2023 Washington State Legislative Session Report – Week 2

Week Two

On Monday, January 16th, both the House and Senate honored the late civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., by adopting resolutions on the floor. On Tuesday, Republican and Democratic leaders in both the House and the Senate gathered for media availability where they answered questions about their priorities and various bills moving through the legislative process. On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray and State Senator Claire Wilson held a joint press conference to discuss affordable child care. This rest of the week was full of committee hearings and executive sessions.

In week two we saw public hearings on several high-profile pieces of legislation including policies on guns, middle housing, recycling, and nurse staffing. All of these hearings attracted large numbers of supporters and opponents. On Tuesday, 4,406 people signed in not wishing to testify in House Civil Rights & Judiciary on HB 1240 (Peterson, D-21), a Governor and Attorney General request bill that prohibits the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, or offer for sale of any assault weapon, with a few exceptions. This is the seventh session Attorney General Bob Ferguson has requested this bill and democrats hope this is the year they will succeed.

Also on Tuesday the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee heard legislation related to nurse staffing, SB 5236 (Robinson, D-38). Over 3000 people signed in not wishing to testify. The bill directs L&I to set staffing standards for healthcare workers, specifically, to set minimum nurse to patient ratios. Nurse staffing has been a contentious issue the last several sessions, unlike the 2022 bill this legislation does not set staffing standards in statute.

Addressing affordable housing continues to be a top legislative priority this session. This week middle housing was front and center as there was a public hearing on HB 1110 (Bateman D-20), legislation that would allow for more density in residential neighborhoods that are zoned for single family detached housing. The bill has strong support from labor, urbanists, builders, business and realtors however some local jurisdictions have concerns. While increasing housing supply has been a big focus for the legislature, they continue to focus on housing stabilization as well. On Tuesday, Representatives Nicole Macri and Alex Ramel held a press conference on bills relating to the rent stabilization act.

The Washington Recycling and Packaging act, or the WRAP Act (SB 5154/HB 1131), had public hearings in both the House and Senate this week. This bill proposes implementing end producer responsibility (EPR), a bottle deposit system, and minimum recycled content requirements. The bill is supported by environmentalists and local governments and is opposed by industries including hospitality and grocery stores.

This week Senator Noel Frame (D-36) and Representative My-Linh Thai (D-41) introduced a Wealth Tax bill at a press conference. The bills (HB 1473/SB 5486) would create a property tax on the ownership of stocks, bonds, and other financial assets over $250 million. The revenue generated is dedicated to four funds – the Education Legacy Trust Fund, which is a dedicated funding source for early learning, K-12, and higher education; the Housing Trust Fund, which pays for the construction of affordable housing, and two new funds created in the bill: a Disabilities Care Trust account that will pay for services for Washingtonians with disabilities, and a Taxpayer Justice account, that will offer credits against taxes paid by low and middle-income families.

Senator Frame also introduced a new Margins Tax bill (SB 5483) this week. The Margins tax was a recommendation coming out of the Tax Structure workgroup. The Margins Tax is meant to replace the B&O tax and instead of a business paying tax on their gross revenue with no deductions, each year, a business gets to take one major deduction of their choosing and then their tax is calculated on their remaining margin. The bill is scheduled to be heard next week.

Next week, committee hearings and executive sessions will continue. Unless considered necessary to implement the budget, all must be out of their house of origin policy committee by February 17th in order to stay alive this legislative session.

We are continuing to wait on responses to the thermal bill from the CTA membership. We are also continuing to work on finalizing language and introducing the bill on added thermal options for renewable energy credits. We have a meeting on Tuesday, January 24th, with Representative Beth Doglio to discuss further.

The sustainable aviation fuel package (SB 5447) has been introduced by Senator Andy Billig, and we expect that to receive hearings and quite a bit of attention in the coming weeks. There has been significant traction and active engagement by a broader coalition, which we are a part of, including organizing testimony for any upcoming hearings.

SB 5165 – Concerning electric power system transmission planning
This bill, sponsored by Senator Joe Nguyen, was heard in the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee on Wednesday, January 18th, but has yet to be scheduled for executive session.

HB 1192 / SB 5165 – Concerning electric power system transmission planning
Both vehicles of this legislation, sponsored by Representative Duerr and Senator Nguyen, were up for public hearing last week. The Senate version was heard by the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology on Thursday, January 18th and the House version was heard in the House Committee on Environment & Energy Committee on Thursday, January 19th. Currently, neither vehicle is scheduled for executive session.

HB 1216/SB 5380 – Concerning clean energy siting
The legislation, sponsored by Representative Fitzgibbon, had a public hearing in the House Environment & Energy Committee heard HB 1216 on Thursday, January 19th. It has yet to be scheduled for executive session. The Senate vehicle of this legislation has a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology at 1:30 PM on January 24th.

HB 1076 – Encouraging salmon recovery through voluntary stewardship. This legislation, sponsored by Representative Klicker, authorizes counties and cities to include an optional salmon recovery plan under the GMA. On Thursday, January 12, the House Committee on Environment & Energy held a public hearing on this legislation. An executive session on this bill has yet to be scheduled.

HB 1170/SB 5093 – Improving climate resilience through updates to the state’s integrated climate response strategy. This agency requested legislation, sponsored by Representative Street, requires DOE to update the Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy by July 2024 and every 4 years after. The House vehicle of this legislation was heard in front of the House Committee on Environment & Energy on Thursday, January 12th, and on Monday, January 16th. It is currently scheduled for executive session on January 23rd.

The Senate vehicle of this legislation, sponsored by Senator Rolfes, had a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy & Technology on Friday, January 20th, at 8:00 AM.

Read the Full Report