2021 Legislative Agenda
Washington State faces enormous challenges in responding to the pandemic, systemic racism, economic recession, and economic inequality. We also have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild our economy so that we come out of this recession with more equitable opportunity, healthier communities, and a brighter future. We can build a commonwealth for everyone.
These bills are our top priorities for the 2021 legislative session.
Note: By February 22, most bills must have passed policy and fiscal committees and reached at least the Rules Committee in either the House or Senate to still be “alive” for Washington’s 2021 Legislative Session. Bills directly related to the state budget are generally exempt from the committee cut-off dates. From February 23 through March 9, the Legislature will suspend most committee meetings while the House and Senate focus on passing bills that made it through the first round of committees. You can watch debates on bills here.
Many Washington workers, families, and small businesses struggle to pay for food and rent, while the wealthiest individuals and corporations make record profits. Tax reform is one tool to add fairness to our regressive tax system, provide funds to help families and small businesses get through these hard times, and jump start a recovery that provides opportunity and healthy communities for all.
By strengthening our tax system with several of these new progressive sources of revenue, Washington’s policymakers can make the investments critical to recovery from the pandemic and to building healthy communities in which all Washington residents have the opportunity to thrive.
Learn more about the progressive revenue bills we are advocating for this session:
HB 1406 assesses a new 1% tax on the value of stocks, bonds, and other intangible assets over $1 billion. Fewer than 100 of our state’s wealthiest individuals would pay the tax. It would raise $5 billion per biennium beginning in 2023-25 to invest in childcare, public health, access to higher education, and a more equitable and sustainable economy.
Capital Gains Tax: SB 5096, HB 1496 will raise $1.1 billion annually beginning in fiscal year 2023 with a 9% tax on income from stocks, bonds, and other assets, exempting retirement accounts, sale of homes or farms, and investment earnings of less than $25,000. Most other states tax this income of the well-to-do.
Estate Tax Reform: HB 1465 will exempt estates of deceased state residents valued less than $2.5 million and increase rates on the largest estates, raising about $30 million annually to be dedicated to housing security assistance and a new Equity in Housing Fund.
Closing Investment Tax break HB 1111: High income generating corporations and nonprofits often stash excess funds in stocks and other investments, rather than lowering prices, investing in research, or raising wages for rank-and-file employees. They pay no state taxes on the income generated. Eliminating this tax break could generate about $250 million annually to reinvest in health care.
NOTE: Revenue bills are necessary to implement the budget, therefore not subject to the same cut-offs as other policy bills. Final decisions on revenue bills are likely to be made late in the legislative session.
HB 1406 – The Wealth tax had a public hearing in the House Finance Committee February 2, with 1400 people signed in in support, 8 opposed.
HB 1297,SB 5387– Working Families Tax Exemption had a public hearing in the House Finance Committee February 2, and SB 5387 had a public hearing in Senate Ways and Means Committee February 4, both with very strong support.
HB 1465 – Estate Tax Reform had a public hearing in the House Finance Committee February 9 with very strong support.
To read more about how progressive revenues will rebuild our economy, click here.
Early Learning and Care
Child care and early learning are critical to child development, family wellbeing, and business prosperity. Yet even before the pandemic, child care was in crisis. Our state’s economic recovery depends on quality, affordable child care, with well compensated teachers and caregivers, available to all working parents and their kids.
We must expand and stabilize our subsidy structure and invest in:
- COVID health & safety supplies and reopening assistance
- Compensation and health care for childcare teachers
- Affordability for families
Fair Start bill – HB 1213, SB 5237 is the major policy vehicle for early learning and childcare in the 2021 legislature. It includes important policies, but does not address the critical issues of compensation or health coverage for child care workers.
The Early Learning Action Alliance has submitted a budget proposal for 2021-2023 budget which includes:
- $29 million for health coverage for child care workers in the Health Benefit Exchange
- $30 million for pandemic wage compensation through the child care career and wage ladder
- $76 million to increase payments from the state for Working Connections Child Care
- $107 million to reduce co-pays required for the children of working low income adults
- $19 million to increase payments for the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program
Health Care Access
Health care is a human right. But high costs and insurance based on employment, age, and immigration status block access to health care for hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians. COVID has exacerbated disparities. We must make health care more accessible in the short-term, as we also push towards larger health care system transformation that provides quality care for all and reins in cost.
Learn more about the health care bills we are supporting this session:
SB 5377 – Cascade Care 2.0 amended and passed by the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee and has a hearing in Ways and Means on 2/19 , and is scheduled for executive session on 2/22. Amendments include directing subsidies to people enrolled in a silver or gold standard plan, limiting the number of non-standard plans, and, much to the chagrin of patient advocates, removing the capped hospital reimbursement rate provision. Advocates are continuing to push the bill forward and are working with legislators to prioritize aspects of the bill that will control health care costs and improve health care affordability.
SB 5068 – Postpartum coverage passed out of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee in late January and passed out of Ways and Means the week of Mid February with a couple of friendly amendments to help ensure eligible women would be aware of the coverage and to add reporting requirements to ensure the funds are used correctly. The bill is now headed to the Rules Committee.
