The 2018 Legislative Session officially came to a close on Thursday, March 8th. This was in keeping exactly with the 60-day schedule legislators promised in light of campaign eagerness and session fatigue. Overall, this session was characterized by significant movement on several Democratic priorities that have been stalled by Republicans for the past few years. An unprecedented volume of legislation was proposed, with over 300 bills ultimately passing the legislature this year.
A number of hot-button topics and issue focus areas materialized early on and remained fairly dominate throughout session. In the wake of acquiring total party control of all three branches several policy areas emerged centered on labor, healthcare, and environmental policy, topped off with a variety of proposed new taxes. Republicans, on the other hand played, an almost entirely defensive role, pushing for the minimization of bow-wave spending and additional taxation.
Legislators spent a large amount of time focusing on priority issue areas including gun control, gender pay equity, net neutrality, voting rights, mental health and campaign finance legislation. Governor Inslee has already signed a handful of bills into law including a ban on bump-stocks and the nation’s first statewide net neutrality protection.
Washington state homeowners will also see a one-time property tax reduction of 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed value in 2019. This is thanks to a tax relief bill that passed late Thursday in response to last year’s property tax hike to pay for public schools. This one time cut is payed for by redirecting tax revenues before they reach the rainy day fund and is possible due to better than expected revenue collections from the hot economy.
Governor Inslee’s proposed carbon tax, as well as an assortment of other energy-related legislation, took center stage this session. The proposed first-in-the-nation carbon tax evolved over the past two months and included a $12 tax per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels such as gasoline, electricity and natural gas. This was lower than Governor Inslee’s original $20 per metric ton proposal. The tax would have begun in 2019 and increased by $1.80 per ton each year until it reached $30 (around 2030). After garnering substantial attention from stakeholders on every end of the spectrum, the bill was ultimately declared dead last Thursday, March 1st. In the wake of this announcement, the environmental community filed a carbon “fee” initiative with the Secretary of State. They will be gathering signatures this spring and is expected to appear on the upcoming 2018 ballot and will likely continue to stir discussion and debate in the interim.
The final days of session also brought a scuffle of political drama as the legislators in both the House and Senate attempted to quietly rush a bill through the legislature that would have exempted lawmakers from disclosing certain public record information. The media expressed immediate outcry to the lack of transparency and public hearing process, including front-page articles around the state and thousands of calls to the governor’s office. This ultimately resulted in Gov. Inslee vetoing the bill and legislators deciding to work on the issue next year.
The end of session also saw several legislators announce that they will not be running for reelection. This year’s election cycle includes half of the Senate seats and the entire House of Representatives. It is expected that more will announce they are not running in the coming weeks. The filing deadline is May 19th. Below is the list of those who have already announced their departure:
- Rep. Judy Clibborn (D) 41st
- Rep. Dan Kristiansen (R) 39th
- Rep. Jay Rodne (R) 5th
- Rep. Terry Nealy (R) 16th
- Rep. Melanie Stambaugh (R) -25th
- Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R) 6th
This session brought an influx of energy legislation. Clean Tech Alliance offered support for a number of these bills including SB 6179, which adjusts reporting requirements for regulated utility and transportation companies, HB 2580 concerning the promotion of renewable natural gas, and HB 2814 which proposed a study of policies and programs that affect retail electricity bill affordability. Additional endorsements were offered to HB 1894, a bill requested by the OFM to reinstate tax preferences for certain high-technology research and development, and SB 6187 requiring utility companies to adopt and electrification of transportation plan. Two of these bills passed through the legislature and are awaiting Governor Inlsee’s signature, SB 6179 and HB 2580.
A number of other favorable energy-related bills that made substantial progress ultimately fell short of the finish line in the final days of session. These included the alternative fuel regulation, net metering, and electric vehicle infrastructure bills. In the final days of session, Democrats in the House and Senate attempted to revive a package of energy policies by fusing them together into a striking amendment placed originally on the late-session 100% clean energy bill, HB 2995, and when that failed, the recently-terminated carbon tax bill. Despite these efforts carrying out late into Thursday, the Legislature could not ultimately bring together a deal before the final cutoff.
This session also saw the passage of not one but two capital budget; last year’s original capital budget which had been caught in a stalemate with the Hirst water decision and was finally resolved and passed in mid January, and the 2018 supplemental budget which passed on party lines late this Thursday. This latest capital budget does not contain any changes to the Clean Energy Fund, which passed in January.
Attached is the final bill Clean Tech Final Bill Report.