Hello Slog friends: As I mention later on in this post, which was originally published on 1/6, I plan to periodically re-up this bill tracker with new bills to keep an eye on. Today (1/18), I'm following through on that promise. I've updated the list with new bills related to income inequality, elections, housing, and consumer protections. I've also added a transportation section and a section for the arts. In that latter category, Stranger editor Chase Burns wrote about a promising new bill to incentivize film production in the state. Enjoy! And yell at me in the comments if I missed more good/bad bills!
On Monday, Washington state lawmakers will return to Olympia for 60 days of good old-fashioned consensus-building, supplemental-budget passing, and legislative backstabbing. Though some were looking forward to meeting in person this year, the Omicron surge prompted the Legislature's operations committee to start off the session in a hybrid fashion, with all meetings happening remotely and with limited in-person floor action. Leadership will review the situation every two weeks "with the hope we can bring more people onto the floor," Democratic House Speaker Laurie Jinkins said during a press conference this morning. But, until then, we're mostly doin' it online, people.
During this "short" session, politicians will focus on a few things: Passing a nearly $60 billion supplemental budget, making tweaks to legislation passed the previous year, and pushing policy bills that died last year over the finish line. Though time is short, this year lawmakers will need to make big decisions on everything from how the state should spend millions of dollars in one-time federal money to how to fix our housing crisis to where truckers get to piss.
Below you'll find a non-comprehensive list of bills I'll have my eye on this session. In the comments, please feel free to point out bills that should be on here, and I'll add them to the list. (Note: I haven't included transportation bills yet, mostly because Matt's on the transportation beat, but I'll add them later. Also, lawmakers will introduce more bills throughout the session, so I'll continue to add them here.)
• Unfortunately, none of these professional coalition-builders plan to drop a bill to melt all the guns, but this year Sen. Patty Kuderer will take a crack at banning assault weapons with Senate Bill 5217 at the behest of Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
• Meanwhile, Sen. Marko Liias will try to ban high-capacity magazines with Senate Bill 5078. (Rep. Javier Valdez carries the bill in the House.) More power to them. No need for big clips unless you're mowing down school kids. If you need to defend yourself against 30-50 feral hogs, then buck up and switch to blades, cowards.
• Seattle Rep. Liz Berry wants to use House Bill 1705 to close the ghost gun loophole. Though the state bans the manufacture and sale of ghost guns, it doesn't ban buying ghost gun parts and assembling them at the house. This bill would penalize the psychopaths who want to do that.
• Work continues apace on Rep. Noel Frame's wealth tax (House Bill 1406 / Senate Bill 5426), which would impose a 1% tax on wealth over $1 billion. Lawmakers say they want to spend the money collected from the tax on "education, child care, public health, housing, and public safety." The Legislature rarely passes major revenue bills during the short session — because god forbid they govern their values during an election year — but it'll be interesting to see how much support gathers around this bill this year.
• State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti wants to give babies bonds to help close wealth gaps, and he's asking the Legislature to pass a bill to do that. I haven't seen the language of the bill yet, but I like this idea because one must explain the concept of bonds starting in babyhood, otherwise people grow up to be 36-year-old men who have to Google the definition of bond every time they hear it. Update: The bills dropped. Sen. Yasmin Trudeau will carry SB 5752, and Rep. Monica Stonier will carry HB 1861.
• Seattle Rep. Liz Berry wants to give poor people money by establishing the Evergreen Basic Income Trust with House Bill 2009. The proposal would provide monthly payments for three years to WA residents over 18 years of age who “have reported gross income that does not exceed 50 percent of 34 area median income.” The amount of assistance would be “equal to the fair market rent for a two-bedroom home in the zip code in which the eligible individual resides.” House Housing Committee chair Rep. Peterson cosponsors the bill, so the bill stands a chance of at least getting out of committee this year.
• With House Bill 1947 and Senate Bill 5838, Seattle Rep. Noel Frame and Tacoma state Sen. T’wina Nobels (respectively) want to set aside state money to pay for diapers for kids under years of age. Love to patch together a welfare state on a balanced budget.
• #Homes4WA: I'm going to spend a little more time explaining this one, because it's fucking past time for this bill to pass.
