2024 Washington Legislative Session Wrap-Up

The 2024 session of the Legislature gaveled to a close just before 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 7th, marking another on-time adjournment for lawmakers. The preceding 60 days were a sprint, in which nearly 1,200 new bills were introduced and about 350 ultimately passed on to the Governor’s desk. The session featured some major public policy debates and long floor sessions, particularly in the waning days, where majority Democrats achieved some, but not all, of their top priorities for the year. Supplemental budgets were negotiated and adopted without drama, and no new taxes were adopted. The biggest story of the session the introduction of the six citizen initiatives targeting progressive priorities in one way or another, three of which ultimately passed in the Legislature’s last week.

For bills delivered to Governor Inslee in the past week, he has twenty calendar days, not including Sundays, from the point at which they were delivered to either sign into law or veto in whole or in part.

Here’s an overview of major action this session:

Initiatives

At the beginning of session, six Republican-backed citizen initiatives were certified to the Legislature: I-2081, a parental rights in public education proposal; I-2109, repealing the state’s tax on capital gains; I-2111, prohibiting the state and local governments from adopting an income tax; I-2113, regarding standards for police pursuit of suspects; I-2117, repealing the state’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA); and I-2124, allowing opt-out of the state’s long term care insurance program. After a lengthy, session-long debate over whether to even consider the initiatives, ultimately Democratic leaders took a pass on I-2109, I-2117, and I-2124, citing their fiscal impact on existing programs, and sending them directly to the voters this fall. On the last Monday of session, lawmakers ultimately passed the remaining three initiatives on police pursuits, income taxes, and parental rights by relatively large margins, with a smattering of Democratic no votes on each. As approved initiatives, they become law without action from the Governor.  

Taxes

The session did not lead to any new or expanded tax increases, but a couple high profile proposals were debated before ultimately dying. SB 5770 (Pederson, D-Seattle), would have tripled the annual property tax growth factor for local governments from one to three percent. HB 2276 (Berg, D-Tacoma), would have created a new 1 percent transfer tax on the sale of real estate over $3 million, with some additional changes to the existing Real Estate Excise Tax. Despite some initial momentum in committee, the proposal never got to a vote in the House.

Budgets

The supplemental operating, transportation, and capital budgets were worked out between House and Senate leadership without much fanfare in the final week. The final operating budget added $2.1 billion in new spending to last year’s $69.8 billion plan, with about half of the new spending going to inflationary increases, and half going to new projects in education, behavioral health care, public safety, and human services. Notably, the budget spends $249 million of CCA auction revenue, a program put at issue by I-2117. The supplemental transportation budget adds $1 billion in new spending to last year’s plan, including $340 million in CCA dollars. The major focus here is addressing cost overruns in road maintenance, ferry preservation, and removal of culverts for fish passage. The final supplemental capital budget, meanwhile, funds $1.3 billion in new projects around the state, clustered heavily around school construction, behavioral health facility funding, and affordable housing projects.

Labor & Employment

Bills headed toward enactment in the labor arena include HB 1905 (Mena, D-Tacoma), expanding the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunity Act by adding new protected classes for pay and career advancement protections, SB 5793 (Saldana, D-Seattle), expanding reasons for covered leave under the state’s paid sick leave law, including for transportation network company (TNC) drivers, and SB 5778 (Keiser, D-Des Moines) banning workplace “captive audience” meetings about union organizing activities, and SB 6088 (Conway, D-Tacoma), allowing limited wage and hour exemptions for minor league baseball players covered by Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. Measures that did not advance in this area included SB 5924 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue), creating a new private right of action to enforce employees’ right to access personnel file information, and HB 2349 (Stonier, D-Vancouver)/SB 6241 (Randall, D-Port Orchard) providing relief from proliferating lawsuits over the state’s job posting salary transparency law.

