Washington State Legislative Update – Week of March 3, 2024

Four days remain in session as legislators speed toward on-time adjournment March 7th

This past week saw the last two major bill deadlines of session, with the opposite house fiscal committee deadline on Monday, and the opposite house floor deadline on Friday. Lawmakers saved some of the session’s most controversial items until later in the week, using significant floor time to pass firearms and prescription drug related measures and a potential beginning of the end of natural gas service in the Puget Sound area. Hotly contested bills to allow unemployment benefits for workers on strike and crack down on mergers and acquisitions by private health care systems were on tap for Friday’s deadline but didn’t make it out on time.

In the coming 96 hours, the focus will be on reconciling the three supplemental budgets, considering three citizen initiatives, and ironing out differences between the chambers on amended bills still moving.

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

Elections

Another retirement announcement came this week as former House Republican leader J.T. Wilcox, R-McKenna, told colleagues he would be retiring after 14 years in the House. This follows last week’s announcements by Rep. Jacqueline Maycumber, R-Republic, that she would be leaving to run for Congress, and Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, retiring after 24 years in the Legislature. Stay tuned for more potential shakeups in the session’s final week.

Initiatives

The three citizen initiatives under consideration, I-2111, banning state and local income taxes, I-2113, rolling back restrictions on police pursuits, and I-2081, increasing parental rights in public education, were each heard in joint House and Senate committee hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday and then voted out of their respective committees on Friday. They are set for debate and likely passage on the House and Senate floor Monday. Most commentators see this as a tactical move on the part of majority Democrats, who don’t necessarily support the initiatives’ policies but want to focus energy on the more politically volatile tax-related measures they are pushing forward to the November ballot.

Taxes & Budget

While the supplemental operating budget proposals under negotiation do not rely on new taxes to balance, all eyers remain on HB 2276 (Berg, D-Tacoma), creating a new 1 percent transfer tax on the sale of real estate over $3 million. Stalled in the House Rules Committee, the bill faces a steep climb in the final days of session, but housing advocates have not given up on the estimated $130 million per year in new revenue the tax could generate for affordable housing projects.

Artificial Intelligence

Some intrigue this week will involve House and Senate efforts to come together on the composition and focus of the proposed AI task force. SB 5838 (Nguyen, D-West Seattle), passed off the House floor Thursday on a 68-28 vote, but not before picking up a series of amendments in the Appropriations Committee that aligned the bill more with the task force vision contained in the previous House vehicle. There remains some distance between the Senate and House on how much private industry representation should be on the task force’s executive committee, as well as what specific issues the task force should focus on, and on what reporting timelines.  The bill now awaits further action in the Senate which the Senate has two options – they can concur with the House approach and then the bill will go to the Governor or they can refuse to concur and then the bill will go back to the House where they are confronted with either insisting on their House position or they can recede from the amendments and the bill will revert back to the version that was passed over from the Senate.  Ultimately if the two chambers can not agree on the approach, a conference committee will be appointed of six members, three from each chamber including two from the majority party and one from the minority party.

Transportation and Construction

Bills in this area clearing the opposite chamber deadline this past week include SB 6040 (Valdez, D-Seattle), the public works “prompt pay” bill, which passed the House unanimously on Friday after the Capital Budget Committee amended it down to a study by the Capital Projects Advisory Review Board. SB 6277 (Liias, D-Mukilteo), setting up a statutory framework for public-private partnerships to help address cost issues in transportation projects, did not make it off the House floor by Friday. SB 6316 (Pedersen, D-Seattle), extending tolls on the SR 520 corridor and allowing sales and use tax deferrals on scheduled improvement projects, passed off the Senate floor Wednesday on a 47-2 vote and is before the House Transportation Committee as a potential element of the transportation budget reconciliation.

Business Regulation

Of the few remaining issues touching upon business operations, HB 2114 (Alvarado, D-West Seattle), the House’s rent control bill capping residential rent and fee increases at 7 percent per year, died on Monday after failing to emerge from the Senate Ways & Means Committee. HB 1889 (Walen, D-Bellevue), meanwhile, providing a path to professional licensure in many occupations for individuals regardless of immigration status, passed off the Senate floor on Tuesday with a 41-8 vote. It heads to the Governor’s office for signature.

Labor & Employment

HB 1905 (Mena, D-Tacoma), expanding the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunity Act by adding new protected classes for pay and career advancement protections passed off the Senate floor 36-13 on Tuesday and heads to the Governor’s desk. Also on Tuesday, 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, passed off the House floor 76-19 and heads to the Governor. SB 5778 (Keiser, D-Des Moines) banning workplace “captive audience” meetings about union organizing activities, passed the House 55-41 on Thursday. 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, cleared the House on Tuesday and heads to the Governor for signature.

Social Insurance

HB 1893 (Doglio, D-Olympia), providing four weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to striking workers, provided one of the session’s biggest cliffhangers, as it headed for a Senate floor vote. Despite a major last-minute push by organized labor, it failed to come up by Friday’s deadline. In Long Term Care, SB 6072 (Keiser, D-Des Moines), creating a regulatory structure for supplemental long term care products and allowing employees who move out of state to continue premiums and coverage, was shelved this week in favor of the functionally equivalent HB 2467 (Macri, D-Seattle), which passed the Senate on a 27-21 vote Thursday. SB 6069 (Mullet, D-Issaquah), creating an auto-IRA proposal for covered employers and employees, made it off the House floor right before cutoff Friday afternoon on a 57-39 vote after a successful motion for reconsideration allowed a handful of lawmakers to switch to a no vote. The program design was significantly changed in the House to allow private sector options, and it goes back to the Senate for reconciliation this week. In workers’ compensation, HB 2382 (Berry, D-Seattle), expanding death benefits for transportation network company (TNC) drivers, passed the Senate Wednesday 32-17, but with amendments adopted requiring a trip back to the House. HB 1927, reducing the amount of time required to pick up time loss waiting period benefits, passed the Senate 33-16 on Friday, and heads to the Governor. HB 2127, a Labor & Industries request bill to expand return to work benefits and incentives, passed the Senate unanimously on Thursday and heads to the Governor.

Insurance

SB 5798 (Kuderer, D-Bellevue), extending notice requirements for insurance cancellations, passed the House unanimously on Friday, but was amended to remove auto policies. It now goes back to the Senate for concurrence. Earlier in the week, SB 5806, also by Sen. Kuderer, providing confidentiality for data provided by insurers to the Commissioner, passed the House unanimously Wednesday and heads to the Governor. HB 2330 (Reeves, D-Federal Way), ordering an interim task force study on wildfire risk mitigation, grants, and underwriting transparency, didn’t make it off the Senate floor by cutoff. 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, passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday. Finally, SB 5652, allowing registered tow truck operators access to insurance payment for clearing roadway hazards, passed the House unanimously on Friday and heads to the Governor.

Financial Services

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 Senate 47-1 on Thursday and heads to the Governor’s office.

Civil Justice & Liability

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. Earlier in the week, 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 the Senate unanimously on Tuesday and heads to the Governor for signature.

About PIA Western Alliance

The Professional Insurance Agents Western Alliance is a membership organization promoting and enhancing the success of independent agencies seeking to grow, learn and be heard within the industry.


PIA WESTERN ALLIANCE VALUES OUR STERLING PARTNERS

More Industry News