All but the wealthy struggle to find an affordable place to live in Washington. That's mostly because the state needed to build 250,000 homes yesterday, and it's only building 44,000 homes per year at the current rate, according to an estimate from the Office of Financial Management. This massive housing shortage drives up costs to tragicomically high levels, making it so that first-time buyers can only afford to purchase a house way east of the mountains. Senate Bill 5670 and House Bill 1782 — sponsored by state Sen. Mona Das and state House Rep. Jessica Bateman, respectively — would help solve this problem by legalizing multi-unit homes statewide depending on certain criteria.
The criteria: Homes with between two and six units will be legal anywhere within 1/2 mile of "a major transit stop" (e.g. bus stop that runs every 15 mins, rail stop, ferry terminal). Cities could not set minimum parking requirements in these zones, but developers can build whatever parking they want. Cities with under 20,000 people would take less density. The bill also includes an alternative "minimum net density" option for cities, providing a formula to determine the minimum number of units they need to take and then allowing them to put that density where they want so long as their plans don't perpetuate housing segregation.
The 2022 session will mark the fourth attempt to pass this market-based solution in as many years, but this year is the first year Governor Jay Inslee is throwing his weight behind it. That said, it'll continue to face stiff opposition from the Association of Washington Cities and the NIMBY lawmakers who represent those cities. During the Associated Press legislative preview this morning, House Speaker Laurie Jinkins said the bill is "definitely worth a conversation" (boo), Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig said he was "generally supportive" (c'mon), and the Republican minority leaders used the opportunity to make brief cases for sprawl and repealing building codes (booooo).
At this point, those holdouts have no good excuses. Oregon, California, and Minneapolis have passed similar bills without the sky falling. "We can't keep complaining about the housing crisis and refusing to find the answer in our backyard," said Sen. Das, who added that she can't even afford to buy a house in her own district.
• House Bill 1660 and Senate Bill 5648, sponsored by state House Rep. Sharon Shewmake and state Sen. Marko Liias, respectively, would prevent cities or counties from imposing owner occupancy requirements on backyard cottages, which would be good.
• If Seattle landlords plan to hike the rent over 3%, then they need to provide six months notice before they do. House Bill 1904, sponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson, would essentially extend that policy statewide.
• Republicans plan to spend a lot of time claiming that House Bill 1310, which required cops across the state to use force as a last resort "when possible" when they have "probable cause" to arrest, prevented cops from touching people when they only had reasonable suspicion of a crime going on. Though the Attorney General already cleared up that misconception, with House Bill 1726, Rep. Roger Goodman wants to lower the bar for permissive use of force to situations where cops have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is "committing a violent offense, a sex offense, an assault, or domestic violence."
• In another concussion to pressure from police organizations, House Bill 1735, sponsored by Federal Way House Rep. Jesse Johnson, explicitly tells cops they can touch people in mental health crises in order to involuntarily commit them. Despite desperate pleading from social workers, cops have refused to commit people in crisis over their willful misreading of use-of-force law that passed last year.
• House Bill 1202 would end qualified immunity for police officers, allowing people to sue cops in civil court when those cops violate their rights. This bill died last year, so there's a chance to push it through this year.
• Sen. John Lovick filed Senate Bill 5573, which would offer substance abuse treatment as an alternative to jail for DUIs when appropriate.
• With House Bill 1690, Rep. Strom Peterson wants to render inadmissible evidence gathered from cops who lied to suspects during interrogations.
• Conservatives started convulsing the second they heard about House Bill 1692, which would remove drive-by shootings from a list of first-degree murder charges that trigger the penalty of life in prison without parole. Rep. Roger Goodman told MyNorthwest this morning that he won't hold a hearing on the bill, so this thing is going nowhere.
• The Administrative Office of the Courts asked the Legislature to pass House Bill 1637, which adds mental illness as one of the factors a judge can consider when doling out a sentence. State House Rep. Tara Simmons is carrying that bill.
• This one exists more in the realm of public safety, but House Bill 1725, sponsored by House Rep. Debra Lekanoff and requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, would create a hotline and an amber-alert protocol for missing indigenous women and persons.
• Last year, in a decision called State v. Blake, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down the state's simple drug possession statute as unconstitutional because it lacked a mens rea. Rather than thank the Court for ridding the state of a bad law that the criminal punishment system applied in racist ways, the Legislature decided to pass a law to resume the war on drugs for a couple more years while lawmakers discussed next steps.
