Gavel for Sine Die
Gavel for Sine Die

A few min­utes ago, at mid­night, the one hun­dred and five day long ses­sion of the six­ty-sixth Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture was adjourned Sine Die, after a flur­ry of eleventh hour votes were cast on cru­cial bills on both sides of the Rotunda.

The House and Sen­ate were able to reach agree­ment on three bud­gets (oper­at­ing, cap­i­tal, and trans­porta­tion), a clean levy flex­i­bil­i­ty bill (ESSB 5313), and a host of oth­er impor­tant mea­sures before the clock ran out. (The Con­sti­tu­tion only gives the Leg­is­la­ture one hun­dred and five days for a long session.)

As a con­se­quence, there will not be a spe­cial ses­sion, as House Major­i­ty Leader Pat Sul­li­van had at one point cau­tioned there might need to be.

Leg­isla­tive lead­ers were jovial as the clock struck mid­night and the gavels fell. Leg­is­la­tors from both par­ties, exhaust­ed after many days of con­stant work, applaud­ed each oth­er and their staff for sev­er­al min­utes after midnight.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee was no less elated.

For his post-Sine Die media avail­abil­i­ty, he was flanked by a large con­tin­gent of leg­is­la­tors from both hous­es plus Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Cyrus Habib.

On near­ly every front, leg­is­la­tors deliv­ered impor­tant poli­cies to move our state for­ward,” Inslee said after the Leg­is­la­ture adjourned. “Every­one here should feel real­ly proud of the progress we made to put our peo­ple first, sup­port our grow­ing econ­o­my and help more peo­ple feel secure about their future.”

“In the two years since Democ­rats retook con­trol of the Sen­ate, we have worked hard to pass leg­is­la­tion that puts peo­ple first and ensures more peo­ple have access to a qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion, health care, clean air and water and cre­ate an over­all bet­ter qual­i­ty of life,” said Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Andy Billig.

“We fin­ished our work on time. We made sure diverse voic­es were heard through­out the leg­isla­tive ses­sion. And we will con­tin­ue to ensure every Wash­ing­ton­ian has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to succeed.”

“I am so proud of our team and the work we’ve done and what we’ve accom­plished for each and every Washingtonian.”

The Senate Democratic caucus
The Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus at the ros­trum of the cham­ber (Pho­to cour­tesy of the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic caucus)

“This is what putting peo­ple first looks like,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Timm Orms­by, D‑Spokane, chair of the House Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, in a state­ment hail­ing the com­ple­tion of the oper­at­ing budget.

“We’re mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant invest­ments in spe­cial edu­ca­tion and behav­ioral health, help­ing fam­i­lies stay in their homes and out of pover­ty, and expand­ing col­lege access and oppor­tu­ni­ty to more fam­i­lies across Wash­ing­ton,” Orms­by said.

With respect to rev­enue, leg­is­la­tors adopt­ed a pro­gres­sive real estate tax pro­pos­al which cuts tax­es for eighty per­cent of sell­ers while leav­ing the rate unchanged for an addi­tion­al eigh­teen per­cent. Rates will be increased for the remain­ing two per­cent sell­ing real estate val­ued at $1.5 mil­lion or higher.

Our favorite part of the Leg­is­la­ture’s 2019 rev­enue pack­age, though, is the busi­ness and occu­pa­tion tax increase on big banks. For too long, giant finan­cial insti­tu­tions have been allowed to avoid pay­ing their fair share in dues to our state. Thanks to the lead­er­ship of NPI’s Gael Tar­leton, the Chair of the House Finance Com­mit­tee, that is about to change. Well done, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tarleton!

Dis­ap­point­ing­ly, the Leg­is­la­ture did not approve a cap­i­tal gains tax on extra­or­di­nary prof­its, even though Gov­er­nor Inslee, the House Democ­rats, and the Sen­ate Democ­rats all intro­duced pro­pos­als to do so.

