Legislature enters first turn as committees race to cutoff deadline
The session is now one-third over, and with nearly 1,200 new bills introduced, there is still tremendous action in the policy committees. These committees need to wrap up their work on bills by Wednesday at 5:00 p.m., with fiscal committees following a short few days later on February 5th. From there, lawmakers will be on the floor daily, debating and passing bills through the House of Origin cutoff on February 13th.
Here’s a summary of the top action this past week, and a look ahead to next week:
All six citizen initiatives to the Legislature have now been officially certified to the Legislature. As previously reported, they are: 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; and I-2124, allowing opt-out of the state’s long term care insurance program. It is highly unlikely the Legislature will adopt any of the proposals, but majority Democrats are widely known to be poll-testing potential alternatives to some of the measures, particularly around taxation, and may develop alternative proposals that would appear on the November ballot alongside the citizen initiatives.
HB 1951 (Shavers, D-Oak Harbor), the algorithmic discrimination ban, is effectively dead for the session. Still moving, and likely to ultimately pass, is SB 5838 (Nguyen, D-West Seattle), creating the state AI task force at the Attorney General’s request. As passed out of the Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee, it is now a task force run by a state agency-appointed executive committee, with subcommittees of interested stakeholders. The elimination of direct industry involvement, along with tight reporting requirements through late 2025, have drawn industry opposition. It is now before the Senate Ways & Means Committee, with a public hearing set for Tuesday. Its companion, HB 1934 (Couture, R-Allyn), which takes a slightly different approach to task force composition, is probably not going to emerge from the House Consumer Protection & Business Committee by cutoff. The same committee did, however, pass out a memorial to Congress, HJM 4005 (Reeves, D-Federal Way), embracing the Biden administration’s blueprint for an “AI Bill of Rights.” Finally, a bill intersecting AI and labor law, SB 6299 (Stanford, D-Bothell), prohibits the non-consensual use of AI-generated voice or likeness of an employee as well as the use of AI in certain employment decisions. It has a hearing Monday with a possible vote out of committee scheduled for Tuesday.
Tax and Fiscal Policy
On Wednesday, the Senate passed SB 5334 (Lovelett, D-Anacortes) on a mostly party-line 29-20 vote. The bill authorizes local governments to impose an excise tax of up to 10 percent on short-term rentals such as Airbnb, with the revenue raised to fund affordable housing programs and homelessness outreach. The bill also passed the Senate last
session, but died in the House.
Transportation and Construction
HB 2196 (Berg, D-Tacoma) would lower the blood alcohol concentration limit for legally operating a motor vehicle from .08 to .05 percent, and received a public hearing in the House Community Safety, Justice & Reentry Committee on Thursday, with a vote set for this coming Tuesday. It has provoked concerns from the hospitality industry over negative impacts on restaurants and diners. In construction, the Senate State Government and Elections Committee has a vote set on Tuesday for SB 6040 (Valdez, D-Seattle), the “prompt pay” bill for state-certified small, women, or minority owned or disadvantaged businesses who are subcontractors on public works projects.
HB 1889 (Walen, D-Bellevue) providing a path to professional licensure in many occupations for individuals regardless of immigration status popped back up on the Consumer Protection & Business Committee’s executive session agenda and was voted out on Friday, with an amendment adopted to pull in a variety of additional licensed professions. HB 1648 (Reeves, D-Federal Way), implementing regulations on the sale, resale, and transfer of tickets to sporting and entertainment events was also voted out of the same committee Friday, with a variety of amendments adopted. It now goes to the House Appropriations Committee. SB 6081 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue) would require all consumer contracts, including, problematically, insurance contracts, to be written in plain language is now set for a vote in the Senate Law & Justice Committee on Tuesday. SB 5988 (Trudeau, D-Tacoma) and its companion, HB 2095 (Alvarado, D-West Seattle), cracking down on retail gift cards, appears dead for the session after drawing strong opposition from the business community.
Labor & Employment
SB 5924 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue), allowing employees to request personnel records and sue if they’re not provided, was voted out of Senate Labor & Commerce on Tuesday, and was referred to Ways & Means for further consideration. HB 1905 (Mena, D-Tacoma), expanding the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunity Act by adding protected classes and opening a pathway to sue for violations, is awaiting action before the House Appropriations Committee. SB 5793 (Saldana, D-Seattle), expanding reasons for leave under the state’s paid sick leave law, is now in the Senate Rules Committee, and is moving toward the Senate floor. 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 are heading toward floor votes in their respective chambers, with the House version in the Rules Committee and the Senate version on the Senate floor.