Part of that bill included a task force charged to spit out recommendations for dealing with drug possession. As that group continues its work, Sen. Manka Dhingra will try to push through Senate Bill 5663, which provides the legal framework for dealing with the retroactivity of the Blake decision; that is, it requires the Administrative Office of the Courts to provide a list of everyone convicted under this now-unconstitutional law going back to 1971, and then creates a process to vacate convictions and to refund the court costs associated with them.
• The bill language hasn't dropped yet, but Sen. Jesse Salomon tells me he plans to drop a bill that would essentially copy Oregon's measure 109, which would allow for the legal grow and therapeutic guiding of trips for psilocybin, and also create a regulatory structure for magic mushrooms at the Department of Health. As I've written in the past, the newish research on psychedelics suggests trained professionals could use these natural medicines to remedy anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction, and other behavioral issues. And, of course, biotech and pharma are chomping at the bit. Update: Here it is: Senate Bill 5660.
• There will be a lot of talk about protecting and expanding WA Cares, a new payroll tax that funds the first-ever and totally necessary long-term health benefit in Washington. While Republicans work to try to repeal the legislation, a bill (HB 1732) from House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan would delay tax collection until next year to extend benefits to more people closer to retirement and also refund taxes already collected, while House Bill 1733 would exempt more people who don't want to pay in.
• There's already bipartisan support for HB 1688 / Senate Bill 5618, which would help protect people from charges for out-of-network health care services. House Rep. Eileen Cody will likely lead the push there.
• My colleague Matt Baume listed off several interesting environmental bills in this morning's Slog AM, including House Bill 1766, which aims to reduce emissions from gas companies.
• As Matt mentioned, you should also keep your eye on House Bill 1770, which would make buildings more energy-efficient. Expect Republican and conservative Dem pushback on that one for adding to construction costs or whatever.
• As Matt also mentioned, Senate Bill 5658 would continue last session’s work to make product packaging more recyclable, which seems fine. (Update! Ok, this is a little complicated, but bear with us here. SB 5658 isn't as good as it seems — it's limited to only certain materials. Senators Mona Das and Christine Rolfes have proposed a much stronger, better version: Their SB 5697 would basically force the manufacturers of heavily-polluting packaging to pay to clean up their messes, instead of sticking taxpayers with the cleanup bill. THAT'S the bill to watch. — Matt)
• On January 13 the Senate Transportation Committee heard Senate Bill 5528, a proposal from Sen. Jamie Pedersen to let us tax ourselves to make improvements to Sound Transit. The bill would authorize subgroups of Sound Transit Board members to draw “enhanced service zones” in smaller areas within the Sound Transit region (i.e. cities or adjacent unincorporated areas). Those members could then propose a ballot initiative to raise the motor vehicle excise tax or the commercial parking tax to pay for the relevant improvement, such as, say, speeding up light rail to Ballard. Voters in the region would then vote up or down on the measure and get or reject what they want. In the wake of substantial cost overruns associated with ST3, this seems like a way to satisfy some transit needs until we build up an appetite for ST4.
• Maybe you, like us, have wondered why former Slogger-turned-bloggerstar Lindy West filmed and set her hit Hulu show Shrill in Portland, when it was so obviously based on her time working at The Stranger in Seattle? There’s an easy answer. It’s because Washington state offers shit incentives for film and TV productions, especially compared to our neighbors to our north and south. Oregon’s motion picture competitiveness program annually throws around $20 million. And in Vancouver, British Columbia, they’re playing with a limitless pot of cash. Meanwhile, in Washington, we’re stuck at $3.5 million. Sure, ours was nice when it started in the 2000s—filmmakers across the state described it as transformational—but it’s since become one of the smallest in the nation.
This year, Washington legislators say they’re ready to run with the best of them again. There are two companion bills from Democrats Rep. Riccelli and Sen. Wellman working through the House and Senate that would bump up our incentives to match Oregon’s, at $20 million—and they’ve already got bipartisan support. Initially unaware of Wellman’s bill, Republican Sen. Short also drafted a bill to increase Washington’s film incentives, and she and other Republicans now say they support the Democrats’ bills. Wellman’s Senate bill will likely make it out of committee before the end of January, so maybe one day soon we’ll see a TV show about The Stranger that’s actually set in Seattle.
