Legislative Update: Week 1

Week Overview

General Update

The legislature convened for the 2021 legislative session on Monday, January 11th. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislature will be convening virtually with just a few exceptions of leadership in each chamber when needed and a few members with limited broadband access being allowed to work from Olympia under strict social distancing rules. No members of the public will be allowed access to the legislative. Before proceeding to virtual session, the legislature did have to come in-person to Olympia on the first day of session to pass rules allowing for session to occur virtually. Members had to be masked and maintain adequate social distancing from each other at all times. Plexiglass had also been installed on the dias as an added safety measure. In addition, the first day of session was also marked by a strong national guard presence in anticipation of mobilization from protesters. All in all, it was an opening session unlike any we have seen before.

With the procedural votes taken, the rest of session – committee hearings and floor sessions – will take place online. There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with this. So much of passing legislation and budgets comes from side conversations and negotiations in the gallery and hallways (lobbyists got that name for a reason!). But everyone is working diligently to make sure we can get the most pressing issues of the year passed. Some top priority issues before the legislature will include police reform, COVID-19 response and economic recovery, housing and homelessness, child care, and diversity, equity & inclusion.

On Wednesday, Governor Inslee delivered his Inaugural AddressedDuring his speech the governor said that now is a time for “relief, recovery and resilience.” State Representative Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, then gave the Republican perspective on the 2021 legislative session.

Leaders from the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses gathered Wednesday for a virtual press conference to discuss the 2021 legislative session. The Democratic leaders addressed a variety of topics, including what bills will take precedence this session, when significant floor action will begin, efforts to change laws surrounding gubernatorial emergency powers, and vaccine distribution. Republicans, who are in the minority party in both legislative houses, also held media availability to discuss their respective priorities for session.

Click here to watch this week’s TVW Week in Review, which provides a good wrap-up of the past week in Olympia.

Session Primers

As we go through session, we will periodically do brief primers on things related to session and the legislative process. We often use jargon and things move very quickly, so our goal with these primers is to help you better understand what is going on in Olympia as we go along. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Once bills get scheduled for a hearing, committee staff typically do a ‘bill digest’ and a ‘bill report’. These are very helpful tools to use as you review and analyze bills, especially the bill report, which provides background on the issue and usually a more in-depth summary of the legislation than the ‘bill digest’ document. These can all be found in the ‘Legislative Documents’ section of a bill page. If nothing is listed under those headings, then staff has not yet prepared them.


We are fortunate to have a really great resource in Washington with TVW. This a website and an app where you can watch most things related to session including committee hearings and floor sessions. If you know when a bill is scheduled, you can watch that hearing live by going to the ‘Schedule’ and finding the hearing you are looking for. If you missed being able to watch something live, or if you want to go back and watch it again, you can go to the ‘Archives’ and search for the hearing or floor action you want to watch. TVW also does shows that highlight some of the activity in Olympia each week. Legislative Review airs daily during session and also has a weekly wrap-up on Fridays (we always include the link to the weekly wrap-up in the report). Inside Olympia with Austin Jenkins provides weekly in-depth interviews with legislators and other state leaders. And The Impact provides weekly episodes that highlight big issues being discussed in Olympia. We try to highlight some of the interesting and relevant pieces from these shows when applicable, but you can always go and find them online to watch each week.

TVW's video will also be embedded on the legislative website, leg.wa.gov. Select the "Agendas, Schedules and Calendars" link, and navigate to the Committee Schedules, Agendas, and Documents page. TVW's video icon is right there with every legislative hearing, just click and watch. It's never been this easy to follow your State Legislature on TVW. You can also watch hearing in sped-up time up to 2x. When watching a hearing, just click on the settings button (gear at the bottom of the video box), click the word ‘speed’ at the top, and then select the speed you want. This will help make some of those long hearings go by a little faster!

