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WSVMA Legislative Report

  |   Legislative

The Washington State Legislature convened on January 11 for a planned 105-day session and is in its fourth week. The House will conduct most of its business remotely, while a few legislators will be in Olympia. The Senate is attempting a hybrid model, where some legislators are on the floor, while others participate remotely.

Despite the remote nature of the 2021 session, over 700 bills have been introduced in the House and the Senate to date. One major change this year is the 2021 cut-off calendar where bills need to be passed out of the policy committee by February 15. This is a week to ten days shorter than most sessions and will likely mean fewer bills emerge from committees prior to the deadlines.

Many of the hearings on the more consequential legislative proposals garner over 1,000 public ‘sign-ins” to express support or opposition. In some hearings over 100 individuals have requested the opportunity to testify before the committees. This has also resulted in testimony often being limited to as short as one minute.

House and Senate Democrats unveiled House Bill 1368, the early action COVID relief package that’s expected to pass the Senate this week. The bill appropriates $2.2 billion in federal funding from a combination of the federal Consolidated Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, the Coronavirus Relief Fund under the federal CARES Act, and Medicaid for K-12 public schools, public health, healthcare, assistance to individuals and families, housing assistance, and business assistance. It also uses about $440 million from the state’s budget reserves.

Funding includes:

  • $714 million for assistance to K-12 schools, including $46 million for non-public school assistance.
  • $618 million for public health, including $438 million for testing and contract tracing; $100 million for epidemiology and laboratory grants, and $68 million for vaccines.
  • $365 million for a variety of housing-related items, including rental assistance.
  • $240 million for business assistance grants.
  • $91 million for other income assistance programs.
  • $65 million for immigration services.
  • $12 million for disaster cash assistance.
  • $9 million for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and $5 million for food assistance.
  • $50 million for a variety of childcare-related items.
  • $26 million for food banks and other food-related programs.

Some of the bills before the legislature:

Bill # Short Description
HB 1319 Creating a Washington recovery rebate by temporarily expanding the working families’ tax exemption.
HB 1321 (SB 5114) Concerning safely reopening Washington.
HB 1332 (SB 5402) Concerning property tax deferral during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HB 1334 Making appropriations to revive our economy and accelerate a lasting recovery for Washington.
HB 1399 Reducing barriers to professional licensure for individuals with previous criminal convictions.
HB 1400 Creating alternative professional licensing standards.
HB 1424 Concerning consumer protection with respect to the sale of dogs and cats.
SB 5096 Concerning an excise tax on gains from the sale or exchange of certain capital assets.
SB 5114 (HB 1321) Concerning safely reopening Washington.
SB 5115 Establishing health emergency labor standards.
SB 5127 Concerning courthouse facility dogs.
SB 5402 (HB 1332) Concerning property tax deferral during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HB 1012 Providing a business and occupation tax credit to address the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses in the state.
HB 1375 Protecting public health by prohibiting certain activities related to fur production.
SSB 5045 Establishing a state meat and poultry inspection program.
SB 5300 Prohibiting the feeding of garbage to swine.

 

By Greg Hanon, WSVMA Legislative Advocate

 

Posted February 5, 2021