In addition to the “captive audience” bill above, the other marquee fight between business and labor this session is SB 5777 (Keiser, D-Des Moines) and HB 1893 (Doglio, D-Olympia), providing UI benefits to striking workers. The Senate vehicle is on the Senate floor, while the House version is headed to the Rules Committee. In workers’ compensation, SB 5932 (Stanford, D-Bothell), the companion to HB 1927 (Bronoske, D-Lakewood), increasing access to time loss benefits during the three day waiting period after an injury, receives a hearing in Senate Labor & Commerce on Tuesday, while the House version sits in the Rules Committee. In Long Term Care, SB 6072 (Keiser, D-Des Moines), creating a regulatory structure for supplemental long term care products, had a hearing in the Senate Labor Committee Thursday, with a vote set for this coming Tuesday. Finally, HB 2244 (Reeves, D-Federal Way) and SB 6069 (Mullet, D-Issaquah), creating a state-run auto-IRA program for employers and employees, were heard Tuesday in the House Consumer Protection and Business Committee and Senate Ways & Means Committee, respectively. The Senate vehicle is set for a February 2 vote, while the House version could receive a committee vote on Tuesday. It is unclear how it may relate to HB 2437 (Santos, D-Seattle), establishing a state-run multi-employer plan (MEP) for retirement savings, which is also set for a committee vote on Tuesday. There is some talk of merging the two approaches on the House side, but the details of such a plan are murky.
At Tuesday’s executive session in Senate Business, Financial Services, Gaming & Trade, SB 5797 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue), on increasing fines against insurers up to $25,000 per violation, was set down, while Sen. Kuderer’s other two bills advanced with industry-supported amendments. SB 5798 on notice requirements for auto and homeowners insurance was amended to require 30 days cancellation notice for auto, and 60 days for homeowners insurance, and an implementation delay to July, 2025. It may be in for additional work to separate commercial policies. SB 5806, providing confidentiality for data provided by insurers to the Commissioner, also moved with an industry amendment to remove a loophole. On wildfire risk, HB 1899 (Volz, R-Spokane Valley), received a vote in the House Local Government Committee on Friday, but with an amendment adopted to remove a problematic provision allowing insureds a choice of building code when rebuilding after a wildfire loss. Work continues on HB 2330 (Reeves, D-Federal Way), establishing a wildfire risk mitigation grant program and insurer disclosure and transparency requirements. In a proposed amendment set for consideration on Tuesday, the disclosure piece is removed and a grant program is set up at the Department of Natural Resources, spurring a discussion over which agency, DNR or OIC, is the appropriate home for the program. Neither HB 2011 (Peterson, D-Edmonds) requiring appraisal clauses in auto policies and establishing a referee-style process for addressing disputes, nor its Senate companion, SB 6252 (Stanford, D-Bothell), appear posed to move by the policy cutoff, but the issue may be teed up for interim discussions. HB 1928 (Ryu, D-Shoreline), updating statutes governing service contracts, product protection guarantees and insurance reimbursement policies, is in the House Rules Committee and is moving closer to a floor vote. Finally, SB 5963 by Sen. Kuderer is up for hearing in the Senate Law & Justice Committee on Monday, with a committee vote already scheduled for Tuesday. This controversial measure requires all firearm owners to maintain property coverage insuring against loss from the use of a firearm, and all brokers and producers to inquire whether a new or renewing policyholder owns a firearm.
Both versions of the “Predatory Lender Protection Act,” SB 6025 (Stanford, D-Bothell) and HB 1874 (Walen, D-Bellevue), were initially scheduled for committee action this past week, but both have been deferred to scheduled votes on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. HB 2083 (Ryu, D-Shoreline) on payday lending, capping the APR at 36 percent, and modifying the definition of small loan, does not appear to be moving this session. SB 5863 (Fortunato, R-Enumclaw), prohibiting credit reporting on delinquent accounts designated to a person in a divorce proceeding, received a public hearing in the Senate Business and Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, but with an alternative version that changed the requirement from a prohibition to a requirement to list both parties in a divorce proceeding on a credit report. It is not scheduled to move.
Civil Justice & Liability
HB 1618 (Farivar, D-Seattle) appears to be on the fast track, having passed the House on a 93-0 vote on Thursday, and a public hearing in the Senate Law & Justice Committee already scheduled for Tuesday. As amended by the House, this bill removes the statute of limitations on tort claims for childhood sexual abuse, but on a prospective-only basis. 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.