OLYMPIA, Wash. — The next legislative session begins Monday, Jan. 10, in Olympia.
The session started Monday at noon with four Democratic Senators working from home after testing positive for COVID: Senators Andy Billig, John Lovick, Mark Mullet, and Jasmin Trudeau.
Lawmakers will have 60 days to convene and pass new laws or change old ones before the session adjourns on March 10.
Bills are pre-filed in the month before the session begins. Then they're assigned to a committee, where leadership can decide to amend a bill, substitute it or present it to the house as-is. Many bills don't make it past the committee phase.
Bills must also make it through a rules committee, second reading and third reading before they get passed.
Here are some bills that have been pre-filed for this year's legislative session:
Democratic Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins said Monday as the session got underway that police reform measures passed last year may be changed to allow for the use of force and police chases in more situations.
When asked if Democrats went too far with the measures, which have been criticized by police, Jinkins responded:
“Anytime you're going to pass really sweeping legislation you always going to have to come in and perfect it, try and find the right balance. I think that's what we're trying to do this year."
But House Minority Leader, Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, disagrees.
“Oh, they absolutely went too far. The problem was in that the legislature wasn't functioning the way it was supposed to,” said Wilcox.
A number of bills were pre-filed related to law enforcement:
HB 1588 - Restoring the authority of a peace officer to engage in a vehicular pursuit when there is reasonable suspicion a person has violated the law and the officer follows appropriate safety standards.
HB 1588 would repeal parts of HB 1054 passed in 2021, which, among other sweeping changes to Washington's use of force laws, put restrictions on when police could engage in a vehicle pursuit of a suspect.
HB 1054 required officers to have probable cause the person in the vehicle was committing a violent offense, an escape offense or a sex offense, or reasonable suspicion that the driver was under the influence.
HB 1588 would repeal that amendment to state law, allowing officers to initiate a pursuit if it becomes "necessary for the purpose of identifying or apprehending the person," or "the person poses an imminent threat to the safety of others and the safety risks of failing to apprehend or identify the person are considered to be greater than the safety risks associated with the vehicular pursuit under the circumstances."
HB 1589 - Concerning the authority of peace officers to use physical force.
HB 1589 would alter use of force standards for law enforcement officers in the state of Washington previously set by HB 1310, which passed in 2021.
In part, HB 1310 allows officers to use force against another person in order to "protect against criminal conduct" when there is probable cause and to prevent an escape.
HB 1589 would amend state law so officers would no longer need probable cause to use force when protecting against criminal conduct. Officers would also be allowed to use force to take a person into custody.
HB 1735 - Modifying the standard for use of force by peace officers.
HB 1735 would also ammend state use of force standards established by HB 1310. The new bill would allow officers to use force to take a person into custody to provide assistance, which was a common complaint among law enforcment agencies after 1310 went into effect.
Law enforcement agencies claimed the new use of force laws limited their ability to take those experiencing a behavioral or mental health crisis into custody to receive aid. The bill's sponsor called law enforcement agencies' claims "blown out of proportion," adding agencies needed to de-escalate behavioral health calls instead.
HB 1735 would also allow law enforcement officers to use force in order to take a minor into protective custody and execute or enforce a court order.
Long-term care fund amendments
The long-term care fund passed in 2019, establishing the first long-term care fund for residents of Washington state, ensuring $36,500 for residents to use on long-term care expenses after a 10-year-period of paying into the program.
The program roused strong opposition and was even delayed by Gov. Jay Inslee in December in order to give the legislature time to make changes to it.
Jinkins said to expect lawmakers to delay the implementation of the Washington Cares Fund, a law forcing residents to save for long-term care.
Jinkins said legislators needed more time to find ways for people who live out of state, but who work in the state to opt-out. Exemptions could be made available to military spouses as well, said Jinkins.
She said the state is also exploring letting those who are closer to retirement to be able to benefit from the program.
Several bills regarding the long-term care act were pre-filed for consideration by lawmakers:
HB 1596 - Authorizing the availability of benefits from the long-term services and supports trust program for qualified individuals who reside outside of Washington.
