2020 Legislative Session Preview

Source: Brad Boswell, Boswell Consulting, Jan 10, 2020

Following nine months of interim, it is now nearly time for legislators to return to Olympia for the start of the 2020 legislative session on January 13, 2020. This is a short 60-day session and the second half of the biennial budget cycle, which lasts two years. The legislature is expected to finish on-time this session, given that many members are up for re-election in 2020 and campaigning cannot commence until the session is over. 

The upcoming session will see a number of changes to the legislative makeup. Most notably, it was announced in March of this year that the legislature’s longest standing Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp, would be stepping down from his role. Several candidates campaigned for the position throughout the summer and Rep. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma was ultimately elected by the House Democratic caucus to take over. She is the first female Speaker in Washington’s history. Former Speaker Chopp will remain in the legislature as a Representative for the 43rd district.   

The legislature will also see several new faces in January after a number of departures this interim. Rep. Davina Duerr, a Bothell City Council Member, was appointed to fill Rep. Derek Stanford’s vacated 1st District House seat after he moved to the Senate to replace former Senator Guy Palumbo, who resigned in the spring. Senator Ron Muzzall, a Whidbey Island farmer, was appointed to replace retiring Senator Barbara Bailey of Oak Harbor. Representatives Jeff Morris (D-40) and Kristine Reeves (D-30) also announced their resignations recently. Reeves is expected to run for the 10th district congressional seat that is being vacated in 2020 by Rep. Denny Heck’s retirement. Democrats hope to appoint replacements for both Morris and Reeves by early January. These changes have resulted in several tweaks to committee Chairmanship and makeup. Two legislators have also announced their intent to resign following the 2020 session: Senator Hans Zeiger of Puyallup and Rep. Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo. 

As mentioned, 2020 is the second half of the two-year budget cycle, so all bills that were not signed into law by the Governor are still considered alive. If they do not pass this session, they will have to be reintroduced next year and start all over again. Broadly, we are anticipating continued efforts to pass a Low Carbon Fuel Standard and address homelessness, continued work on issues around independent contractors, and data privacy. There will also be a focus on filling budget gaps that have emerged due to the passage of the $30 car tab initiative, I-976, as well as implementation and legal issues with the controversial B&O and bank tax bills that passed in May. 

As mentioned, Democrats hope to pass a Low Carbon Fuel Standard in 2020. This policy has been in the works for several years and came close to passing last session, but was ultimately overshadowed by some of the larger carbon policies that did prevail, notably the Clean Energy Transformation Act and legislation concerning energy efficiency in buildings. The LCFS bill, HB 1110, is the top priority of House Energy committee chair, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-West Seattle).

 It is unclear whether a Cap and Trade/Invest policy will be in play this session. Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-West Seattle), Chair of the Senate Environment committee, has been the leader of this effort. Legislation was introduced late last session but did not make any notable progress. That bill, SB 5981, is still alive but it is unclear whether changes will be made or an entirely new bill will be introduced. There was less stakeholder conversation on this issue than expected this interim. This effort may be impeded by the recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of Governor Inslee’s Clean Air Rule, which would have authorized the Department of Ecology to curb greenhouse gases from imported petroleum and natural gas products.

Legislation regarding a Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy and Resilience (C-PACER) program is expected to return this session with increased attention. A coalition lead by newly appointed Representative Davina Duerr (D-Bothell) is pursuing a new bill. A draft is not yet available but is expected to look similar to HB 1796, legislation sponsored by Rep. Beth Doglio (D-Tacoma) last session.   All of these bills and any other legislation impacting CTA members will be included in the bill tracking lists sent out each week.

Brad Boswell