That’s a wrap, folks!
Minutes ago, the 2020 Washington State Legislature adjourned Sine Die (meaning, with no expectation of returning) in Olympia, having voted out a slew of budget/fiscal bills and honored more than a dozen lawmakers from both parties who are retiring from legislative service after many years.
The House’s final legislative act was passage of an amended bill to double funding for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) response from $100 to $200 million.
“With the passage of [Engrossed] House Bill 2965, a total of $175 million will be directed to state and local public health agencies and the remaining $25 million will be transferred into the newly created COVID-19 unemployment account to help businesses and workers disrupted by the pandemic,” the Senate Democratic caucus announced in an end-of-session press release.
“It’s crucial that the people of Washington have the full support of the Legislature behind them during these challenging times,” said Senator Christine Rolfes (D‑23rd District), Chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee.
“Even after we leave Olympia today, we will be collaborating closely with Governor Inslee’s office to ensure they have the resources and authority they need.”
“I am so proud of the work we’ve done on behalf of the people of this state, but all of our thoughts right now are with the people and communities across Washington impacted by the coronavirus and with the public health professionals who are working around the clock to stop its spread,” said Senator Andy Billig.
“The budget we passed today addresses the needs we saw coming into session as well as those that unfolded in recent weeks,” added Billig, who serves as Majority Leader. “The steps we have taken this year, and really for the past three years, leaves our state in a strong position to combat this outbreak.”
EHB 2965 passed without any opposition in both chambers.
The final Senate roll was as follows:
3rd Reading & Final Passage as Amended by the Senate
Yeas: 48; Excused: 1
Voting Yea: Senators Becker, Billig, Braun, Brown, Carlyle, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Das, Dhingra, Ericksen, Fortunato, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hobbs, Holy, Honeyford, Hunt, Keiser, King, Kuderer, Liias, Lovelett, McCoy, Mullet, Muzzall, Nguyen, O‘Ban, Padden, Pedersen, Randall, Rivers, Rolfes, Saldaña, Salomon, Schoesler, Sheldon, Short, Stanford, Takko, Van De Wege, Wagoner, Warnick, Wellman, Wilson (Claire), Wilson (Lynda), Zeiger
Excused: Senator Walsh
The final House roll call was follows:
Final Passage as Amended by the Senate
Yeas: 96; Excused: 2
Voting Yea: Representatives Appleton, Barkis, Bergquist, Blake, Boehnke, Caldier, Callan, Chambers, Chandler, Chapman, Chopp, Cody, Corry, Davis, DeBolt, Dent, Doglio, Dolan, Duerr, Dufault, Dye, Entenman, Eslick, Fey, Fitzgibbon, Frame, Gildon, Goehner, Goodman, Graham, Gregerson, Griffey, Hansen, Harris, Hoff, Hudgins, Irwin, Jenkin, Johnson, J., Kilduff, Kirby, Klippert, Kloba, Kraft, Kretz, Leavitt, Lekanoff, Lovick, MacEwen, Macri, Maycumber, McCaslin, Mead, Morgan, Mosbrucker, Orcutt, Ormsby, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Pellicciotti, Peterson, Pettigrew, Pollet, Ramel, Ramos, Riccelli, Robinson, Rude, Ryu, Santos, Schmick, Sells, Senn, Shewmake, Slatter, Smith, Springer, Steele, Stokesbary, Stonier, Sullivan, Sutherland, Tarleton, Thai, Tharinger, Valdez, Van Werven, Vick, Volz, Walen, Walsh, Wilcox, Wylie, Ybarra, Young, Jinkins
Excused: Representatives Paul, Shea
The Washington State Constitution restricts sessions held in even numbered years to a maximum of sixty days. Sessions in odd-numbered years can last twice as long… up to one hundred and five days. From 2013–2017, when Republicans controlled the Washington State Senate, the Legislature regularly went into overtime (special session) to hash out budgets, but this practice ended following the election of State Senator Manka Dhingra in late 2017.
The Legislature adjourns having adopted a number of bills that our team at the Northwest Progressive Institute worked hard for, especially the Reusable Bag Bill and comprehensive sexual health education. The Legislature also passed bills sponsored by NPI’s Gael Tarleton to strengthen election security and compensate the counties for election costs in even numbered years.
Another win was the VOTE Act, which allows seventeen year olds who will be eighteen by a general election vote in presidential primaries or Top Two elections.
