TVW Update

Legislative Highlights | April 19-23

Monday, April 19

April 19th marked the beginning of the last week of the 2021 legislative session. Our coverage started with a hearing by the House Appropriations Committee, which held a public hearing to discuss Senate Bill 5126, also known as the Climate Commitment Act.

Requested by Governor Jay Inslee, the bill aims to limit emissions across the state via a cap and trade program–a system designed to curb carbon or greenhouse gas emissions, by setting a limit on the allowable emissions produced by corporate entities, utilizing allowances and offset credits for businesses. Revenue from the ‘cap and trade’ system will benefit the state’s General Fund, the Working Families Tax Credit, as well as projects to address the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), like clean transportation and green energy programs, among others.

The bill was scheduled for an executive session at a later date.

Also on the committee’s agenda was Senate Bill 5476, a complex and contentious bill that addresses the Washington State Supreme Court’s ” State Vs. Blake” ruling that decriminalized personal possession of certain amounts of drugs.

The bill, which was amended on the Senate floor last week, brings back criminal penalties for drug possession in the wake of the Blake decision — but makes such possession a misdemeanor, rather than a felony as it was before the Supreme Court decision.

The bill also requires that a person be knowingly in possession of drugs in order for them to be convicted.

However, when these criminal penalties expire in July of 2023–they will then go from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, with a fine set at $125.

The bill also has a focus on treatment, requiring courts to divert first- and second-time drug possession offenders into treatment programs.

The committee voted on whether the bill moves forward to the House floor at a later date.

Meanwhile, state senators also gathered on the floor April 19th to discuss concurrence on House amendments to several Senate bills. One of them was Senate bill 5118–an act concerning the successful reentry of juvenile offenders.

The Senate put the bill to a final vote and received 33 yeses and 16 nos. Having received Senate concurrence, it moves forward to the Governor’s office.

In the evening of April 19th, state senators convened for a floor debate to discuss a number of bills. One of them, was House Bill 1477–which aims to establish a national 988-crisis hotline to adress behavioral health crises and suicide prevention. The hotline would be funded by an excise tax on certain telecommunications services — which will mean an additional monthly charge on Washingtonians’ cell phone bills. The House passed the bill on March 17th with 78 yes votes and 18 opposed.

On April 19th, the bill passed out of the Senate floor with 27 in favor and 22 opposed. It goes back to the House for further review of amendments.

Tuesday, April 20th

The House Appropriations Committee reconvened for an executive session Tuesday, April 20th, on Senate Bill 5126, (Climate Commitment Act. ) After gathering 19 votes in favor and 14 opposed, the bill passed out of committee and was slated for debate on the House floor.

On the Senate floor, minority Republicans made what’s called a “Ninth order” motion — asking that the Senate go to the Ninth Order of business and pull to the floor Senate Bill 5039, which would subject all gubernatorial emergency orders to legislative approval after thirty days.

After an exchange between Senators Marko Liias and Shelly Short, the motion was defeated along a mostly party line vote.

Wednesday, April 21st

The House Appropriations Committee reconvened for an executive session Wednesday, April 21st, to go over the highly-contentious Senate Bill 5476 (“Blake Bill”).

During the executive session held April 21st, Democratic Representative Nicole Macri and Republican Representative Skyler Rude shared their remarks about the bill before voting on passing it out of committee.

After receiving a majority vote (19 in favor and 14 opposed), the bill passed out of committee and is headed to the House floor for debate.

State senators also convened on April 21st to vote on the concurrence of several Senate bills that have been amended by the House. One of them, Senate Bill 5051–is an act that aims to increase police accountability by expanding the background check requirements for police and corrections officer applications. It also modifies the processes by which an officer is certified and de-certified, and alters the composition of the Criminal Justice Training Commission to accommodate community input.

The Senate voted on the passage of the bill as amended by the House, and received concurrence on a 27-22 vote. It’s also slated for the Governor’s office.

Senate Bill 5051 is one of a package of bills passed by the legislature this year focused on police accountability.

The Senate moved on to discuss Senate Bill 5304-concerning reentry services for individuals facing release from state or local institutions.

