Week 1 General Legislative Review – Jan 8-12

The 2024 Washington State legislative session has officially begun. This is the second year of the biennium, thus the legislature will need to condense a tremendous amount of policy, politics, and supplemental budgets into a short 60-days. Legislative leaders have said they will focus on housing, transportation, behavioral health, public safety, climate change, and education.


Democrats continue to hold majorities and the legislative power in the House, Senate, and Governor’s office. But this year, the progressive agenda in Washington state may be thwarted by hedge-fund manager Brian Heywood’s Let’s Go Washington efforts. Pending signature verification, Let’s Go Washington has qualified all six of their initiatives to the legislature, potentially undoing some of the policies democrats are most proud to have passed in recent years. Upon verification and receipt of these initiatives, the legislature must choose one of the following three actions:

  • Adopt the initiative as proposed, allowing it to become law without a vote of the people.
  • Not act on the initiative, allowing a vote of the people in the 2024 General Election.
  • Propose an alternative ballot measure dealing with the same subject, sending it and the original for a vote of the people in the 2024 General Election.

Conservative Republican Representative and new Washington State GOP Chair Jim Walsh (R-19) is the sponsor of all of the initiatives. They are as follows:

Initiative No. 2113 concerns vehicular pursuits by peace officers

This measure would remove certain restrictions on when peace officers may engage in vehicular pursuits. Such pursuits would be allowed when the officer has a reasonable suspicion a person has violated the law, pursuit is necessary to identify or apprehend the person, the person poses a threat to the safety of others, those safety risks are greater than those of the pursuit, and a supervisor authorizes the pursuit.

Initiative No. 2117 concerns carbon tax credit trading

This measure would prohibit state agencies from imposing any type of carbon tax credit trading, including “cap and trade” or “cap and tax” programs, regardless of whether the resulting increased costs are imposed on fuel recipients or fuel suppliers. It would repeal sections of the 2021 Washington Climate Commitment Act as amended, including repealing the creation and modification of a “cap and invest” program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by specific entities.

Initiative No. 2124 concerns state long term care insurance

This measure would amend state law establishing a state long term care insurance program to provide that employees and self-employed people must elect to keep coverage under RCW 50B.04, allow employees to opt-out of coverage under RCW 50B.04 at any time, and repeal a current law governing exemptions for employees who had purchased long term care insurance before November 1, 2021.

Initiative No. 2109 concerns taxes

This measure would repeal an excise tax imposed on the sale or exchange of certain long-term capital assets by individuals who have annual capital gains of over $250,000.

Initiative No. 2111 concerns taxes

This measure would prohibit the state, counties, cities, and other local jurisdictions from imposing or collecting income taxes, defined as having the same meaning as “gross income” in the Internal Revenue Code.

Initiative No. 2081 concerns parental rights relating to their children’s public school education

This measure would allow parents and guardians of public-school children to review instructional materials and inspect student records, including health and disciplinary records, upon request. It would require public schools to provide parents and guardians with certain notifications, including about medical services given and when students are taken off campus; access to calendars and certain policies; and written notice and opportunities to opt students out of comprehensive sexual-health education and answering certain surveys or assignments.


While these six initiatives will consume a substantial amount of legislative and stakeholder time and energy this session, it is also a major election year in Washington state, with the entire House, half the Senate, the Governor, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Lands Commissioner, and 6th Congressional seat up for election. Six senators are hoping to leave the chamber, with Saldaña (D-37) and Van De Wege (D-24) running for Lands Commissioner, Dhingra (D-45) seeking the Attorney General position, MacEwen (R-35) and Randall (D-26) hoping to win the 6th Congressional seat, and Mullet (D-5) campaigning for Governor. On the House side, Chambers (R-25) is running for Pierce County Executive, and both Chapman (D-24) and Ramos (D-5) are looking to move across the rotunda to the Senate. Cue the theatrical bills!


Revenue is up $1.2 billion since the budget was adopted in April, with projected collections for the budget (which runs through June 30, 2025) approaching $66.9 billion. Not included is money raised from the auction of carbon allowances under the state’s cap-and-trade program, which has generated $1.8 billion thus far. Still, budget writers are proceeding with caution on the supplementals, with initiatives challenging the cap-and-trade program and a new tax on capital gains. The capital gains tax, which in its first year raised $900 million, is also facing a challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bill Hearings

On Monday, the 60-day 2024 legislative session began with opening ceremonies and remarks by House and Senate leaders. The governor outlined his priorities for his final legislative session Tuesday in his State of the State speech. He expressed pride about the state’s emergence as a beacon of progress on issues such as climate action, reproductive freedom, and more. His session priorities include maintaining momentum on housing and homelessness, fighting fentanyl, climate action and advancing education.

On Tuesday, the Senate and House labor committees heard SB 5777 (Keiser, D-33) and companion HB 1893 (Doglio, D-22) respectively. This legislation allows striking workers to qualify for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits on the Sunday following the first day of a strike if employers lock them out. This is a priority for the labor community who argue the legislation would reduce the burden of a strike on workers, and is strongly opposed by the business community, which turned out in force at the hearings. Currently, striking workers in New York and New Jersey qualify for unemployment.

The Senate Environment, Energy & Technology committee heard SB 5838 (Nguyen, D-34) on Wednesday. This Attorney General-request bill creates an Artificial Intelligence Task Force to assess uses, develop guiding principles, and make recommendations for the regulation of generative artificial intelligence in 2025. Artificial Intelligence is definitely on the minds of legislators in Washington this year, with bills being introduced by members of both parties addressing the use in court filings, intimate images, and more.

On Thursday, the House Housing committee heard HB 2114 (Alvarado, D-34), one of many bills this session aimed at housing affordability. Among other provisions of the bill, a landlord is prohibited from increasing the rent and fees for a tenant in an amount greater than 5 percent during any 12- month period, or by any amount during the first 12 months after the tenancy begins. This is a hot button, high-profile issue on both sides, with 129 people signed in to testify, and 2,530 people signed in not wishing to testify. The House also took early action to pass several bills. HB 1245, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-2), would allow residential lot splitting to create needed space to build additional housing in cities. There are pending bills to improve tenant protections, allow for co-living homes – independently rented, small apartments with kitchens shared among building residents, and create denser housing construction near transit stops.

Opioid-related deaths among youth have tripled since 2016, largely due to potent illicit fentanyl. On Thursday, legislators heard from families who lost a child to fentanyl overdose and they heard from experts about its cheap street price and abundance. SB 5923, a bill requested by the governor and sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman, would inform students about the extraordinary danger of the drug by incorporating fentanyl education into schools’ curriculum. Legislators discussed a related bill to distribute naloxone in schools. In the last year alone, schools used naloxone 42 times to reverse student overdoses.

Upcoming Dates:

  • January 31 – Policy Committee Cutoff
  • February 5 – Fiscal Committee Cutoff
  • February 13 – House of Origin Cutoff
  • February 21 – Opposite House Policy Committee Cutoff
  • February 26 – Opposite House Fiscal Committee Cutoff
  • March 1 – Floor Cutoff
  • March 7 – Last day of Regular Session

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