WALeg Week 1 Cover. Image: Governor Jay Inslee enters the State Legislature to deliver the State of the State Address, January 10, 2023. (Office of the Governor)

In this first week of the long Washington State legislative session, we’re going to look at:

The Urbanist will be continuing to pop up during the week with stories as events in Olympia unfold. But there’s also a lot going on as the legislative sausage is made, including tons of hearings, amendments, and new legislation through February. So we are planning to consolidate some of the smaller pieces and call out important legislative steps in a weekly digest on Wednesdays. That should be useful in keeping your attention and also give us enough time to actually sleep between now and the end of April.

Welcome Back! A reminder how to legislate.

Allrighty, let’s kick off with your three paragraph reminder on how the Washington State Legislature works. Washington has a bicameral legislature of 49 senators and 98 representatives. Each of the state’s 49 legislative districts (LDs, for short) elects one senator and two representatives. Those districts were freshly redrawn last year with new Census figures, as The Urbanist reported on and analyzed.

Here are the LD boundaries for the 2022 election. (Washington Redistricting Commission)

Both chambers are controlled by Democrats, who hold 29 senate seats and 58 representative seats. The Senate President is Lt. Governor Denny Heck, with Andy Billing (D-LD 3, Spokane) as Majority Leader and John Braun (R-LD 20, Thurston/Lewis and Clark Counties) as Minority Leader. The House is run for the third year by Speaker Laurie Jinkins (D-LD 27, Tacoma), with Joe Fitzgibbon (D-LD 34, West Seattle/Vashon) as the Majority Leader and J.T. Wilcox (R-LD 2, Eatonville) as Minority Leader.

The Legislature runs on a two-year, or biennial, schedule. The budget gets written in odd years (like 2023) during the long, 105-day session, followed by the shorter 60-day session in even years. Most types of bills can be introduced in either house, with some introduced concurrently in both chambers. After a first reading, the bills are sent to committee where a public hearing and an executive session are scheduled a couple days apart. The public’s chance to comment at committee is the earlier public hearing. Bills are then voted out of committee, and prepared to pass that chamber. Should they do so, the process starts again in the other house. Amendments are possible at any time, including ones that gut the entire bill. And, of course, the clock is ticking with various drop-dead dates.

These constraints emphasize how important it is to contacting your legislator quickly when a bill is important to you. Fortunately, that is very straightforward, given they are running hybrid with both in-person and remote testimony. In the pre-Covid era, we have driven to Olympia on a day when the mountain passes closed and wondered how folks from Ellensburg to Spokane were expected to get to the State Capitol. Well, that’s not a problem anymore. Email your legislator by searching for them by name.

Alternately, working through the bill information page, it is possible to email one of the sponsors, comment on the bill, and sign up to receive notifications. When a bill is scheduled for a committee hearing, it is possible to have your opinion entered in the record in several forms including testifying in person, testifying remotely, submitting written testimony, or simply registering a position for or against a piece of legislation.

Important Bills at a Glance

HB 1110/SB 5190 – Increasing Middle Housing In Areas Traditionally Dedicated to Single Family Detached Housing

  • Sponsor: Bateman and Barkis
  • Link: the House Bill, the Senate Bill
  • Description and Notes: Missing middle housing legislation allowing 4-plexes everywhere zoned single family and 6-plexes near transit
  • Current Status: Jan. 9 – First reading
  • Resources: Check out The Urbanist’s team breakdown of this very important legislation.

HB 1181/ SB5203 – Improving the State’s Response to Climate Change by Updating the State’s Planning Framework

  • Sponsor: Duerr and Fitzgibbon
  • Link: the House Bill, the Senate Bill
  • Description and Notes: Reintroduction of last session’s HB 1099, a bill to compel jurisdictions to put climate change provisions in their Comprehensive Plans.
  • Current Status: Jan. 9 – First reading
  • Resources: Please see December’s Meetup with Futurewise and Futurewise’s campaign page.

