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Quaker Voice Legislative Report 2019

Quaker Voice Legislative Report 2019

Download this report in PDF format here to have it with the grid as shown in the image above.

Highlights:

  • In an historic series of successes for the environment, eight out of the eleven bills supporting Quaker Voice’s Environment & Peace priorities will be enacted into law by the end of the year.
  • The New Hope Act, which reformed the process for obtaining a certificate of discharge for felony convictions and greatly expanded eligibility for vacating criminal convictions, garnered a broad coalition and passed both houses unanimously.
  • The legislature passed a major reform to the real estate tax, making it graduated to be more progressive by lowering the rate for properties selling for $500,000 or less, while increasing the rate for properties selling above $1.5 million. This will help reduce the property tax burden on lower to middle income homeowners while increasing the overall revenue for the state and helping to stabilize funding of important programs.
  • Major reform to the state’s TANF program, Workfirst, will expand the accessibility of subsidies to poor Washingtonian families by ending permanent disqualification, extending and in certain cases removing time limits for participation in the program, and removing other barriers to participation.

Environment & Peace

Successful bills:

  • HB 1112 begins the process of phasing out hydrofluorocarbons. (HFC’s) HFC’s are chemicals used as refrigerants in common appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators, which depending on the compound can have a greenhouse impact anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand times more than CO2. HB 1112 passed in two different forms in the Senate and the House. The Senate version pushed back implementation by one year, but after being rejected by the House the Senate passed the bill without amendments. This bill has been signed by the Governor and will go into effect on July 28, 2019.
  • HB 1114 was a great illustration of the many intersecting needs involved in the climate debate. Globally, roughly a third of food is wasted, and wasted food accounts for roughly 8% of global carbon emissions. HB 1114 addresses the issue of hunger, particularly in rural Washington, in concert with the reduction of carbon emissions. This bill seeks to reduce food waste by 50% in Washington by 2030 by opening up carbon reduction funding to programs that reduce food waste. This bill was relatively uncontroversial, and passed both houses and was signed by the Governor. It will come into effect on July 28, 2019.
  • HB 1257 or the clean buildings bill makes important investments in energy efficiency upgrades that make reducing greenhouse gases more feasible with public, commercial and residential tax credits and setting higher ecological standards for building codes. This bill has been signed by the Governor, and will come into effect on July 28, 2019.
  • HB 1578 Introduces new, more stringent standards for oil transit in Washington State, including requiring tug escorts in the Rosario strait and connected waterways. HB 1578 has been signed by the Governor and comes into effect July 28, 2019.
  • HB 1579 Addresses our State’s insufficient Chinook salmon population by implementing recommendations of the southern resident killer whale task force. It has passed both chambers and has now been signed by the Governor. Unfortunately, Governor Inslee used a partial veto to remove some of the bill’s enforcement mechanisms. Under the language passed by the legislature, the State would have been able to levy fines of up to $10,000 for noncompliance. Governor Inslee vetoed this section of the legislation, meaning that the bill is restricted to investigating and sending notices of noncompliance, as well as not issuing or renewing permits to hydraulic projects that do not comply with the new law. Regardless, this is a major step forward for restoring an important food source for the Puget Sound’s orca population and come into effect July 28, 2019.
  • SB 5116 This bill seeks to transition Washington’s energy system to 100% clean energy by 2045, and maintain at least our state’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. While it was contentious in the policy committee, with many stakeholders in various sectors, it did manage to pass through the legislature and has been signed by the Governor. It came into effect the same day it was signed, on May 7, 2019.
  • SB 5135 Directs the Department of Ecology to institute new rules phasing out the chemicals that are of particular concern to sensitive species like orcas and kids. SB 5135 has been signed by the Governor and goes into effect on July 28, 2019.
  • SB 5397 Prohibits the production and of plastic packaging in Washington State unless the producer has a stewardship organization submit a stewardship plan on its behalf, to be approved by the department of ecology. This bill has been signed by the Governor and goes into force on July 28, 2019.
  • SB 5577 further implements the Orca Task Force’s recommendations by instituting a seven-naut speed limit within half a mile of orcas, as well as a 650-yard distance limit. It also introduces a whale watching certification program by the Department of Ecology. This bill has passed both chambers and has been signed by the Governor, going into effect on July 28, 2019.

Efforts to Continue Next Session

  • HB 1110 was one of the most controversial bills we lobbied on this session, and would reduce emissions from transportation fuels by 20 percent by 2035 through a combination of agency rulemaking and tax incentives, including introducing a system of tradable credits for companies making reductions in carbon emissions. One striker which was proposed to help make it pass replaced it with a carbon fee, but it was still stopped in the Senate Transportation Committee.
  • SB 5323 Would have prohibited retail establishments from providing single-use plastic carryout bags. This bill passed 31-14 in the Senate and passed through most of the committee process in the House only to be stopped in the House Rules Committee.