Some of our other favorites include:
- House Bill 2390 (Respecting People with Disabilities in our RCWs)
- Senate Bill 5165 (Barring Discrimination Against New Americans)
- House Bill 1793 (Authorizing Traffic Safety Cameras)
- Senate Bill 6208 (Authorizes Bicyclist Yields at Stop Signs)
- House Bill 2588 (Accountability for Obscure Special Districts)
- House Bill 2602 (Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Hairstyle)
- House Bill 1251 (Election Security Consultations)
- House Bill 1261 (Prohibiting Suction Dredging)
- House Bill 2311 (Updating Climate Pollution Reduction Goals)
- Senate Bill 6312 (Helps Nonprofits Keep Fundraising Proceeds)
With all that said, the Legislature also once again decided to hit the procrastinate button and defer taking needed actions to protect Washington’s fiscal health.
The House and Senate approved a supplemental transportation budget that doesn’t address the giant hole Tim Eyman’s I‑976 would create if it ultimately goes into effect. (The initiative is on hold and has been since last November.)
The budget does un-freeze some projects that Governor Inslee’s office had paused in the wake of I‑976’s passage, but otherwise, it does not respond to I‑976. A legal challenge to the measure’s constitutionality is ongoing; the measure was ruled partially unconstitutional today by Judge Marshall Ferguson.
The two chambers also neglected to adopt any substantive progressive tax reform measures this session, leaving Washington even more reliant on the sales tax as an all-in-one funding mechanism for everything from public schools to transit to foster care to Disability Lifeline to Apple Health and behavioral health.
What happens if our current public health crisis triggers a recession and sales tax revenue falls off a cliff? The fiscal hole that a significant recession creates may not be patchable with the money that’s currently in the Rainy Day Fund. And federal assistance may or may not be forthcoming.
Then there is the issue of equity.
How much longer do low and middle income Washingtonians have to wait for the Legislature to act to fix our upside down tax code?
How much longer do local leaders have to wait for progressive revenue options that they badly, sorely, desperately need to escape being chained to reliance on sales taxes and property taxes, both of which have gotten very high?
And how much longer can rural communities hold everything together? They’re slowly being choked to death by old Tim Eyman initiatives the Legislature inexplicably refuses to repeal and replace.
There were other missed opportunities, as well.
The House has, confoundingly, still not voted to repeal the state’s unconstitutional and inactive death penalty statute. The Senate voted to get it off our books for a third consecutive year, but the House never followed suit.
69% of Washingtonians support life in prison alternatives to the death penalty — a finding we announced almost two years ago — but the House, even under new management, did not take up the cause.
The Legislature also failed to repeal Tim Eyman’s push polls, which means there will be more Eyman propaganda on this year’s general election ballot.
Two other areas where the Legislature fell short were climate justice and gun safety. The House and Senate didn’t approve a bill to give the executive department clear authority to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases. Governor Inslee’s clean fuels legislation also died in the Washington State Senate again at the hands of Transportation Chair Steve Hobbs.
A bill to ban high capacity magazines, meanwhile, could not overcome the opposition of gun enthusiasts in both parties.
Governor Jay Inslee voiced the same mix of sentiments — happiness and frustration — in a statement reflecting on the session.
“I am pleased the Legislature agreed with my plan to tackle homelessness and provide sheltering for some of our most vulnerable people. There was good progress made on a number of fronts during this supplemental budget year,” Inslee said at a media availability. “However, I am disappointed that the Legislature failed to act on other important pieces of climate legislation as well as public safety legislation that would have reduced gun violence in Washington.”
“While I wish they would have gone farther on a number of important issues, I thank the Legislature for their work on behalf of Washingtonians.”
So now, with much accomplished and much left unaddressed, the 2020 interim begins. The Legislature does not have an “off season” — legislators planning to return next January will be taking constituent meetings, serving on task forces, and developing bills in the months leading up to the 2021 session.
But not everyone will be returning.
As mentioned above, around a dozen incumbent lawmakers have announced that they won’t seek reelection this year, including Sherry Appleton, Richard DeBolt, Eric Pettigrew, Chris Klduff, Maureen Walsh, and Randi Becker.
Others are leaving to run for higher office, including Mike Pellicciotti, NPI’s Gael Tarleton, and Beth Doglio. Jared Mead is on the verge of moving from the state level to the local level as a finalist for a Snohomish County County vacancy.
And some incumbents who are running again are facing intraparty challenges, including Frank Chopp, Zack Hudgins, and as of today, Mark Mullet.
The 2018 midterms produced a Legislature that was more diverse than ever before, but still contained many veteran lawmakers. In 2020, the institution seems poised to undergo yet another transformation. And that’s a good thing.
The Legislature needs more senators like Manka Dhingra and Joe Nguyen. It needs more representatives like Debra Lekanoff and My-Linh Thai. It needs boldness and courage to overcome its stubborn, bad institutional habits of procrastination and taking the path of least resistance on fiscal matters.
Will the people of Washington deliver? We’ll find out this autumn.