UWPNW Washington Legislative Update - February 16, 2021

Monday, February 15, was the first committee deadline for voting out bills. In this all-virtual session, the pace of legislation creation has slowed with roughly half the number of bills introduced this year of previous sessions. From here on, only bills that have passed a committee can continue to be considered, unless the bill is budget related.

Senate Ways & Means Consider Eviction Protection Bill with Mediation Pilot
Last week, the Senate Committee Housing and Local Government approved SB 5160 with some amendments on a party line vote. The Senate Committee on Ways and Means was scheduled to hear the bill on Tuesday (Feb. 16). The bill provides certain tenant protections that limit evictions and non-renewal of leases for up to two years after expiration of a public health emergency such as the current public health declaration regarding COVID-19. The bill provides some exceptions but also builds on a pilot eviction resolution program authorized by the Washington State Supreme Court last September. This pilot is active in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, Clark and Thurston counties where Dispute Resolution Centers in those counties provide conciliation and mediation services to address rent disputes between tenants and landlords in collaboration with civil legal aid, rental assistance organizations and the Superior Court. You can show your support for SB 5160 here.

Will Working Family Tax Credit New Tax Revenue Get Funded This Year?
There appears to be growing bi-partisan support for the long-established but never funded Working Family Tax Credit. The House Committee on Finance approved HB 1297 with only one dissenting vote. The bill is now before the House Appropriations Committee. Register your support for HB 1297 here. Currently, the state’s Tax Credit law calls for a rebate for qualifying households based on the federal tax credit. This new legislation would simplify the tax credit, providing a $500 credit or rebate per eligible person and an additional $150 for each dependent child up to three. One issue of contention is the expansion of the program under the bill to cover those without Social Security numbers but who pay taxes using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). The argument for this is that working people, regardless of their citizenship status, pay state taxes and struggle under the same economy.

Omnibus Early Learning and Child Care Bill Moves Through Committees
The Fair Start for Kids Act continues to move through the process in both the state Senate and House. The Senate Committee on Ways and Means held a public hearing SB 5237 on Tuesday and is scheduled to vote on the bill this Thursday, Feb 18. The House Committee on Appropriations also heard its companion bill HB 1213 on Tuesday and is scheduled to vote this week on the bill. As these bills move through the process, attention is turning to how to fund this essential investment in our state’s public infrastructure. HB 1496 would establish a capital gains tax and direct half the proceeds from that new revenue source to funding the Fair Start act. Another version of the capital gains tax, SB 5096 is silent on how the additional revenue would be spent -- at least so far. The Senate Committee on Ways and Means considers this bill this week.