United Ways of Washington Legislative Update 2023 - Week 10

Legislative activity shifts back to committees this week as bills that have passed either the House and Senate get hearings in the opposite legislative body.

Rent Protection Legislation Stymied By Cutoff Calendar
Two bills that would have provided some protection to tenants from excess rent increases failed to clear the House in time for the legislative cutoff. H.B. 1124 would require six-month notice of rent increases over five percent and allow a tenant to terminate a tenancy without penalty for any rent increases of that level. This bill made it onto the House floor calendar but did not come up for a vote. H.B. 1389 would limit rent increases to within the rate of inflation up to a maximum seven percent. This bill failed to clear the House Rules committee. The bill’s Senate companion, S.B. 5435, never made it out of the Senate policy committee.

Housing Supply Bills Pass
Meanwhile, two key bills that will increase critical housing supply passed their respective houses. H.B. 1110, allowing “missing middle” density increases and S.B. 5466, promoting Transit-Oriented Development. Both passed with wide bi-partisan support.

Free School Meals Bill Scaled Back But Still Alive
H.B. 1238, which was requested by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and prime sponsored by Marcus Riccelli, began life with the ambitious goal of providing “free school meals for all.” But budget concerns reduced the scope to providing meals without charge to any requesting students at public schools serving any of the grades of kindergarten through grade 4 with 30 percent or more of their students eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The bill would expand the application to schools with 40 percent eligibility over the next two years.  The Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education will take testimony on the bill Thursday, March 16.

Revenue Forecast Will Precede Release of Legislative Budgets
Budget followers are looking to March 20 as the next public step in the process. That’s when the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council meets to announce its Spring Quarter revenue forecast. Legislative budget writers will use that information to finalize their proposals and release them to the public shortly after that date. We will be looking to see how the budget provides for affordable housing, early childhood education, family financial support, the Imagination Library and Washington 211. 

Imagination Library Hits Registration Milestone
Washington’s Imagination Library, inspired by and supported in part by the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, has registered over 50,000 children. This program provides free age-appropriate books to children up to age five.  Governor Inslee's proposed biennial budget provides $5.2 million for this program.