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.”
“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.
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.
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!
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.