Priority Areas


Gov budget

The Governor’s proposed budget (HB 1094/SB 5092) was heard in the respective budget committee for each chamber this week. Governor Inslee released his proposed 2021-23 biennial operating, transportation, and capital budgets on December 17th. After making necessary adjustments to account for enrollment, caseload and other rising costs, the governor’s proposed 2021-21 operating budget increases appropriations from funds subject to the outlook by 7.7% compared to the enacted 2019-21 budget, bringing appropriations to $57.849 billion. Of the proposed amount, $1.737 billion would be new policy items (as opposed to maintenance level funding). The key investment areas in Governor Inslee’s budget focused on COVID-19 recovery; commitment to diversity, equity & inclusion; and Governor Inslee’s climate commitment. The proposed budget was heard in the House Appropriations committee on January 14th and Senate Ways & Means on January 12th.

Business Impacts

Paid Family Medical Leave

Rep. Berry introduced HB 1073, which modifies the eligibility threshold for benefits from a minimum of 820 hours worked to a minimum of $1,000 earned. It also expands the job protection provisions by removing the employer size and employee hours worked threshold, and by revising the employment length threshold from 12 month to 90 days. The employer must also maintain existing health benefits during Paid Family Medical leave for any employee covered by the Paid Family Medical Leave job protection provisions. The bill was heard in the House Labor & Workplace Standards committee on January 15th.

Sen Robinson introduced a similar bill, SB 5097, with the same changes to the job protection provisions and health benefits. SB 5907 does not change to the eligibility threshold but does change the definition of a family member to include any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with a covered individual is the equivalent of a family member. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs committee on January 18th.

Taxation of governmental financial assistance programs during an emergency proclamation

Rep. Walen introduced HB 1095, which provides a B&O tax, a public utilities tax, and a retail sales tax exemption for a qualifying grant received on or after February 29, 2020, that is related to a national or state emergency proclamation. "Qualifying grant" is defined as an amount received, or relief from debt or other legal obligation received that is received under a government-funded program to address the impacts of conditions giving rise to an official proclamation of a state of emergency by the President or by the Governor. The bill was heard on January 14th and is scheduled for executive session on January 19th in the House Finance committee.

Climate Change and the Environment

Greenhouse gas emissions

Rep. Fitzgibbon and Sen. Stanford introduced HB 1091/SB 5231 on behalf of the Governor, which directs the Department of Ecology to adopt rules establishing a Clean Fuels Program to limit the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission per unit of transportation fuel energy to 10% below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20% below 2017 levels by 2035. Ecology is also directed to update the Clean Fuels Program rules to further reduce GHG emission from each unit of transportation fuel for each year through 2050, consistent with statutory state emission reduction limits. HB 1091 was heard on January 14th and is scheduled for executive session on January 21st in the House Environment and Energy committee.

Clean Air Act

Rep. Pollet has introduced HB 1057 legislation that proves that, within the Clean Air Act's definition of "air pollutant," the term "enjoyment of life and property" may include a person's use or enjoyment of a public park, public recreational facility or trail, or publicly owned commons of any municipal government or state agency. HB 1057 was heard in the House Committee on Environment & Energy on January 12th.


The Department of Commerce has responded to the ongoing housing crisis exacerbated by the pandemic by providing $30 million to counties for quarantine, isolation, shelter distancing and sanitation. It is estimated that 30,000 households have been assisted with the $100 million in rent assistance the Department of Commerce has provided to counties to prevent evictions through December 2020. The Census Bureau Pulse Survey estimates 12% of Washington renters (127,329 households) are not caught up on rent payments and it would cost $151 million to cover one month of unpaid rent in Washington. The Department of Commerce estimates $500 million in rent assistance from the Federal COVID relief bill enacted in December and the implementation date is unclear at this time.

Local Government option for funding essential housing programs

Sen. Lovelett introduced SB 5012, which authorizes local government to levy a special excise tax up to 10% on internet-based short-term rentals and use those revenues for operating and capital cost of affordable housing programs including homeless housing assistance, temporary shelters, and other related services. The bill was heard on January 13th in the House Housing and Local Government committee.

Condominium construction

Sen. Padden introduced SB 5024, which exempts condominiums with 10 or fewer units and no more than two stories from the requirement to submit building enclosure design documents and obtain periodic inspections throughout the course of construction. It also allows deposit funds for purchase of a unit to be used for construction costs. The bill was heard on January 12th, amended and passed on January 14th in the Senate Law and Justice committee. The amended bill clarifies statutory limitations that apply to earnest money deposits for real estate conveyances do not apply to deposits for the purchase of a unit in a condo community. It has been passed to the Senate Rules committee for further consideration.


