Week 4 General Legislative Review – January 29 – February 2nd

Wednesday, January 31, the day by which policy bills must be voted out of policy committees, has passed and bills with a financial impact to the state must now quickly be heard and voted out of a fiscal committee by Monday, February 5. The exception of course, are bills that are NTIB, or “necessary to implement the budget,” a designation the majority can place on bills. Bills that are NTIB live on until the end of the session regardless of whether they have passed the usual requisite hurdles.

Free Breakfast & School Lunches

The Senate Early Learning & K-12 committee heard SB 5964 (Nobles, D-28) on Monday, a bill that would require school districts, charter schools, and state-tribal compact schools to provide breakfast and lunch at no charge to any requesting student beginning in the 2024-25 school year. The companion, sponsored by Rep. Riccelli (D-3) is currently in the House Appropriations committee. A similar idea was attempted by Rep. Riccelli last year but was gutted by the end of session due to the high fiscal note. Over a thousand people signed in pro, representing school districts, faith communities, PTAs, pediatricians, children’s advocacy groups, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Race for the Superintendent of Public Instruction

The race for the Superintendent of Public Instruction got a bit more interesting this week. Former Representative and current Bellevue computer science teacher Chad Magendanz (R) joined incumbent Chris Reykdal (D) and fellow teacher Reid Saaris (D). Magendanz, who served in the House between 2013-2017 left state politics when he narrowly lost his bid for Senate against Mark Mullet (D), who is now running for Governor. Magendanz’s website suggests he will campaign on “challenges to our cherished way of life in the decline of student achievement, the erosion of local control and parental rights, and promotion of partisan political ideology in our classrooms.”

AI Guidelines

On Tuesday, Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order to develop guidelines for how the state adopts generative artificial intelligence into its own systems to ensure its ethical and transparent use. WaTech, the agency operating the state’s technology and information security services, will work with the governor’s cabinet agencies to submit a report identifying potential generative AI initiatives that could be implemented in state operations. The plan would develop initial guidelines for how the government may procure, use, and monitor the use of generative AI.

Fuel Costs

The Oil Industry Accountability Act (SB 6052) requested by Gov. Jay Inslee to lift the veil on gasoline pricing mechanics passed out of the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy, and Technology on Tuesday. “We should have the ability to see what drives (fuel costs) and how that impacts us,” said prime sponsor Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-34) before casting his vote.

Plastic Waste

A 2017 Ecology study found that Washingtonians generated 410,300 tons of plastic packaging waste: the equivalent of roughly 112 pounds per person per year. Instead of being recycled, nearly all of it ends up being landfilled or worse. State crews collected more than 5.4 million pounds of litter statewide in 2022. That litter breaks down and tiny microplastic particles go on to contaminate local beaches and waterways, threatening marine life. Rep. Liz Berry (D-36) and Rep. Monica Stonier (D-49) are leading on two complimentary proposals that would bring Washington’s recycling system into the 21st century. HB 2049 (Re-WRAP ACT) would expand curbside recycling services to as many as 1.3 million Washingtonians currently without. And it would require extended producer responsibility, forming a coalition of private-sector packagers and manufacturers to modernize practices and material choices to improve recovery rates. HB 2144 (Bottle Bill or Deposit Return System) would establish a refund system on cans, plastic bottles and glass that would ensure a closed recycling loop ensuring all those products are recycled and returned to consumers, a system that greatly reduces energy and oil use and carbon emissions. Together the two bills would boost the state’s recycling rate from 35% to at least 80%.

Speed Cameras

Proposals to deploy speed cameras are cruising along. HB 2356 (Fey, D-27) and SB 6115 (King, R-14) would continue WSDOT’s work zone camera program begun last year. Another proposal supported by Sen. HB 2384/SB 5959 (Donaghy, D-44)/ Liias, D-21) would permit local municipalities to deploy cameras along state highways and also city streets. And finally, Rep. Barkis (R-2) introduced a HB 2485 to establish a pilot program to explore the use of automated highway cameras, an idea proposed by the governor in his transportation budget. The last two years have been the deadliest on Washington roadways since 1990; automated speed cameras are proven to reduce speeding and save lives.

Kroger-Albertsons Nationwide Grocery Merger

Current Attorney General and frontrunner candidate for Washington state Governor, Bob Ferguson (D) filed suit on January 15 to block the proposed Kroger-Albertsons grocery merger nationwide, asserting the merger of the two largest supermarket companies in Washington state will limit shopping options and eliminate competition. More than half of all grocery stores in Washington are currently owned by either Kroger or Albertsons. Kroger alone has more than 21,000 workers in Washington. This proposed merger received legislative attention Tuesday when SB 6007 (Conway, D-29) was voted out of the Senate Labor & Commerce committee. The bill would require the successor grocery employer to maintain a preferential hiring list of current eligible grocery workers and retain those workers for a 180-day transition period. Unions say SB 6007 protects the safety of food and medicine sold to Washington State families by preventing sudden mass layoffs of the skilled and licensed employees. The Washington Food Industry Association was opposed when the bill was heard originally.

Upcoming Dates

After the February 5 fiscal committee cutoff, both chambers will turn their attention to floor debate. They will spend long days and nights voting to send bills to the opposite house until February 13.

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. | 253.686.3387 | ceibaconsulting.com