NPI research has con­tin­u­al­ly found robust sup­port among vot­ers for a cap­i­tal gains tax to fund our pub­lic schools, col­leges, and universities. 

We will con­tin­ue work­ing for adop­tion of a cap­i­tal gains tax on extra­or­di­nary prof­its dur­ing the inter­im and the upcom­ing 2020 short session.

The Leg­is­la­ture also failed to abol­ish the death penal­ty, repeal Tim Eyman’s push polls, and require pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to dis­close their tax returns in order to appear on Wash­ing­ton’s bal­lot due to inac­tion in the House of Representatives.

We believe these are all bills that can and should pass dur­ing the 2020 ses­sion under a new Speak­er, and we’ll push for each of them to get a vote.

We thank Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Kud­er­er for spon­sor­ing two of these three bills (push poll repeal, pres­i­den­tial trans­paren­cy) and get­ting them through the Senate.

Sen­a­tor Kud­er­er has shown tremen­dous lead­er­ship since she became a leg­is­la­tor. It’s an hon­or to be rep­re­sent­ed by her and to work with her.

We con­grat­u­late the Leg­is­la­ture on the many bills that did get to Gov­er­nor Inslee’s desk. The list is rather long. We are par­tic­u­lar­ly hap­py that the Leg­is­la­ture took action to make Wash­ing­ton’s pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry usable by both major par­ties.

The Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, which I am a mem­ber of, has already vot­ed to take advan­tage of the new pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry law.

This was the best ses­sion in NPI’s his­to­ry for progress on clean air, clean water, and clean soil. Because of the lead­er­ship of NPI’s Gael Tar­leton, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Joe Fitzgib­bon, and Sen­a­tor Reuven Car­lyle, Wash­ing­ton now has the smartest, strongest, one hun­dred per­cent clean elec­tric­i­ty bill in the coun­try (SB 5116).

But that’s not all.

Leg­is­la­tors also vot­ed to phase out a super pol­lu­tant known as hydro­flu­o­ro­car­bons (HB 1112) and raise build­ing effi­cien­cy stan­dards (HB 1257). Plus the Leg­is­la­ture approved an appli­ance effi­cien­cy bill (HB 1444), a trans­porta­tion elec­tri­fi­ca­tion bill (HB 1512), and a renew­able hydro­gen ener­gy bill (SB 5588).

An addi­tion­al three bills were passed to help Wash­ing­ton’s endan­gered south­ern res­i­dent orca pop­u­la­tion. More needs to be done to help the south­ern res­i­dents, but the leg­is­la­tion approved this year is a good start.

Ground­break­ing leg­is­la­tion on long term care, behav­ioral health, opi­oid treat­ment, and pub­lic health also passed this ses­sion. Gov­er­nor Inslee’s Cas­cade Care pro­pos­al will help shore up some of the weak­ness­es of our insur­ance sys­tem as we con­tin­ue to lay the ground­work to secure Medicare For All.

Our team is delight­ed hat the min­i­mum age to buy tobac­co in Wash­ing­ton is being raised to twen­ty-one and that the so-called “per­son­al exemp­tion” for the measles, mumps, and rubel­la vac­cine is being eliminated.

Anoth­er tri­umph was the pas­sage of Mike Pel­lic­ciot­ti’s cor­po­rate crimes bill (HB 1252). This bill (which increas­es the penal­ties for crimes com­mit­ted by cor­po­ra­tions for the first time since 1925!) did­n’t get to join the parade of good bills that got lib­er­at­ed from the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ grave­yard of progress last year.

This year, how­ev­er, it sailed out the Leg­is­la­ture with hard­ly any oppo­si­tion at all.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Pel­lic­ciot­ti scored anoth­er big win when the Leg­is­la­ture passed HB 1379. This leg­is­la­tion aims to end the nefar­i­ous prac­tice of using shell polit­i­cal action com­mit­tees to mask who is actu­al­ly fund­ing cam­paign advertisements.