• Seattle state Sen. Reuven Carlyle introduced a new data privacy bill, Senate Bill 5813. This weird bill aims to allow internet users to “access, delete, and correct their data" collected by "data brokers," which are companies that exist solely to collect your personal information and sell your data to other companies, rather than the big tech firms such as Microsoft or Amazon or Facebook. It also creates some restrictions around the kinds of data companies can extract from "known" children and "known" adolescents.
As in previous iterations of Carlyle's privacy bills, the proposal would give firms who violate the law 30 days to make it all better. This kind of legislation always hits a snag around enforcement; in the past, Carlyle has wanted to restrict enforcement solely to the AG’s office, but the AG’s office has always wanted to allow people sue tech companies when they get caught violating the law, just like they would in nearly every other case. This bill splits that hair this way: if a company violates this law and the victim is a child or an adolescent, then the parent of the kid or the adolescent can sue the company in civil court, but the amount of money they can win is “limited to appropriate injunctive relief necessary and proportionate to remedy the violation.” More on this soon, but my initial read is that this bill looks like a bandaid on data privacy that could turn into a Trojan horse for the bad data privacy bill.
• In the meantime, Carlyle’s old version of the bill, Senate Bill 5062, is still floating around the Senate Rules committee, waiting to be used as a bargaining chip of some kind. I’ve written about why that bill sucks before. In a December 2021 letter to the Legislature, Attorney General Bob Ferguson gave us another reason: A new report from Reuters showed that Amazon drafted the data privacy bill that Virginia passed last year, and, according to Ferguson’s office, Carlyle’s original version of the data privacy bill is “nearly identical” to the one Amazon wrote for Virginia.
• House Bill 1727, sponsored by SeaTac Rep. Mia Gregerson, would move local elections to even-numbered years, which typically draw much higher voter turnouts.
• In a couple of its anti-Sawant op-eds, the Seattle Times Editorial Board asked the Legislature to criminalize the act of printing out ballots near candidate tents, a GOTV activity that likely helped the embattled Seattle City Councilmember secure victory. If the Legislature were to do that, it looks like they'd try to do it with House Bill 1716, sponsored by Seattle Rep. Valdez. Right now, the bill basically says you can't promote candidates within a certain distance of voting centers, student engagement hubs, or ballot boxes. It doesn't say that a table with a wireless printer on it is a voting center. But lawmakers could amend the bill to add that sort of language as they "work" the legislation.
• Seattle state Sen. Jamie Pedersen would like to clarify some language around the redistricting process to avoid potentially illegal clusterfucks of the kind that happened last fall. In Senate Bill 5560, the state would require commissioners to turn in redistricting plans at least 72 hours in advance, and it would define “plan” as actual maps. Last fall, after a meeting conducted largely in private, the bipartisan commissioners voted to approve a “plan” that amounted to only a verbal agreement and some emails, and they voted after the deadline. Nevertheless, the State Supreme Court said it was cool.
• Sen. Lovick wants to use Senate Bill 5615 to make pickleball the official state sport, since it was "created in 1965 on Bainbridge Island by Joel McFee Pritchard, who went on to be elected lieutenant governor and member of Congress for Washington." This bill has a hearing scheduled for next week, so they are actually going to spend time doing this.
• House Bill 1706, sponsored by Rep. Mike Sells, would force businesses to let truckers use the goddamn public restroom when they have one. Gotta cut down on piss bottles in the culverts.
• In a crystal clear example of government overreach, House Rep. Cindy Ryu wants to use House Bill 1707 to require the use of personal flotation devices on "kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards." I expect to see Instagram influencers overwhelming public comment period if this bill gets a hearing.
• Republican House Rep. Peter Abbarno wants to install more signs near bridges warning people not to jump off of them. They want to call this bill "Zack’s Law" in memory Zachary Rager, an 18-year-old who drowned in the Chehalis River last year after jumping off a bridge into colder-than-expected water.
• Ol' Republican Rep. Brad Klippert wants to take away your right to an abortion pill with House Bill 1679.
• Republican Rep. Jim Honeyford wants to officially make Washington's nickname "The Evergreen State." I uh...thought we already did that?