WALeg Weekly Banner - Senator Yasmin Trudeau debates HB1110 on April 11 before the missing middle legislation passed the Senate. (Screen Cap via TVW)

With time ticking, a flurry of floor votes in Olympia advanced reforms of single-family zoning, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and design review, leaving concurrence or conference committee as final hurdle.

Adjournment Sine Die — the end of the legislative session “without future” — is just 10 days away, and the annual meeting of the Washington State Legislature is moving ahead with a flurry of floor votes. Bills we’ve been tracking have passed their second chamber and now head to conference committees to iron out the changes between House and Senate versions.

By a healthy margin, the State Senate passed Rep. Jessica Bateman’s HB 1110. Following amendments covered last week, the “missing middle” bill would replace single-family zoning with fourplex zoning in cities with at least 75,000 residents, and bump that to sixplex zoning within a quarter-mile of frequent transit or if builders provide two affordable homes (at 60% of area median income). In mid-sized cities or cities within the contiguous growth management area of Seattle, HB 1110 permits duplexes in all residential areas, and fourplexes near transit. Senators Bob Hasegawa (D – LD11 Seattle) and Christine Rolfes (D – LD23 Bainbridge Island) were the only Democrats to vote against HB 1110, which passed 35-14.

Two bonus bills continue to move forward through the legislature. In the Senate, HB 1293 to streamline development regulations passed its second chamber. The bill accelerates the permitting and design review by committee process by requiring “only clear and objective design review standards,” which it then goes on to define as ascertainable standards that do not result in a reduction of density. Historic districts and landmarks are exempt. It is somewhat narrower than HB 1026 another design review bill that failed this session by still allowing design review. But where HB 1026 would have put constraints on what kind of projects could go through the time consuming process, the passed HB 1293 focuses on the rules themselves. There are amendments from the Senate, so the bill will need the concurrence of the House, as discussed below.

In the house, SB 5491 passed which will move forward the opportunity to build single-stair apartments up to six stories. While the original bill made the change itself, the House amended the legislation to call on the state building code council to recommend making changes to the building code. Props to champion of point access blocks Michael Eliason on the vast amount of testimony and calm explanation that it took to get that bill voted upon.

Important Bills At A Glance

  • HB 1110 – Missing Middle Housing – Increasing middle housing in areas traditionally dedicated to single-family detached housing. PASSED!
    • Next Move – Passed the Senate 35 to 14, following amendments. Next step will be review of the Senate’s amendments by the House.
    • Notes – Senate amendments, as covered in last week’s WALeg Wednesday round up, create three tiers of cities — under 25,000 residents in a contiguous GMA get duplexes, in cities 25,000-75,000 all residential zones get duplexes and fourplexes near transit, and over 75,000 get fourplexes and sixplexes near transit.
    • More Coverage – Read about the earlier amendments it took to get out of committee and PSRC’s analysis of the number of potential homes original versions bill would create.
  • HB 1181 – GMA Climate Change provisions – Incorporating climate change provisions in municipal and county comprehensive planning. PASSED!
    • Next Move – Passed the Senate 29 to 20 with amendments. Next step will be review of the Senate’s amendments by the House.
    • NotesSenate amendments include wildfire provisions, and requirements to include property owned by public entities and utilities.
    • More Coverage – Please see December’s Meetup with Futurewise and Futurewise’s campaign page.
  • SB 5466 – Promoting Transit Oriented Development – Permitting increased density in specified areas around high frequency transit. We will be updating this with any changes as the evening progresses.
    • Next Move – Passed Housing (March 28) and Capital Budget (March 31) with amendments by Agriculture and Natural Resources.
    • Notes – More coverage below about the striker amendments required to progress in the House.
    • More Coverage – The Urbanist did a big breakdown of the bill from January and also has done a coverage of transit-oriented development (TOD) in the past. Sightline Institute also has some good info on earlier versions of this TOD bill.
  • HB 1245 – Lot Splitting – Requiring jurisdictions to allow recorded properties to be divided for additional buildable lots. DEAD
    • Next Move – Executive session of the Senate Committee on Local Government, Land Use and Tribal Affairs on March 28 took no action on the bill.
    • More Coverage – See the March 1 WALeg Weekly Focus for more information about the bill. 
    • Notes – Floor amendment by Rep. Andrew Barkis (R – LD2 Yelm, Eatonville), who is doing some interesting housing work this year, increased resulting lots to minimum 2,000 square feet and effective date to six months after a city’s comprehensive plan update.
  • HB 1337 – Easing Barriers for ADUs – Reduces regulatory and construction barriers for the construction of accessory dwelling units. PASSED!
    • Next Move – Amended bill passed the Senate 39 to 7. Next step will be review of the Senate’s amendments by the House.
    • More Coverage – See the March 1 WALeg Weekly Focus for more information about the bill.
    • Notes – A striker amendment removed provisions limiting parking, overall density calculations, and technical changes. An earlier striker amendment inserted language about Urban Growth Area compliance and coordination by the Department of Commerce.
  • SB 5200 – The Capital Budget
    • Companion Bill – HB 1147 (Now completely lapped by the Senate bill)
    • Next Move – The capital budget passed the Senate 44 to 0 on March 24. The bill moved to the house, where it was read, skipped all the committees, and continues to sit on the the calendar for second reading.
    • More Coverage – The extensive list of proposals in the Capital Budget can be looked at in the Proposed Substitute Senate Bill (PSSB) 5200. We covered the budget process in the Week 11 WALeg Roundup and more in depth numbers in the Week 12 WALeg Roundup.
  • SB 5187 – The Operating Budget
    • Companion Bill – HB 1140 (Now completely lapped by the Senate bill)
    • Next Move – The operating budget passed the Senate 40 to 9 on March 29 before passing the House 57 to 40 on April 3. The bill now heads to conference to pound out any differences between the House and Senate versions. Should that pass, it will go to the Governor’s desk for signature.
    • More Coverage – We covered the budget process in the Week 11 WALeg Roundup and more in depth numbers in the Week 12 WALeg Roundup.