HB 1596 would broaden the scope of the long-term care fund to include some qualified residents living in other states. The bill would also establish criteria for eligibility of those residing outside of Washington. Beneficiaries would have to receive the approved services in Washington state.
The bill would address a common complaint related to the long-term care fund. The current law would have those who work in Washington but live in other states like Idaho and Oregon, pay the tax like Washington residents. However, as the bill is currently written, they would not be able to qualify for the $ 36,500-lifetime benefit, even after paying into the fund for the required ten years.
HB 1597 - Establishing an exemption from the payment of premiums to the long-term services and supports trust program based on hardship.
HB1597 would allow some Washington state residents to be exempt from contributing to the long-term care fund based on income.
If a resident's income does not exceed 300% of the federal poverty guidelines, adjusted for family size, they may submit an application for an exemption to the employment security department. The long-term services and supports trust commission may also recommend other circumstances that qualify as hardship for the employment security department to consider.
HB 1598 - Concerning the payment of benefit units in the long-term services and supports trust program upon the death of a qualified individual.
HB 1598 would pay out the unclaimed cash value of the long-term care benefits that belonged to a qualified person who has passed.
The value of the benefit would be distributed to a designated beneficiary.
Any person who paid into the fund for at least three years, and worked at least 500 hours during each of those years, would be eligible to have their unused benefits paid out to their beneficiaries following their deaths.
HB 1599 - Establishing an exemption from the payment of premiums to the long-term services and supports trust program for recent graduates.
HB 1599 would allow recent graduates to apply to opt-out of the long-term care tax.
Beginning in 2023, anyone who graduated from high school or a two-year or four-year institution of higher education would have three years to acquire private long-term care insurance and submit an attestation to the employment security department.
Anyone who does so would be qualified for a refund of any money they paid into the tax. Those who apply for exemptions would be permanently ineligible for coverage under the long-term care tax.
HB 1594 - Repealing the long-term services and supports trust program.
HB 1594 would repeal the long-term care fund and all of its associated committees and amendments to Washington state law.
HB 1602 - Completing outstanding financial obligations regarding the Tacoma Narrows toll bridge project.
HB 1602 would pay the outstanding debts from the construction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
The proposed legislation would pay off the debt nearly a decade early by spending $672 million for outstanding principal and interest, $57 million for deferred sales tax on construction and $43 million loaned by the state to freeze toll rates.
The proposal would remove all tolls from the bridge within two years.
HB 1608 - Identifying and removing barriers to employment with the Washington state ferries.
HB 1608 would identify, remove or amend provisions in existing collective bargaining agreements with Washington State Ferries (WSF) workers that may be creating unintentional barriers to hiring and retaining a more diverse workforce. Reviewed provisions would include seniority, work assignments and work shifts.
WSF has struggled to maintain its usual schedules due to challenges with understaffing and COVID-19. The organization is in the process of replacing 150 employees lost through retirements, or resignations after Washington's vaccine mandate went into effect. The ferry system said it is moving to a year-round hiring system after it previously only hired once a year.
HB 1620 - Relating to responding to extreme weather events
HB 1620 would establish a grant program to help local governments effectively respond to extreme weather events.
The costs related to establishing heating or cooling centers, purchasing water, staffing, transporting individuals to heating or cooling centers or any other costs deemed "necessary for life safety during a 7 period of extremely hot or cold weather" would be eligible for reimbursment from the grant program.
Jurisdictions would be required to prove "a lack of local resources to address community needs" and that the costs were incurred for the benefit of vulnerable populations, including individuals with disabilities, individuals without vehicles, older adults, individuals with low incomes or experiencing homelessness, and individuals with limited English proficiency.
Missing Indigenous women and people
HB 1725 - Concerning the creation of an endangered missing person advisory designation for missing indigenous persons.
HB 1725 would direct the Washington State Patrol to establish a missing children and endangered person's database and a toll-free telephone hotline intended to share information with local law enforcement, the department of children, youth and families, school districts and the general public about missing children and endangered persons.