The bill requires the Health Care Authority to provide the full reinstatement of Medicaid benefits to those incarcerated or committed to a mental health institution upon their release from confinement. The bill passed out of the Senate in early March with a unanimous vote; and out of the House earlier this month with 74 in favor and 23 opposed.

The bill received bipartisan support and is also slated for the governor’s approval.

In the afternoon of April 21st, the House convened for a floor debate on the highly-contentious Capital Gains Tax Bill. Senate Bill 5096 aims to impose a 7% tax on the sales of high-valued assets, such as stocks and bonds–with profits in excess of $250,000. The tax will fund child care and education in the state. Exempt from the tax are retirement funds, all real estate, agricultural resources such as farmland, livestock and timber, as well as qualified family-owned businesses, among others.

The bill passed out of the Senate early March by a difference of 1 vote–25 in favor and 24 opposed. After several hours of debate, the House took a vote.

It received 53 yes votes and 45 no votes and will go back to the Senate for concurrence. A key remaining battle between the House and Senate over the Capital Gains Bill is whether it is subject to a referendum vote on a statewide ballot.

Thursday, April 22nd

Legislators met Thursday, April 22nd, to discuss final agreed-upon negotiations by both chambers on Senate Bill 5237–which was subject to approval or disapproval, after review of what’s called a ‘conference committee report’ on the bill. The bill proposes a major expansion of state support of child care and funds the Fair Start For Kids Program, which provides daycare subsidies for parents who qualify.

It also funds child care and early learning, decreases co-payments in the Working Connections Child Care Program, provides support and services for child care and early learning providers, and increases Prenatal-to-Three program support for providers and families.

A total of 65 representatives voted to pass the bill forward while 32 opposed it. Later in the day, the Senate also gave its final approval to the bill by a vote of 27 to 22 — and with that, the bill heads to the Governor’s office.

The House also voted on the concurrence of several bills that have been amended by the Senate Thursday–one of them, was House Bill 1168–which aims to reduce wildfires and improve long-term forest health. The bill aims to back this effort with a $500 million funding spread out over the next eight years, dedicated to various forest health and wildfire response activities.

House Bill 1168 received bipartisan support–it passed unanimously out of the house in March and the Senate earlier this month.

It also unanimously received the final vote needed to move the bill forward. The next step is to receive the Governors’ signature.

Friday, April 23rd

With just two days left until the end of session, senators convened Friday, April 23rd to discuss final negotiations on a number of bills–one of them, house bill 1054–is an act concerning police accountability, tactics and equipment used during arrests. House Bill 1054 is a highly-contentious bill that passed out of the house in late february, and has been amended in both chambers earlier this month. In its original form, the bill proposed to end police use of chokeholds and neck restraints, off-leash dogs, shooting during hot pursuits, military equipment, tear gas, and no-knock warrants.

The current bill, as amended, maintains its prohibition of neck restraints and chokeholds, the acquisition of certain military equipment; and courts from issuing a search/arrest warrant that exempts officers from providing notice.

But instead of prohibiting the use of off-leash dogs, the bill now aims to require the Criminal Justice Training Commission to create a model policy and work group for training, to include the use of canine teams. With consideration to a recent striking amendment proposed by the conference committee, the bill now also regulates the use of tear gas–allowing it only after an elected official authorizes it.

The bill also sets limits to when an officer may engage in hot pursuit or fire at a moving vehicle while doing so. it also requires that officers display their identification clearly.

The bill passed on a near-total party line vote (28-20). It also heads to the Governor’s office.

The House moved on to discuss yet another police accountability bill that gained traction during this session–House Bill 1310–which proposes a new statewide standard limiting the use of physical force. It also requires the Attorney General to develop new policy on use of force and de-escalation.

The original version of the bill allowed the use of tear gas when necessary, which contradicted the striking amendment from the previous bill, House Bill 1054.

Likewise, the conference committee eliminated this provision from House Bill 1310– among one other change– which expands the provision of when use of force is allowed. After receiving 26 yes votes and 23 opposed, like the other bills, it is also headed to the Governors’ office for approval.

The 2021 legislative session ends Sunday, April 25. to watch full coverage of your state legislature — live and afterward in the TVW archive — visit www.tvw.org.

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