SB 5377 – Cascade Care 2.0 was amended and passed by the Ways & Means committee and is now in Rules. The bill allows premium subsidy and cost-sharing reductions to Health Benefit Exchange consumers with incomes up to 500% of the federal poverty level (subject to appropriation by the Legislature); and increases state purchasing power by requiring hospitals that own at least four hospitals to contract with at least two public option plans.
SB 5068 – Healthy Starts passed the Ways & Means and Rules committees and is now awaiting a vote by the full Senate.
Our state’s public colleges and universities can help spur stronger economic recovery by providing students and the recently unemployed opportunities to learn new skills – if we invest in equitable access and equip our colleges and universities with the staffing and resources to both educate students and help them achieve degrees.
Learn more about the higher education legislation we are supporting this session:
Equity and access for community and technical colleges: HB 1318, SB 5194 would provide additional funding for counseling, childcare, stipends, and other supports proven to help students of Color and low-income students successfully complete degrees. It would also raise additional funds from Washington’s biggest and wealthiest corporations by having them pay the same 1.22% rate as smaller companies for higher education funding.
Creating prison to postsecondary education pathways: HB 1044 would permit and expand postsecondary education opportunities at state correctional institutions by improving accommodations for incarcerated individuals with learning disabilities or cognitive impairments, assist people with financial aid forms, streamline and simplify the process for incarcerated individuals when considering transfers to other facilities or release, and require a report on enrollment, completion and recidivism.
SSB 5194 – Amended and passed by the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee; now scheduled for a hearing on February 19 in the Ways and Means Committee. The substitute bill eliminates new funding, preserving the existing corporate tax break.
SHB 1044 – Amended and passed by the House College and Workforce Development Committee; now scheduled for a vote in the House Appropriations Committee on February 16. The substitute bill adjusts language and study requirements.
2SSB 5194 – The Equity and Access in Community & Technical Colleges bill was amended and passed by Senate Committee on Ways & Means; now in Rules Committee. The second substitute bill retains important equity and support systems for students. It replaces the required plan to achieve 70% full-time tenure-track faculty with a legislative intention to convert 200 part-time faculty per year to full-time positions for three years, subject to appropriations.
HB 1044 – The bill creating prison to postsecondary education pathways passed the House Appropriations committee to Rules, and now eligible for a House Floor vote.
Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML)
Washington’s PFML program helped over 100,000 workers and families maintain economic security while coping with a serious health crisis or welcoming a new child in 2020. We can make modest improvements to ensure the program equitably serves vulnerable workers and those who lost work during pandemic shutdowns.
Learn more about the bills we are supporting to expand and improve Washington’s PFML program:
SHB 1073 – Amended and passed by the House Labor and Workplace Standard Committee; now in Appropriations Committee. The substitute includes a more inclusive family definition, allows workers without enough hours to qualify based on 2020 or 2021 work to qualify based on work during 2019 or the first quarter of 2020, and is provisional depending on funds being appropriated. Expanded job protection and continuation of health insurance were deleted.
SSB 5097 – Amended and passed by the Senate Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Affairs Committee; now in Senate Rules. The substitute aligns the more inclusive family definition with SHB 1073 and clarifies that the expanded job protection and continuation of health insurance apply to employer Voluntary Plans as well as the state program.
HB 1087 – Passed the House 96 to 0 after passing out of committee; now before the Senate Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Affairs Committee.
All three PFML bills made it through the first round of committee cutoffs
SHB 1073 – Passed the House Appropriations Committee with further amendments and is now in House Rules. It continues to provide the temporary additional qualifying period to help workers whose hours were cut in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID, but permanent equity expansions were removed.
SSB 5097 – In Senate Rules, would make permanent equity changes in the PFML program with a more inclusive family definition and expanded rights to job protection and continuation of health insurance.
HB 1087 – Makes a technical correction to allow workers whose rights were violated by employers in 2018 and 2019 to pursue claims, passed the House with bipartisan support and is now before the Senate Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Affairs Committee.
Undoing Racist Structures
EOI stands as an ally with communities impacted by racist structures in supporting police accountability, reform of our criminal justice system, and confronting legacies of racism and oppression, including supporting:
SHB 1092 – Amended and passed the House Committees on Public Safety and Appropriations; now in Rules Committee. The substitute bill requires the data collection and reporting program to also collect and report information on vehicular pursuits and includes a null and void clause unless funded in the budget.
SHB 1016 – Passed the House Committees on State Government & Tribal Relations and Appropriations; now in Rules Committee. The substitute bill includes a null and void clause unless funded in the budget.
SHB 1054 – Restricted chokeholds and other police use of force amended and passed the House Committee on Public Safety; now in Rules Committee. The substitute bill expands the definition of law enforcement agency and modifies the definition of peace officer. The substitute bill additionally modifies restrictions on the use of unleashed police dogs, vehicular pursuits, and firing on moving vehicles.
HB 1078 – Restores voting rights to all people out of prison. Amended and passed by House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee; now in Rules Committee.
SHB 1203 – Amended and passed the House Committee on Public Safety; now scheduled for a hearing in House Appropriations Committee on February 17. The substitute bill modifies provisions concerning oversight boards and removes the provision that the annual budget for a community oversight board must be equal to or greater than 5% of the total funds allocated in the local jurisdiction for law enforcement purposes.
SSB 5051 strengthening oversight and accountability of peace officers and corrections officers passed Senate Committees on Law & Justice and Ways & Means with amendments and is now in Senate Rules.