The database would be used to distribute pictures, bulletins, training sessions, reports and biographical materials that would assist law enforcement with efforts to find missing children and endangered persons.
The state patrol would also maintain a regularly updated link with national and statewide missing person systems or databases, and develop a plan which includes "missing indigenous women and person alert" designations for cooperation between local, state, tribal and other law enforcement agencies, state government agencies, radio and tv stations and social media pages to allow the public to assist in recovering abducted children and missing endangered persons.
HB 1758 - Relating to increasing the penalty for hazing
HB 1758 would increase the penalty for hazing from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, and hazing that causes substantial bodily harm to another person would result in a class C felony.
The bill would also be known as the "Sam's law act," referring to Sam Martinez, a Washington State University student who died of acute alcohol intoxication after taking part in a pledge event.
The Pullman Police Department attempted to charge two students with hazing in relation to Martinez's death. However, hazing is currently only a misdemeanor charge in Washington, with a one-year statute of limitations, which had lapsed by the time the department completed its investigation.
Housing and Homeless Shelters
Sibling bills are being introduced in the Senate and House that are aimed at creating more middle housing in areas zoned for single-family housing, especially in areas with major transit stations.
The bill establishes zoning changes that have been pushed forward in certain areas to create more affordable housing statewide. In 2019, Tacoma adopted zoning changes for about 1,500 parcels of land, allowing middle housing in areas that were zoned for single-family homes.
Middle housing, as defined in the bill, includes “duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, fiveplexes, sixplexes, stacked flats, townhouses and courtyard apartments.”
The bill would require cities with a population of 20,000 people or more to allow these types of housing on all residential lots zoned for single-family housing within a half-mile of major transit stops, which are described as ferry terminals, most bus stops and any commuter rail or fixed guideway system stops.
Additionally, these cities would have to allow duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes on all other single-family residential lots.
For cities looking to opt-out of the second requirement, an alternative provided in the bill lays out the following condition:
Cities with a population of at least 500,000 can alter local zoning to allow an average minimum density equal to 40 housing units or more per acre across the entire city’s “urban growth area.”
For cities with a population of 100,000-500,000 residents can alter zoning to allow an average minimum density equal to 30 housing units per acre.
A city with a population of 20,000-100,000 residents can alter zoning to allow an average minimum density equal to 25 housing units per acre.
Cities that choose the alternative zoning changes will also have to demonstrate that the changes will not result in “racially disparate impacts, displacement or further exclusion in housing.”
The House bill was filed by representatives Jessica Bateman, Nicole Macri, Liz Berry, Joe Fitzgibbon, Cindy Ryu and Laurie Dolan. The Senate bill was filed by senators Mona Das and Patty Kuderer.
SB 5591 - Providing certain limitations on uses and demographics for certain emergency housing and shelters.
As cities and counties in the state continue buy up empty hotels and motels for use as emergency shelter and transitional housing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate Bill 5591, looks to limit the use and demographics of those allowed to stay in those shelters.
While hotels bought under these programs, like King County’s “Health Through Housing” initiative to buy up empty hotels to quickly stand up supportive housing, are geared towards anyone in the community who finds themselves in need of housing and wraparound services, Fortunato's bill looks to limit those individuals' conditions.
Should the bill pass, these supportive housing programs and their services would be limited to the following:
- Persons with diabilities experiencing hoemlessness
- Families experiencing homelessness, including pregant women
- Persons at 60 years old experiencing homelessness
Other individuals that do not fit these criteria would need to pay up to 30% of their annual median income toward rent or provide at least 24 hours of community service.
Additionally, their stays would be limited to no more than 90 days except between November and February.
The bill also requires that these types of supportive housing programs provide "employment, mental health, drug counseling service, and job 3 training opportunities and services."
King County's Health Through Housing program has already bought eight former hotels and looks to create up to 1,600 units of housing for homeless individuals.
Pierce County has also mirrored the initiative recently by purchasing the Comfort Inn on S. Hosmer Street in Tacoma and converting it to supportive housing. The property can house up to 120 people.
KING 5 reporter Drew Mikkelsen contributed to this report.