Committee action heats up in week two
The second week of the session has come to a close, with nearly 1,100 new bills introduced so far, split roughly evenly between the House and Senate. With the exception of honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, the two chambers spent little time on the floor this week and instead have been in committees hearing and voting on bills. This pace will increase over the next two weeks, as policy bills must clear their committee by January 31st, and fiscal bills must receive a hearing and vote by February 5th.
Top events and issues form the second week, and coming action, include:
Of the six initiative petitions to the Legislature currently pending signature validation, the first three received formal certification this week, placing them officially before the Legislature: I-2081, regarding parental rights in public education, I-2113, regarding police pursuit standards, and I-2117, repealing the Climate Commitment Act. House Democrats on Monday turned away a motion on the floor by House Republicans to bring I-2113 up for a public hearing, signaling increasing partisanship around these measures. I-2117, meanwhile, threatens a tax stream that brought in $1.8 billion in revenue in 2023. The remaining three initiatives are likely to be officially certified in the next two weeks.
SB 5838 (Nguyen, D-West Seattle), creating the state AI task force at the Attorney General’s request, was voted out of the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee Friday morning with an amendment dramatically limiting the size of the task force and turning it into an executive committee of state agencies that may form specific subject-matter subcommittees to interact with stakeholders. Its companion, HB 1934 (Couture, R-Allyn), received a hearing in the House Consumer Protection & Business Committee Friday morning, but is unlikely to be the vehicle for this proposal. HB 1951 (Shavers, D-Oak Harbor), a substantive regulation of “algorithmic discrimination,” received a hearing Friday morning in the House, but is unlikely to move in the face of massive opposition. Finally, more details leaked out around Governor Inslee’s planned Executive Order, indicating it will be about “ethical AI” and avoiding discrimination in the use of AI by state agencies. It is expected to be released early this week.
Tax and Fiscal Policy
SB 5770 (Pederson, D-Seattle) is a hold over from last session that would increase the 1 percent growth rate limitation on local property tax levies to 3 percent. While it received no consideration last year, it received a public hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Thursday, indicating a willingness by the majority to move the idea along. The bill would repeal a limitation that was imposed twenty years ago by citizen initiative.
Transportation and Construction
While action in the two Transportation committees has been relatively light so far, lawmakers are discussing the impact that inflation and the rising cost of labor and materials are having on the project list of last year’s 16-year Move Ahead Washington transportation package. Republicans have began urging use of the aforementioned $1.8 billion raised in Climate Commitment Act auctions last year to backfill the transportation budget, but such funds can only be used for emission limiting activities. In construction matters, the Senate State Government and Elections Committee heard SB 6040 (Valdez, D-Seattle), a “prompt pay” bill requiring that subcontractors on public projects that are state-certified small, women, or minority owned or disadvantaged businesses receive payment no later than 30 days after a project is accepted, regardless of when the prime contractor receives payment. On Thursday, the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee will hear HB 2266 (Stonier, D-Vancouver), requiring employers in the construction industry to provide enhanced time and space accommodations to workers who menstruate or express milk, including free menstruation products and refrigeration facilities.
HB 1889 (Walen, D-Bellevue) providing a path to professional licensure in many occupations for individuals regardless of immigration status was pulled from a scheduled committee vote on Tuesday, suggesting it is done for the year. HB 1648 (Reeves, D-Federal Way), implementing regulations on the sale, resale, and transfer of tickets to sporting and entertainment events received a hearing on Tuesday and is set for a committee vote this coming Wednesday. HB 2149, also by Rep. Reeves, regulating the collection and sharing or sale of consumer personal information at the point of sale, was pulled from public hearing on Friday. SB 6081 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue) would require all consumer contracts to be written in plain language and is set for a committee hearing this Tuesday and vote on Thursday, while SB 5855 (MacEwan, R-Shelton), requiring plain language summaries for electronically delivered consumer agreements got a hearing this past Tuesday but is not scheduled for further action. SB 6122 (Conway, D-Tacoma) proposing a regulatory framework for third party alcohol delivery from retail establishments, is set for hearing this Monday. SB 5988 (Trudeau, D-Tacoma) and its companion, HB 2095 (Alvarado, D-West Seattle), the controversial “gift card accountability” proposal aimed at retailers and hospitality both received hearings this past Tuesday in their respective fiscal committees. Finally, HB 2072 (Farivar, D-Seattle) increasing civil penalties under the Consumer Protection Act for antitrust violations cleared the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee on Friday.
