Washington State Legislative Update – Week 5, February 11, 2024

Long days of floor action this week to be followed by a return to committees next week

Five weeks of session are now in the books, and with four weeks left until sine die, the pace in Olympia continues to pick up. Lawmakers have spent most of the past week in floor action in the House and Senate debating and voting on bills, following the February 5th fiscal committee cutoff, and in anticipation of the February 13th house of origin cutoff. Next Wednesday, committees head back into action to hear the opposite chambers’ bills with a February 21st deadline for policy bills to advance and February 26th for fiscal bills.

Here’s a summary of the top action this past week, and a look ahead to next week:

Artificial Intelligence

SB 5838 (Nguyen, D-West Seattle), creating the state AI task force at the Attorney General’s request, passed the Senate Thursday on a 31-18 vote. Its House companion, HB 1934 (Couture, R-Allyn), is in the House Rules Committee and could pop up before cutoff, but it appears likely the Senate version is the vehicle for this bill. Amendments accepted by Sen. Nguyen to add more private sector voices to the task force’s executive committee helped blunt industry opposition. Other AI-related bills in play include SB 6299 (Stanford, D-Bothell), prohibiting the non-consensual use of AI-generated voice or likeness of employees and the use of AI in certain employment decisions, currently in the Senate Rules Committee and HB 1999 (Orwall, D-Des Moines), prohibiting fabricated intimate images using AI, which passed the House Thursday on a unanimous vote.

Tax and Fiscal Policy

The biggest tax debate over the past week has been over SB 5770, tripling the cap on annual increases in local property tax levies from 1 percent to 3 percent. The bill was pulled from the Senate Rules Committee to the floor on Wednesday, and appeared poised for a vote. House and Senate Republicans then pulled out the stops in an earned media campaign contending that local government revenue is increasing under existing law, and an increase in property taxes would regressively hurt homeowners. Democratic co-sponsors of the measure began pulling their names from the sponsor list, and by Friday afternoon, press reports indicate the bill has been shelved for the year.

Transportation and Construction

SB 6040 (Valdez, D-Seattle), requiring prime contractors to quickly pay state-certified small, women, or minority owned subcontractors on public works projects, regardless of whether the prime has been paid for the project, encountered some drama on the Senate floor on Tuesday when it was pulled up for a vote. Having conceded in a proposed floor amendment that prime contractors should also benefit from prompt pay from public owners, Sen. Valdez and Democratic leaders set aside debate on the bill when it appeared that a handful of Republican floor amendments diluting the bill’s requirements might have been able to pass. Meanwhile, the Senate’s supplemental capital budget proposal, SB 5949, is expected to be announced this week, with a public hearing in the Ways & Means Committee set for Thursday.

Business Regulation

Although the proposal hit a roadblock in the Senate last week, the House may move forward on rent control this session, with HB 2114, passed from the Appropriations Committee to the Rules Committee to the floor. The current form of the bill caps residential rent and fee increases at 7 percent per year. HB 1889 (Walen, D-Bellevue), providing a path to professional licensure in many occupations for individuals regardless of immigration status, passed the House on a 66-31 vote on Friday. HB 1648 (Reeves, D-Federal Way), implementing regulations on the sale, resale, and transfer of tickets to sporting and entertainment events, cleared the Appropriations Committee by cutoff, but has idled for now in the House Rules Committee.

Labor & Employment

SB 5924 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue), a hotly contested bill empowering employees to obtain personnel records and sue if they’re not quickly provided, died at cutoff in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. 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, passed the House 63-34 on Thursday. SB 5793 (Saldana, D-Seattle), expanding reasons for covered leave under the state’s paid sick leave law to include declared public emergencies, passed the Senate on a 28-21 vote on Wednesday and is scheduled for a hearing and vote in the House Labor Committee this coming week. SB 5778 (Keiser, D-Des Moines) banning workplace “captive audience” meetings about union organizing activities passed the Senate 28-20 on Wednesday.

Social Insurance

The business community is fully engaged in efforts to stop or limit SB 5777 (Keiser, D-Des Moines) and HB 1893 (Doglio, D-Olympia), providing unemployment insurance benefits to workers who go on strike during a labor dispute. While momentum for the measure slowed this week in the Senate, the House vehicle continues to move closer to a floor vote, with a key issue being whether the cost of the benefits would be socialized across all employers paying into the UI system, or experience rated against the employer whose workers go on strike. In Long Term Care, SB 6072 (Keiser, D-Des Moines), creating a regulatory structure for supplemental long term care products, remains in the Rules Committee, with only two more days of Senate floor action before cutoff. Among the proposals for creating a state-run retirement program, SB 6069 (Mullet, D-Issaquah), creating an auto-IRA proposal for covered employers and employees, was pulled from the Rules Committee on Friday, and may receive floor action Monday.

Insurance

SB 5798 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue), extending notice requirements for auto and homeowners insurance cancellation, passed the Senate unanimously on Wednesday, and heads to the House for consideration. SB 5806, also by Sen. Kuderer, providing confidentiality for data provided by insurers to the Commissioner is set for a public hearing in the House on Wednesday, having previously passed the Senate. HB 2330 (Reeves, D-Federal Way), ordering an interim task force study on wildfire risk mitigation, grants, and underwriting transparency, was pulled from the House Rules Committee late Friday and awaits a floor vote. HB 2329 (Macri, D-Seattle) requiring the Commissioner perform a market study for property and liability insurance cost and availability for low-income housing providers; remains in the House Rules Committee, with some disagreement over the extent and availability of the data required by the study. HB 1928 (Ryu, D-Shoreline), updating statutes governing service contracts, is in the House Rules Committee.

Financial Services

The “Predatory Lender Protection Act,” SB 6025 (Stanford, D-Bothell), passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday, with an amendment that essentially makes any effort to avoid the requirements of the Consumer Lending Act a violation of the act; it is now in the House for consideration. Meanwhile, 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, passed the House unanimously on Thursday.

Civil Justice & Liability 

SB 5059 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue) requiring pre-judgment interest on most tort claims from the time a cause of action accrues, died at cutoff on Tuesday, having failed to emerge from the Senate Ways & Means Committee for the second year in a row. Meanwhile, HB 1618 (Farivar, D-Seattle), removing the statute of limitations on tort claims for childhood sexual abuse, but on a prospective-only basis, is now set for a vote in the Senate Law & Justice Committee this coming Thursday.

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