Feb 13-17, 2023

The legislative session is now more than one third complete and this week marked the first culling of bills, the house of origin policy committee cutoff. Bills that have failed to pass this cutoff are considered dead for the session. Of course, no concept is really dead until the end of the biennium as parts can be resurrected in various ways or reintroduced next year. Cutoff dates do play a significant role in the annual legislative process to limit the number of bills that move through the process. This year, members of the House introduced 846 bills and members of the Senate introduced 767. Next week, the bills that passed the policy committees and will impact the state financially must also pass through a fiscal committee (Appropriations, Capital Budget, Finance, Transportation, and Ways & Means) by February 24. Bills that are designated “necessary to implement the budget” or NTIB, are exempt from the cutoff calendar. Bills that have passed out of the policy committee but have no fiscal impact will proceed from the policy committee directly to the Rules committee where they remain until they are pulled to the floor for debate and vote.

Transit Development

On Monday afternoon, the Senate Transportation committee heard SB 5466 (Liias, D-21), a governor request bill that addresses transit-oriented development in a significant manner. This sizable policy received nearly universal support from builders, environmentalists, and labor, with 551 people signing in pro, 4 con, and 1 other. The bill:

  • Requires the Department of Transportation to establish a competitive grant program to help finance qualifying housing projects within rapid transit corridors, and to provide technical assistance for implementing, and compliance review of, transit-oriented development regulations.
  • Establishes that cities planning under the Growth Management Act (GMA) may not enact or enforce any new development regulation within a transit station area that prohibits the siting of multifamily residential housing on parcels where any other residential use is permissible.
  • Establishes that cities planning under the GMA may not enact any new development regulation within a transit station area or hub that imposes a maximum floor area ratio of less than the applicable transit-oriented density for any use otherwise permitted, or imposes a maximum residential density, measured in residential units per acre or other metric of land area.
  • Prohibits counties and cities planning under the GMA from requiring off-street parking as a condition of permitting development within a transit station area, with exceptions.
  • Expands the categorical exemption for infill development to facilitate the timely and certain deployment of sustainable transit-oriented development.

Wealth Tax

On Tuesday, the House Finance committee heard a suite of tax bills including HB 1473 (Thai, D-41) which 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. The bill attracted a lot of attention, with 2,531 signed in not wishing to testify. A large group did testify however, including perennial anti-tax activist Tim Eyman as well as supporters of the policy including those from the Washington Education Association, the Statewide Poverty Action Network, and the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance.

Vehicle Pursuits

One of the most contentious issues this session relates to law enforcement vehicle pursuits. Under the current law which was passed two years ago, a police officer may only initiate a pursuit if the officer has reasonable suspicion of a DUI, or probable cause for a violent crime or sex crime. Members of the law enforcement community say that under this new law, pursuits have declined and drivers routinely refuse orders to stop. Supporters of the new law say it has been successful in reducing the number of innocent people killed in pursuits. SB 5533 proposed by 31-year State Patrol veteran Senator John Lovick, D-44) would create a model vehicle pursuit policy work group within the Criminal Justice Training Commission and create a law enforcement technology grant program related to modern vehicle pursuit management technology. The bill was heard in Senate Ways & Means this week and was welcomed by the Association of Washington Cities, the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability but opposed by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs which prefers a policy change this session. On Thursday, SHB 1363 (Rule, D-42) passed out of the House Community Safety, Justice & Reentry committee. The bill would allow officers to pursue a suspect if there is a reasonable suspicion of a violent crime, sex offense, vehicular assault, domestic violence, escape, or DUI.

Aerospace B&O Tax Credit

Legislators of both parties are focused on pathways to jobs this session. Over the past century, Washington’s aerospace and aviation supply chain has grown to be the largest in the United States with more than 80,000 aerospace workers and 84 companies with a GDP of $45.6 billion. Experts say worldwide competition endangers Washington’s aerospace economy. On Wednesday, the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee heard SB 5721 (Boehnke, R-8), a bill that establishes a business and occupation tax credit for aerospace manufacturing training and education expenses to incentivize private sector investment. The bill received enthusiastic support from the International Association of Machinists 751 as well as the Aerospace Futures Alliance, the Association of Washington Business, and other aerospace businesses across the state.

Hospital Staffing

The contentious hospital staffing bill, SB 5236 (Robinson, D-38) may very well have set a record for public engagement in the process on Thursday afternoon, with 6,750 people signed in not wishing to testify. This ability for the public to participate is one of the outcomes of the adjustments made by the legislature in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizing constituents for remote sign-ins and testimony is certainly here to stay.

  Upcoming Dates

  • February 17 – Policy committee cutoff – house of origin
  • February 24 – Fiscal committee cutoff – house of origin
  • March 8 – Floor cutoff – house of origin
  • March 29 – Policy committee cutoff – opposite house
  • April 4 – Fiscal committee cutoff – opposite house
  • April 12 – Floor cutoff – opposite house
  • April 23 – Sine Die

Source: Brynn Brady, Ceiba Consulting, Inc. | ceibaconsulting.com