Labor & Employment
SB 5924 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue), allowing employees to request personnel records and sue if they’re not provided, is set for a Senate Labor Committee vote on Tuesday. HB 1905 (Mena, D-Tacoma), expanding the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunity Act by adding protected classes, cleared the House Labor Committee on Friday. HB 1991 (Fosse, D-Everett) and SB 5793 (Saldana, D-Seattle), expanding reasons for leave under the state’s paid sick leave law, are set for committee votes on Monday and Friday, respectively. HB 1940 (Fosse, D-Everett) and SB 5778 (Keiser, D-Des Moines) bans “captive audience” meetings about political (primarily addressing unionization) and religious topics in the workplace continue to move, with the Senate version already in the Rules Committee and the House version up for a committee vote on Wednesday.
In unemployment insurance, SB 5777 (Keiser, D-Des Moines) and HB 1893 (Doglio, D-Olympia), providing UI benefits to striking workers, is now in the Rules Committee on the Senate side, and set for a committee vote in the House on Wednesday. Workers’ compensation coverage and benefit expansions are moving, with HB 2031 (Abbarno, R-Centralia) allowing county coroners and their staffs to file occupational disease claims for PTSD, and HB 1927 (Bronoske, D-Lakewood), increasing access to time loss benefits, both clearing committee this past week. For Long Term Care, SB 6072 (Keiser, D-Des Moines), creating a regulatory structure for supplemental long term care products, is now set for hearing this coming Thursday in the Senate Labor Committee. Finally, HB 2244 (Reeves, D-Federal Way) and SB 6069 (Mullet, D-Issaquah), creating a state-run auto-IRA program for employers and employees, are both set for hearing on Tuesday in the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee and Senate Ways & Means Committee, respectively. A third bill in the retirement space dropped on Friday, HB 2437 (Santos, D-Seattle), establishing a state-run multi-employer plan (MEP) for retirement savings. It will be heard on Tuesday alongside the auto-IRA proposal.
SB 5797 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue), on increasing fines against insurers up to $25,000 per violation, is set for a committee vote on Tuesday, against industry opposition. Sen. Kuderer’s SB 5798 on notice requirements for auto and homeowners insurance is also set for a vote Tuesday, but with an amendment requiring 30 days cancellation notice for auto, and 60 days for homeowners insurance, and an implementation delay to July, 2025. Also up for a vote is Sen. Kuderer’s SB 5806, providing confidentiality for data provided by insurers to the Commissioner, while industry concern over a loophole in the bill is being worked out. On wildfire risk, HB 1899 (Volz, R-Spokane Valley), allowing insureds a choice of building code when rebuilding after a wildfire loss, is up for hearing on Tuesday in the House Local Government Committee, while HB 2330 (Reeves, D-Federal Way), establishing a wildfire risk mitigation grant program and insurer disclosure and transparency requirements, is up for a hearing in the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee Wednesday. HB 2011 (Peterson, D-Edmonds) requiring appraisal clauses in auto policies and establishing a referee-style process for addressing disputes was heard in the House committee this past Tuesday, with the Senate companion, SB 6252 (Stanford, D-Bothell), is up for a hearing in the Senate committee on Tuesday. HB 1928 (Ryu, D-Shoreline), updating statutes governing service contracts, product protection guarantees and insurance reimbursement policies, was voted out of the House committee on Friday.
SB 6025 (Stanford, D-Bothell), the “Predatory Lender Protection Act,” appears to be the vehicle by which this measure may move this session. It was heard in the Senate committee on Tuesday and is set for a committee vote this coming Tuesday. Its House companion, HB 1874 (Walen, D-Bellevue), has not been scheduled for action. HB 2083 (Ryu, D-Shoreline) on payday lending, capping the APR at 36 percent, and modifying the definition of small loan, was originally scheduled for a committee vote on Friday but was pulled from the agenda for now. A relatively new bill, SB 5863 (Fortunato, R-Enumclaw), prohibiting credit reporting on delinquent accounts designated to a person in a divorce proceeding, is set for a public hearing in the Senate Business and Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, with the Office of Insurance Commissioner signaling that it will testify in support of the measure.
Civil Justice & Liability
SB 5059 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue) requiring pre-judgment interest on most tort claims from the time a cause of action accrues, is still in Ways & Means where it has not yet been scheduled for a vote. Industry effort is underway to keep the measure bottled up in committee. HB 1618 (Farivar, D-Seattle) eliminating statutes of limitation on childhood sexual abuse claims, was pulled from the House Rules Committee with a new amendment dropped to limit the effect of the bill to prospective-only elimination of the statute of limitations. With this amendment, the bill is expected to pass easily off the House floor, as early as this week.