee also heard a bill on Monday, February 8 aimed at increasing opportunities for people with criminal records while expanding the pool of eligible in-home health care workers. 1411 (Simmons, D-23) prohibits the Department of Social and Health Services from automatically disqualifying a person who has a criminal record containing certain crimes from working with vulnerable people or acting as a long-term care, vocational, or employment services provider. The bill also establishes a work group to identify an informed consent process to allow older adults and people with disabilities to hire an individual with a criminal record that would otherwise disqualify the person from providing paid home care services. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tarra Simmons who herself is formerly incarcerated, is supported principally by SEIU 775 the union representing long-term care workers. The bill did not garner organizational opponents and received executive action on Thursday, February 11.
State Office of Cybersecurity
On Tuesday, February 9, the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology committee heard governor-request 5432 (Carlyle, D-36), creating a State Office of Cybersecurity. The bill was requested by Governor Jay Inslee in response to a security breach involving Accellion, a third-party vendor used by the Office of the Washington State Auditor, exposing personal information from approximately 1.6 million unemployment claims. Under the bill, state agencies, institutions of higher learning, the Legislature, and the Judiciary have twenty-four hours to report any major cyber security incidents to the Office of Cyber Security (O.C.S.), which will function as the state’s main point of contact for all cyber security incidents. The O.C.S. must then investigate the degree of severity and coordinate a response. The O.C.S. will also be responsible for establishing security standards and policies and developing a centralized cybersecurity protocol for managing the state’s IT assets. The bill did not receive opposition and received executive action on Thursday, February 11. It has been referred to Ways & Means.
The House of Representatives passed two bills that are part of the package proposed by the House Democrats’ policing policy leadership team on Wednesday, February 10. HB 1088 (Lovick, D-44), toughens state law on police officer impeachment disclosures, creates best practices and online training on that subject, and requires that law enforcement agencies must inquire about past impeachment disclosures before hiring an officer. The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 61-37. HB 1089 (Ramos, D-5) would provide transparency about investigations and charging decisions made after deadly force is used by police. These investigations are required under Initiative 940, passed by Washington voters in 2018. The legislation authorizes the State Auditor to review a deadly force investigation to determine whether the involved law enforcement agencies complied with all applicable rules and procedures. Additionally, upon request of the Criminal Justice Training Commission, the State Auditor would provide review of a law enforcement agency to ensure compliance with all applicable rules and procedures governing the training and certification of the agency’s officers. HB 1089 received an overwhelming 80-18 vote on final passage.
Rep. Senn’s “extraordinary profits” bill, 1496, was heard on Thursday, February 11, with 1662 people signing in pro and 479 con. Proponents of the bill argue Washington’s tax code is unjust, while opponents claim a capital gains tax is a volatile source of revenue and raise questions about whether or not it is an income tax.
Equity Impact Statement
On Thursday, February 11, the House State Government & Tribal Relations committee passed out 1264 (Lekanoff, D-40), the Equity Impact Statement bill. Among other changes, the substitute provides a lengthier phase-in process for OFM to begin providing, upon request, an Equity Impact Statement (EIS) that must, at minimum, describe the expected impact of a legislative proposal on communities, or groups of individuals who share the same race, creed, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, language access status, or socioeconomic status.
Next week, legislative attention will turn to the fiscal committees as bills that require an appropriation or raise revenue must go to a fiscal committee for review. In the Washington State Senate, there are two fiscal committees: Ways & Means and Transportation. In the House, there are four fiscal committees: Appropriations, Capital Budget, Finance, and Transportation. Even with a reduced selection of bills, it will be a busy week!
Monday, February 15 – Policy Committee Cutoff
Monday, February 22 – Fiscal Committee Cutoff
Tuesday, March 9 – House of Origin Cutoff
Friday, March 26 – Policy Committee Cutoff (opposite House)
Friday, April 2 – Fiscal Committee Cutoff (opposite House)
Sunday, April 11 – Opposite House Cutoff
Sunday, April 25 – Sine Die