UWPNW Washington Legislative Update - March 9, 2021

The House and Senate finish marathon virtual floor sessions today as the bodies move as much of their agenda as possible before the latest legislative deadline at 5:00 p.m. After today, attention shifts back to committee activity as House committees consider Senate passed bills and vice versa. 

Capital Gains Tax Clears Senate
The Senate has approved (25-24) a capital gains tax, SB 5096, that would place a seven percent tax on the sale of stocks and bonds, personal property and businesses, but only if those profits exceed $250,000 annually. The tax wouldn’t apply to the sale of a home, commercial real estate, retirement accounts, livestock and other properties. As currently written, the tax would take effect on earnings on January 1, 2022, generating an estimated $550 million starting in 2023. The legislation directs the first $350 million annually into the Education Legacy Account. This tax is expected to bolster funding for early learning/child care and fund the Working Families Tax Credit. The bill moves to the House for consideration.

So Does the Fair Start for Kids Act
While the capital gains tax proposal does not specifically earmark dollars for early childhood education, its intent language states that funding is needed for education “especially early learning and child care, and to provide for the economic security of low-income households who are struggling to afford quality child care and preschool.” Perhaps to drive that point home, the Senate also approved an omnibus bill that expands accessible, affordable child care and early childhood development programs -- the Fair Start for Kids Act, SB 5237. This bill also moves to the House which was already reviewed and approved in a committee a companion version (HB 1213.)

Legislation Seeks to Reduce Pandemic Evictions
The House has approved HB 1236 which lays out exclusive causes for eviction, refusal to renew, and termination of tenancy under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act and makes other changes to rights and remedies. The Senate Committee on Housing and Local Government is expected to review this bill in a public hearing March 11 at 8:00 a.m. Meanwhile, the House Committee on Housing, Human Services and Veterans is expected to take up soon SB 5160 which requires landlords to offer tenants a reasonable schedule for repayment of any unpaid rent accrued during the pandemic that does not exceed monthly payments equal to one-third of the monthly rental charges during the period of accrued debt.

Washington 211 Network Helping with Immunization Scheduling
The Washington 211 network, which has been on the virtual front line of COVID-19 education and resource referral by handling calls to the state’s pandemic hotline, has been using the state’s Department of Health scheduling tool, PrepMod, to help direct Washingtonians to the nearest and most appropriate vaccine site. Meanwhile, as of this writing, the House has yet to decide on HB 1477 which would establish a statewide 988 Behavioral Health Crisis Response Line Tax on phone lines to fund crisis hotline centers and response services. Washington 211 is seeking $2 million in additional state funding to help the system handle its record growth in incoming calls.