Social Insurance

HB 1893 (Doglio, D-Olympia), providing four weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to striking workers, was one of the most controversial proposals of the session and ultimately died in the Senate despite a major last-minute push by organized labor. In Long Term Care, a program clouded by the pending initiative on opt-outs, SB 6072 (Keiser, D-Des Moines) setting up a framework for supplemental policies, did not emerge. But HB 2467 (Macri, D-Seattle), allowing out-of-state portability of the LTC premium and benefit made it out and awaits the Governor’s signature. On the last day of session, SB 6069 (Mullet, D-Issaquah) passed, creating a new “Washington Saves” auto-IRA savings program, which when established will require covered employers and employees without an existing retirement benefit to enroll and contribute to a state IRA plan or a retirement plan offered by a chamber of commerce or trade association. It was a comparatively light session for workers’ compensation, with only a few small tweaks on benefit issues passing, including HB 2382 (Berry, D-Seattle), expanding death benefits for transportation network company (TNC) drivers killed while using a platform app.

Artificial Intelligence

Addressing the explosive growth of artificial intelligence was a hot issue during the session, with two competing proposals taking center stage. HB 1951 (Shavers, D-Oak Harbor) would have created a regulatory framework for policing algorithmic discrimination against protected classes in commerce and employment, backed up by a private right of action. An ambitious proposal with much opposition, it was shelved in favor of SB 5838 (Nguyen, D-West Seattle), a request bill from Attorney General Bob Ferguson, to create a statewide task force to meet over the next couple years, study issues related to AI development and deployment, and make recommendations to the Legislature. Task force composition led to a brief dispute between the House and Senate over how much private industry representation would be at the table, but ultimately an agreed-to plan was passed. Meanwhile, Governor Inslee promulgated an Executive Order on AI use by state agencies, requiring agencies to coordinate with WaTech (the state’s IT and information security arm) in developing guidelines for ethical and transparent adoption of AI technology.

Business & Commerce

Several ambitious proposals regulating one or another aspect of commerce were debated, with few ultimately making it through. HB 2114 (Alvarado, D-West Seattle), the House version of an high-profile rent control bill, capping residential rent and fee increases at 7 percent per year, survived until late in session until moderate Senate Democrats provided the votes to kill it. SB 5988 (Trudeau, D-Tacoma)/HB 2095 (Alvarado), was a highly-publicized measure early in session to crack down on retail gift card use and expiration, but died after substantial retail industry pushback. SB 6081 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue) would have required all consumer contracts to be written in “plain language” was proposed but didn’t advance. Similarly, HB 1648 (Reeves, D-Federal Way), regulating the sale, resale, and transfer of tickets to sporting and entertainment events, made it to the House floor before languishing. SB 6179 (MacEwan, R-Shelton), allowing biometric platforms for age verification in alcohol sales passed the Senate before dying in the House. HB 1889 (Walen, D-Bellevue), providing a path to professional licensure in many occupations for individuals regardless of immigration status, did pass the Legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature. Finally, HB 1589 (Doglio, D-Olympia), a hotly-contested measure to allow Puget Sound Energy to begin transitioning away from residential and commercial natural gas service in support of is decarbonization goals, passed in the middle of the night at the end of session, after considerable partisan debate in both the House and Senate.

Insurance

Senator Patty Kuderer, the presumptive front-runner to become the next Insurance Commissioner, introduced a trio of bills at the start of session impacting the industry, ultimately achieving two of them. SB 5797 would have increased civil penalties on insurers for Insurance Code infractions up to $25,000 per violation. It died after industry pushback. SB 5798, extending notice requirements for property & casualty insurance cancellations or non-renewals from 45 days to 60 days passed, but with an amendment leaving auto policy timeframes unchanged. SB 5806, providing confidentiality for data provided by insurers to the Commissioner, passed and awaits the Governor’s signature. Other bills passing in this area include HB 2329 (Macri, D-Seattle) requiring the Commissioner perform a market study for property and liability insurance for low-income housing providers, SB 5652, allowing registered tow truck operators access to insurance payments for clearing roadway hazards, HB 1899 (Volz, R-Spokane Valley), setting up relief payments for victims of the Spokane wildfires, and SB 6027, adopting the updated NAIC model for insurance holding companies. Significant bills not passing this year include HB 2011 (Peterson, D-Edmonds), setting up a dispute process for auto appraisal and repair issues, and HB 2330 (Reeves, D-Federal Way), ordering an interim task force study on wildfire risk mitigation, grants, and underwriting transparency.