Criminal Justice

Successful bills:

  • HB 1041, Rep. Hansen’s New Hope Act, finally opens the way for people who have served their time to vacate and discharge their records. This passed the full House 95-0-0-3 and passed the full Senate 48-0. The House has now concurred with Senate amendments and been signed by the governor. It goes into effect on July 28, 2019.
  • SB 5207. Although voting rights were not restored as hoped for persons under community supervision (see below), a bill (SB 5207) that prescribes notification of voting rights while still in prison (rights are restored after one leaves both prison and community supervision) was passed by both chambers and has been signed by the Governor. This new law will become effective July 28, 2019.
  • HB 1064. Amend the police accountability Initiative I-940 to honor an agreement arranged by the proponents of I-940 and law enforcement officials. Already passed both houses of the legislature and signed by the Governor. It is now law.

Efforts to continue next session:

  • Abolish Death Penalty (SB 5339). This bill would establish in law the decision of the WA state Supreme Court in the fall of 2018. Passed full Senate 28-19. Received favorable vote in House Public Safety Committee, but unfortunately, never received a vote in the full House. With some shuffling of House leadership, we have reason to hope for a better result next session.
  • Automatic restoration of voting rights for persons with a felony conviction when no longer incarcerated (currently they must have completed community supervision as well).  SB 5076 (prime sponsor Sen. Kuderer) would restore the right to vote for the roughly 19,000 Washingtonians who are currently under community supervision. Quaker Voice facilitated the coalition to support SB 5076 and arranged for testimony supporting the bill (there was no opposing testimony) at the hearing before the State Government, Tribal Relations, and Elections Committee on Jan. 30; it passed out of that Committee with a favorable vote and was placed on the calendar for a vote in the full Senate. This bill was ultimately not brought to a vote in the 2019 session. Efforts will continue in the 2020 session.  Rep. Dolan’s HB 1924 was similar in content to SB 5076, though Quaker Voice continues to have serious reservations about the language for this bill and hopes to work with Rep. Dolan to improve or combine the bills next year. It was approved by the policy committee, but was not brought to a vote in the 2019 session.
  • Post-conviction Review Board (SB 5819). Sen. Darneille, prime sponsor. This bill would establish review of sentences for persons who are serving a long sentence, with the possibility of parole. SB 5819 was cut off in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Efforts will continue in the 2020 session.
  • Decriminalizing Driving with License Suspended 3.SB 5328 was cut off while in Senate Ways and Means, while HB 1282 was not brought forward for a vote in full House. Efforts will continue in the 2020 session. This bill would decriminalize driving with a license suspended level 3 (typically for failure to pay fines) and help offenders work out a method of payment. It would be a major help to low-income persons who get caught in a downward spiral because of failure to pay off fines. It would also save a great deal of court time.
  • SB 5488 would give courts discretion to depart from mandatory sentencing enhancements for minors sentenced as adults. The prime sponsor was Sen. Darneille. It passed Senate 37-11; but unfortunately, no vote was taken in the full House.
  • HB 1591 concerned local ordinances affecting homeless & persons with low income, and would have updated WA’s code to align with the Martin v. Boise court decision, ending discrimination and enforcement of no sit/no lie when they have no reasonable alternative. It was stopped in House Appropriations.
  • Bail Bond reform – Ran into legal questions, will be in touch with coalition

Economic Justice

Successful bills:

SB 1603 is a first great step in reforming the Washington’s TANF program, Workfirst, to be more accessible to families struggling to survive. It ends permanent disqualification to TANF for people who cannot meet the obligations of the Workfirst program, such as missing a training or receiving “three strikes” for minor failures. It would also exempt people who are temporarily unable to find work, suffering from a mental health or substance disorder, or living homeless from time limits to the program. This bill would remove barriers to recipients who have lived out of the state in the past twelve months, and introduces a regular study of the standard of need and cost of living for TANF recipients. It passed both houses, was signed by the Governor and goes into effect on July 28, 2019.

Funding:

Quaker Voice supports increased funding for the Housing and Essential Needs program, which provides a small sum in rental and survival assistance for people who are unable to work. The legislature increased funding for this program by $14.5m/year increase, on top of the underlying budget of about $58m per year. This represents a 25% increase to the funding of the program.

The Aged, Blind, and Disabled grant received no significant increases in its allocation of the budget.

In conjunction with expanded access for the program, Quaker Voice advocates for increased funding of TANF. Unfortunately, the final budget included no significant increase in funding for TANF, with only a $5 million or 4% increase over the biennium. (Just above inflation)

Revenue:

Despite an ever-growing coalition and a Democrat-controlled legislature, the capital gains tax did not make it into the budget. The introduction of a tax on capital gains would be a game-changer for Washington State’s persistent budget problems and notoriously regressive tax code, and Quaker Voice will continue to work toward that goal.

The Progressive gradation of the real estate excise tax was included in the budget, and will lower the rate on properties under $500,000 in value while increasing the rate for property over $1.5m in value. This represents a monumental first step in reforming Washington’s tax code to be fairer.

Thank you, Friends, for all of your ideas, advocacy, and passion for a more just world. We look forward to working with you next session!

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