HB 1045 – Creating the Evergreen Basic Income Pilot Program

  • Sponsor: Berry and Peterson
  • Link: the House Bill
  • Description and Notes: Monthly payment equal to the county’s fair market rent at the time of application for 7,500 pilot recipients. Kicks off July 1, 2024. Eligible: adults with income less than 200% of the federal poverty level with transitions or conditions associated with high economic instability: pregnant, kid under five, homeless, immigrant, refugee, asylee, exiting foster care or justice system, domestic violence, disability, or behavioral health disorder.
  • Current Status: Jan. 11 – Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Human Services, Youth, & Early Learning at 1:30pm
  • Resources: We have a South Park pilot of Guaranteed Basic Income, and Scientific American’s recent look at Universal Basic Income.

HB 1026 – Local Government Design Review Reform

  • Sponsor: Walen and Duerr
  • Link: the House Bill
  • Description and Notes: Limits design review for housing to administrative design review and drops public meetings by external boards. Has the potential to overcome predatory delays by removing the local power to require public meeting design review for housing.
  • Current Status: Jan. 10 – Public hearing in the House Committee on Housing at 4:00pm.
  • Resources: The Urbanist’s coverage of Seattle’s need to overhaul design review and the first tacit steps.

HB 1131 – Improving Washington’s Solid Waste Outcomes (WRAP Act)

  • Sponsor: Berry and Doglio
  • Link: the House Bill
  • Description and Notes: Producer responsibility for packaging and paper products, postconsumer recycled content requirements, bottle deposit standards, and amendments to solid waste management.
  • Current Status: Jan. 9 – First reading, referred to Environment & Energy.
  • Resources: Check out Ashli Blow’s article introducing us to the Washington Recycling and Packaging Act (WRAP Act) and the need for it now.

HB 1040 – Aviation and Aerospace Advisory Committee

  • Sponsor: Walen and Duerr
  • Link: the House Bill
  • Description and Notes: Aerospace and aviation advisory committee putting together a list of the industry’s strengths and needs for the Secretary of Transportation. Lots of representation on the committee from aerospace and aviation, but only one rep from a “statewide environmental organization.” The committee’s consideration of Green House Gases is item F after expansions and tech considerations.
  • Current Status: Jan. 11 – Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Innovation, Community & Economic Development, & Veterans at 8:00am.
  • Jan 13 – Scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Innovation, Community & Economic Development, & Veterans at 10:30am.
  • Resources: A very extensive article from the Journal of Air Transport Management about the outsize impact that aircraft have on greenhouse gases and the possibility of net-zero business models, should that be a higher-than-F level priority.

The Week’s Focus: State of the State

The kickoff to the Washington Legislature is always the Governor’s State of the State address. In this, Jay Inslee’s tenth such address, the Governor focused on some broad initiatives in housing and education. The emailed blurb from his press office called out these high points in the speech:

“In his speech, Inslee reflected on several significant actions passed by the legislature in recent years that will allow leaders to respond boldly to current crises in housing, behavioral health, climate change and salmon recovery. Additional student-centered investments such as special education, and policies related to public safety and protect reproductive freedom are also top priorities for the session.”

A listen found the delivery a bit less focused with “let’s get it done” platitudes and “additional investments” applause lines standing in for really dismantling the segregationist barriers to building housing and paying teachers. If you want to read the prepared speech without the applause lines and rhetorical setups, it’s available on the Governor’s Medium site. Otherwise, the whole speech is available on TVW. There’s about an hour of legislative business before the State Poet Laureate Rina Priest reads These Abundant and Generous Homelands at 52:00. Inslee starts talking at 58:00.

Article Author

Ray Dubicki is a stay-at-home dad and parent-on-call for taking care of general school and neighborhood tasks around Ballard. This lets him see how urbanism works (or doesn’t) during the hours most people are locked in their office. He is an attorney and urbanist by training, with soup-to-nuts planning experience from code enforcement to university development to writing zoning ordinances. He enjoys using PowerPoint, but only because it’s no longer a weekly obligation.