Financial Services

SB 6025 (Stanford, D-Bothell), the “Predatory Lender Protection Act,” passed the Legislature without controversy, extending the reach of the Consumer Lending Act to out-of-state operators and strengthening anti-evasion provisions. HB 1915 (Rude, R-Walla Walla), promoting financial literacy education by requiring public schools to include one half credit of financial literacy in high school graduation requirements, died on the last day of session after ricocheting between the House and Senate, who took opposite positions on whether the education should be a graduation requirement (House) or simply offered and supported (Senate). The two sides ran out of time to come to an agreement before adjournment. HB 2083 (Ryu, D-Shoreline) on payday lending, capping the APR at 36 percent, and modifying the definition of small loan, never made it out of committee.

Civil Justice & Liability

SB 5059 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue), another attempt to establish pre-judgment interest on tort judgments, running interest from the date a cause of action accrues rather than when a judgment is entered, was debated in the Senate Ways & Means Committee early in session but ultimately did not advance. HB 1618 (Farivar, D-Seattle), prospectively removing the statute of limitations on tort claims for childhood sexual abuse, passed the Senate unanimously on Thursday and heads to the Governor. HB 2088 (Orwall, D-Des Moines), creating immunity from civil lawsuits for responders dispatched from mobile rapid-response crisis teams and community-based crisis teams, passed and awaits the Governor’s signature.

Construction

Bills passing with construction industry interest include SB 6040 (Valdez, D-Seattle), requiring a study by the Capital Projects Advisory Review Board of prompt payment to contractors and subcontractors on public works projects. The bill began as a controversial measure to require prompt payment by prime contractors to specified minority or women-owned subcontractors regardless of whether the state had made payment on a project. HB 2022 (Reed, D-Seattle) added provisions related to the assembly, disassembly, or reconfiguration of tower cranes to the Washington Industrial Safety & Health Act. HB 2266 (Stonier, D-Vancouver) passed in a final form that requires the Department of Labor & Industries to adopt rules requiring reasonable jobsite accommodation for construction workers for menstruation or expressing milk. Finally, HB 1880 (McClintock, R-Vancouver) will streamline the licensing or architects by making it easier to take or re-take the licensing examination.

Retirements and Elections

With the “session freeze” on campaign funding solicitations now lifted, and an election season where all House seats, one-third of the Senate seats, and several statewide offices are up, policy makers and candidates have wasted no time moving into the political campaign season.  The Legislature’s final week saw another round of retirement announcements in the House and Senate. By session’s end, the following lawmakers announced they are leaving the Legislature this year, either to seek new office or after a long term of public service: In the Senate, Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah (running for Governor), and Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim (running for Lands Commissioner). In the House, Reps. J.T. Wilcox, R-McKenna, Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, Jacqueline Maycumber, R-Republic (running for Congress), and Spencer Hutchins, R-Gig Harbor, won’t be returning. House members leaving to seek one of the open Senate seats are Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, Bill Ramos, D-Issaquah, Jessica Bateman, D-Olympia, and Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles. Finally, Senators who may or may not return depending on their race for higher office this fall are Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond (Attorney General), Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue (Insurance Commissioner), Emily Randall, D-Port Orchard (Congress), Drew MacEwan, R-Shelton (Congress), and Rebecca Saldana (Lands Commissioner).

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