Weekly Focus: So you’ve passed your second chamber! Now what?

The beautiful symmetry of bicameral legislatures is that bills require consideration and agreement from both chambers before heading to the executive for signature. Since each body deliberates their own way, it means that the final legislative product of each house can be different. That’s what’s happening with many of the bills we’ve been tracking.

In Olympia, these differences are ironed out in three different ways: by concurrence, dispute, and conference committee. What’s kind of interesting is that all of these specifics are in the House rules and Senate rules. The state constitution only says (in some of the worst online formatting possible) that no bill shall become a law unless its final passage is voted by yeas and nays, members voting be recorded, and a majority of each house votes in its favor. (Article II, Section 22.)

So the overall rule is that both chambers have to produce the same legislative text. How that happens depends on the leadership in each chamber. Once passed with some amendments by the second chamber, a bill returns to its house of origin where the leadership decides which bills will be discussed. Those bills are placed on the House’s concurrence calendar or the Senate’s concurring calendar.

If the first house concurs in the amendments, the bill has passed the legislature. If the first house disagrees with the second house, it can ask the second house to recede from the amendments. Should the second house recede, the bill has passed the legislature. Both of these actions are taken by floor votes.

In the event of a failure to resolve the differences between the chambers, one can ask for a conference committee. Of course, the legislature’s calendar continues to tick away, so this is a fast moving negotiation. If the committee can reach a report that melds the two versions of the bill, the report will be voted on by each chamber. Failure or delay at any step in this process means the bill does not pass the legislature.

We’ve had engrossed bills that pass each chamber, grossed because they are fattened with all of the amendments piled into one final text. Once a bill passes the legislature, it is termed enrolled. This is the complete text of the legislation with amendments that is ready for the governor’s signature, with all the bells and whistles of signatures from officiants in each chamber and a certificate proclaiming its passage from the legislature.

A recent example of conference committee tripping up a bill is HB 1099, which would have added climate planning to the Growth Management Act, but failed to get a House floor vote to approve the conference committee’s reformed bill due to some last minute shenanigans and poor clock management.

This is a developing story and may be updated with news of the transit-oriented development bill, SB 5466, which is expected to get a vote in the House soon. Spoiler: It didn’t pass.

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.