Elway Poll

In a new Crosscut/Elway poll, voters favored only 1 of 4 tax measures lawmakers are considering.

  • 51% of voters were in favor of a payroll This was the only revenue proposal to poll with a majority of voters in support.
  • 47% of voters were in favor of a plan to enact a statewide cap-and-trade program, which is designed to limit greenhouse gas
  • 41% of voters surveyed said they support enacting a new tax on capital gains. That polling is lower than in past years. For example, in January 2015, 58% of those surveyed said they favored a capital gains
  • 36% of voters said they would support a plan to tax health insurance companies, called a ‘covered lives tax’.

Pollster Stuart Elway said the poll results could indicate “it’s going to be tough sledding for the governor’s agenda” at the state Capitol this year.

Capital gains

Sen. Robinson introduced SB 5096, which imposes a 9% capital gains tax beginning January 1, 2022 on earning above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for joint filers. The tax would not apply to residential dwellings along with the land upon which the dwelling is located; assets held in a retirement account; assets transferred as part of a condemnation proceeding; livestock related to farming or ranching; agricultural land that meets certain requirements; certain types of property used in a trade or business such as machinery and equipment that have been immediately expensed; capital assets acquired and used only for purposed of a trade or business of a sole proprietorship; and timber and timberlands. The bill was heard on January 14th in the Senate Ways and Means committee.

Covered Lives

Rep Riccelli and Sen. Robinson introduced HB 1201/SB 5149, which would impose a tax on health insurance plans in Washington. The tax assessed is $3.25 per member per month on health carriers, Medicaid managed care organizations, and third-party administrators. The covered lives assessment is estimated to be $143 million for fiscal year 2024 and $200 million for fiscal year 2025 and each fiscal year thereafter ($400 million biennially). Revenue collected under this proposal is deposited in the foundational public health services account. The bill is at the request of the Governor. HB 1201 has been referred to the House Finance committee and SB 5149 has been referred to the Senate Health & Long Term Care committee. Neither has been scheduled for a hearing yet.


The transportation committees in both chambers received an update on the Governor’s 2021-23 transportation budget. The Governor’s $10.8 billion transportation budget prioritizes investments in clean green transportation, fish passage barrier removal, preservation, safety, and equity. Both transportation committees have 11 bills each and that includes the budget bills.

Looking Ahead

Rep. Jake Fey, House Transportation chair, will hold a press conference on Tuesday, January 19th at noon to unveil the House Democrats transportation revenue package. The press conference will be broadcast on TVW.

This week will see more public hearings, work sessions, and movement of bills out of committee.

Upcoming Dates:

  • February 15th - House of Origin Policy Cutoff
  • February 22nd - House of Origin Fiscal Cutoff
  • March 9th - House of Origin Floor Cutoff
  • March 26th - Opposite House Policy Cutoff
  • April 2nd - Opposite House Fiscal Cutoff
  • April 11th - Opposite House Floor Cutoff
  • April 25th - Sine Die

Coronavirus Updates

Vaccine Distribution

On January 6th, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released guidance for the next phase of COVID-19 vaccination. The department worked closely with the Governor's Office to finalize prioritization for Phase 1B. This phase is broken up into four separate tiers. The different tiers of phase 1 are summarized in this helpful graphic. DOH has said we will move into the next phase (1B) sooner than expected. The hastening of the state’s plan comes as the federal government called for governors to allow anyone 65 and over, or anyone at risk of severe complications from COVID-19, to get the vaccine.

In a letter sent Friday, eight Democratic governors called on the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release COVID-19 vaccine doses that are currently being held back to help ensure second doses are ready for those who have received their first. Governors Jay Inslee was among the governors who signed the letter. The letter references recent reporting which had indicated the federal government was holding over 50% of its vaccine stock to make sure second doses will be available. However, recent news stories have revealed that the vaccine reserve was already exhausted when the Trump administration vowed to release it earlier last week.

Federal Updates

The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reopened this past week. This program is part of the Economic Aid Act, additional COVID Relief passed in late December. Nonprofits including both 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(6) organizations are eligible. First draw PPP loans opened Monday, January 11, and second draw PPP loans opened Wednesday, January 13. Read guidance from the SBA here.