“We won’t have full con­fi­dence in gov­ern­ment unless vot­ers have full trans­paren­cy in what spe­cial inter­ests are fund­ing our elec­tions,” said Pel­lic­ciot­ti on Earth Day when the mea­sure cleared the Leg­is­la­ture. He’s absolute­ly cor­rect and we thank him for get­ting this major reform across the fin­ish line. It will ben­e­fit us in 2020.

We also salute Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra — a North­west Pro­gres­sive Foun­da­tion board­mem­ber — for her exem­plary work on gun safe­ty, tax fair­ness, and behav­ioral health solu­tions this ses­sion. She has become a force in the Legislature.

Ear­li­er this month, Gov­er­nor Inslee signed three of Sen­a­tor Dhin­gra’s bills into law on the same day: SB 5162 (jury ser­vice qual­i­fi­ca­tions), SB 5207 (vot­ing rights noti­fi­ca­tion), and SB 5889 (insur­ance communications).

Sen­a­tor Dhin­gra is one of the most effec­tive new law­mak­ers Wash­ing­ton State has ever seen. Her work eth­ic is top notch, and she has demon­strat­ed that she knows how to get bills from con­cep­tion to com­ple­tion quick­ly. Huzzah!

Senator Manka Dhingra
Sen­a­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra: A force in the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture (State Sen­ate photo)

We also com­mend new leg­is­la­tors Sen­a­tor Emi­ly Ran­dall, Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son, Sen­a­tor Mona Das, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Debra Lekanoff, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Debra Enten­man, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive My-Linh Thai, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sharon Shew­make, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jared Mead, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Melanie Mor­gan, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lisa Callan, and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bill Ramos for their fine work this ses­sion. This is one of the most impres­sive, endear­ing group of fresh­men leg­is­la­tors we have ever seen.

The Leg­is­la­ture may have adjourned Sine Die, but the work goes on. The next ses­sion is only two hun­dred and fifty-nine days away. Dur­ing the inter­im, leg­is­la­tors will be work­ing hard to pre­pare bills and engage with constituents.

And that’s not all. In the House, a new leader will be select­ed, because House Speak­er Frank Chopp is step­ping down after twen­ty years in the role.

House Democ­rats have announced that a vote will be held to choose a new Speak­er on July 31st. NPI’s Gael Tar­leton is a can­di­date, as is House Major­i­ty Floor Leader Mon­i­ca Jura­do Stonier. Oth­ers are expect­ed to run as well.

Who­ev­er is cho­sen to suc­ceed Chopp by the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus will hold the title of Speak­er-des­ig­nate for almost half a year, since the House isn’t expect­ed to recon­vene until Jan­u­ary 13th, 2020, when the 2020 reg­u­lar ses­sion begins.

Hav­ing run a one hun­dred and five day marathon of sorts, many leg­is­la­tors will no doubt be tak­ing some time off to rest and recov­er. We wish them all the best.

We’re very hap­py that our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives will soon be get­ting a pay increase that makes their com­pen­sa­tion a bit clos­er to the medi­an income in Wash­ing­ton. Ser­i­al liar and chair thief Tim Eyman attempt­ed to over­turn that pay increase with a self-serv­ing ref­er­en­dum, but his effort has spec­tac­u­lar­ly implod­ed and thank­ful­ly will not be qual­i­fy­ing for the bal­lot.

Today is not Thanks­giv­ing — we’re prac­ti­cal­ly half a year away from that fine hol­i­day — but it feels like a good day to be giv­ing thanks. Much has been accom­plished this ses­sion, espe­cial­ly in the final hours. It’s a huge depar­ture from what we had become accus­tomed to dur­ing the Rod­ney Tom error.

Take a bow, leg­is­la­tors. You’ve moved Wash­ing­ton State forward.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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