Governor Announcements and Proclamations

Both the House and Senate passed SCR 8402, which extends certain gubernatorial orders issued in response to the COVID-19 state of emergency. The proclamations are extended until the termination of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 State of Emergency or until rescinded by gubernatorial or legislative action. A list of the proclamations extended can be found on pages 3-4 of the bill report. The measure passed the Senate with a vote of 28 to 19 and the House with a vote of 54 to 44. Since these are concurrent resolutions (not a bill) that passed both chambers, they do not require the Governor’s signature and are now in effect.

Senate Republicans denied the extension of two proclamations in a Jan. 4 letter. The proclamations not extended include Proclamation 20-58 waives/suspends the legal requirement that employers pay shared work benefits and Proclamation 20-63 directs DSHS to expand the Family Emergency Assistance Program to assist individuals and families without children (as opposed to focusing only on those who have children). These two proclamations were not included in SCR 8402 and therefore are no longer in effect.

Other Guidance and Announcements

The Department of Health has announced that all regions will remain in Phase 1 until at least Monday, Jan. 25th based on Gov. Jay Inslee’s Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan. As outlined in the governor’s COVID-19 phased recovery plan, regions must meet each of the following four metrics in order to move into Phase 2.

  • Decreasing trend of 10% or more in two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100k
  • Decreasing trend of 10% or more in two-week rate of new COVID-19
  • Less than 90% Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
  • COVID-19 test positivity of less than 10%.

DOH will reassess all the metrics each week and announce any changes to current phase status every Friday. For more detailed information on where each of the eight regions fall with regards to the four metrics visit the DOH website. Read the full news release here.

State Data – County Phases and COVID-19 Case Count

The current number of coronavirus cases in Washington is 285,970, including 3,903 deaths.

Bellevue Chamber Bill Status Report

Bill # Abbrev. Title Short Description Status Sponsor
HB 1073 Paid leave coverage Expanding coverage of the paid family and

medical leave program.

H Labor & Workpl Berry
HB 1091 (SB 5231) Transportation fuel/carbon Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by

reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuel.


H Env & Energy




HB 1093

(SB 5091)

Operating budget, 2nd


Making 2019-2021 fiscal biennium second

supplemental operating appropriations.

H Approps Ormsby
HB 1094

(SB 5092)

Operating budget


Making 2021-2023 fiscal biennium operating


H Approps Ormsby




HB 1095





Emergency assistance/tax

Concerning the taxation of governmental financial assistance programs addressing the impacts of conditions giving rise to a gubernatorial or presidential emergency proclamation by creating state business and occupation tax and state public utility tax exemptions, a sales and use tax exemption for the receipt of such financial assistance, and clarifying the sales and use tax obligations for

goods and services purchased by recipients of such financial assistance.





H Finance






HB 1097 (SB 5090) Worker protections Increasing worker protections. H Labor & Workpla Sells
HB 1098 (SB 5061) Unemployment insurance Concerning unemployment insurance. H Labor & Workpl Sells
HB 1135 (SB 5165) Transp. budget 2021-


Making transportation appropriations for the 2021-2023 fiscal biennium. H Transportation Fey
HB 1136 (SB 5166) Supp. transportation budget Making 2019-2021 supplemental transportation appropriations. H Transportation Fey
HB 1137 Road maintenance/planning Elevating road maintenance and preservation in transportation planning. H Transportation McCaslin
HB 1151 Public assistance Bolstering economic recovery. H Hous, Human Svc Leavitt

HB 1157


Housing supply

Increasing housing supply through the growth management act and housing density tax

incentives for local governments.


H Local Govt




HB 1188


B&O tax payment deferral

Providing a business and occupation tax payment deferral to address the economic

impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses in the state.


H Finance



HB 1189 (SB 5211) Tax increment financing Authorizing tax increment financing for local governments. H Finance Duerr
HB 1204 Transp. electrification Concerning the electrification of transportation. H Transportation Macri

HB 1228

Landlord- tenant/COVID-19 Addressing residential landlord-tenant

requirements in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.



HB 1232 GMA/affordable housing plans Planning for affordable housing under the growth management act.   Barkis
HB 1241 Growth management act plans Planning under the growth management act.   Duerr
HB 1243 Local infra. project areas Addressing local infrastructure project areas.   Wicks


HB 1249


Transp. project tax revenues

Concerning sales tax revenues of transportation projects being used for transportation purposes with at least 70 percent being deposited into the motor vehicle






SB 5061

(HB 1098)



Concerning unemployment insurance. S Labor, Comm & Keiser
SB 5062 Data Concerning the management, oversight, and

use of data.

S Environment, E Carlyle
SB 5090

(HB 1097)

Worker protections Increasing worker protections. S Labor, Comm & Keiser
SB 5091

(HB 1093)

Operating budget, 2nd


Making 2019-2021 fiscal biennium second

supplemental operating appropriations.

S Ways & Means Rolfes
SB 5092

(HB 1094)

Operating budget


Making 2021-2023 fiscal biennium operating


S Ways & Means Rolfes
SB 5096 Capital gains tax Concerning an excise tax on gains from the

sale or exchange of certain capital assets.

S Ways & Means Robinson
SB 5097 Paid leave coverage Expanding coverage of the paid family and

medical leave program.

S Labor, Comm & Robinson
SB 5114 Reopening/public


Concerning safely reopening Washington. S State Govt & E Braun
SB 5115 Health


Establishing health emergency labor


S Labor, Comm & Keiser
SB 5126 Climate commitment


Concerning the Washington climate

commitment act.

S Environment, E Carlyle
SB 5130 Personnel files &


Concerning employee's rights concerning

personnel files and disciplinary actions.

S Labor, Comm & Kuderer

SB 5138

Financial instit./B&O tax Eliminating a business and occupation tax

deduction for financial institutions to fund affordable housing.


S Business, Fina



SB 5139 Rent increases, limiting Limiting rent increases after expiration of the governor's eviction moratorium. S Housing & Loca Das
SB 5141 Env. justice task force recs Implementing the recommendations of the environmental justice task force. S Environment, E Saldaña
SB 5152 Vehicle and driver data Enhancing data stewardship and privacy protections for vehicle and driver data. S Transportation Nguyen


SB 5156


Budget stabilization approps

Making expenditures from the budget stabilization account to address issues of homelessness, home security, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on small




S Ways & Means






SB 5160



Landlord-tenant relations

Addressing landlord-tenant relations by providing certain tenant protections during and after public health emergencies, providing for legal representation in eviction cases, and

authorizing landlord access to state rental assistance programs.



S Housing & Loca




SB 5162 Unanticipated revenue Concerning unanticipated revenue. S Ways & Means Rolfes
SB 5165

(HB 1135)

Transp. budget 2021-


Making transportation appropriations for the

2021-2023 fiscal biennium.

S Transportation Hobbs
SB 5166

(HB 1136)

Supp. transportation


Making 2019-2021 supplemental

transportation appropriations.

S Transportation Hobbs
SB 5171 Unemployment


Providing unemployment insurance relief. S Ways & Means Wilson
SB 5214 Economic assistance


Concerning economic assistance programs. S Human Svcs, Re Nguyen
SB 5223 Motor vehicles sales

tax use

Dedicating the sales tax on motor vehicles to

highway uses.

S Ways & Means Fortunato


SB 5231 (HB 1091) Transportation fuel/carbon Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by

reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuel.


S Environment, E



SB 5232 Toll revenue bonding Limiting bonding toll revenues on certain state highway facilities. S Transportation King
SB 5235 Housing options & limits Increasing housing unit inventory by removing arbitrary limits on housing options. S Housing & Loca Liias
SB 5238 Creative economy work group Creating a Washington state creative economy work group. S Business, Fina Hasegawa
SB 5243 Engineered plan approval Creating efficiency in housing by streamlining approval of engineered plans. S Housing & Loca Gildon


SB 5251



Tax and revenue laws

Modifying tax and revenue laws in a manner that is not estimated to affect state or local tax collections, by easing compliance burdens for taxpayers, clarifying ambiguities, making technical corrections, and providing

administrative efficiencies.




SB 5256 (HB 1204) Transp. electrification Concerning the electrification of transportation.   Liias

SCR 8402

Emergency orders extension Extending certain gubernatorial orders issued in response to the COVID-19 state of emergency.  

H Adopted 3rd