WALeg Wednesday: Week 1 | The Urbanist
WALeg week one 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 Washington State’s long legislative session, we’ll examine:
The Urbanist will continue to appear during story week as events unfold in Olympia. But there’s also a lot going on with the legislative sausage sizzle, including thousands of hearings, amendments and new legislation through February. So we’re planning to consolidate some of the smaller pieces and roll out important legislative steps in a weekly roundup on Wednesdays. This should help keep your attention and will also give us enough time to sleep between now and the end of April.
Welcome back! A reminder of how to legislate.
Okay, let’s start with your three-paragraph reminder of how the Washington State Legislature works. Washington has a bicameral legislature with 49 senators and 98 representatives. It is controlled by Democrats in both houses, who hold 29 senate seats and 58 representative seats. The president of the Senate is Lt. Gov. 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 led for the third year by Speaker Laurie Jinkins (D-LD 27, Tacoma), with Joe Fitzgibbon (D-LD 34, West Seattle/Vashon) as Majority Leader and JT Wilcox (R-LD 2, Eatonville) as Leader of the minority.
The legislature operates on a biennial, or biennial, schedule. The budget is written in odd-numbered years (like 2023) during the longer 105-day session, followed by the shorter 60-day session in even-numbered years. Most types of bills can be introduced in either house, with some introduced simultaneously in both houses. After a first reading, bills are sent to committee, where a public hearing and an executive session are scheduled several days apart. The public’s opportunity to comment on the commission is the previous public hearing. Bills are then voted out of committee and prepared to pass that chamber. If they do, the process starts over at the next house. Amendments are possible at any time, including those that derail the entire bill. And, of course, the clock is ticking with different dates.
These restrictions highlight how important it is to contact your legislators quickly when a bill is important to you. Fortunately, this is very straightforward, given that they are running a hybrid of in-person and remote testimonials. In the pre-Covid era, we’ve driven to Olympia on a day when the mountain passes were closed and wondered how people from Ellensburg to Spokane were expected to get to the capital. Well, that’s not a problem anymore. Email your legislators by name. On the other hand, working through the invoice information page, it is possible to email one of the sponsors, comment on the invoice and sign up to receive notifications. When a bill is scheduled for a committee hearing, it is possible to get your opinion into the record in several forms, including testifying in person, testifying remotely, submitting written testimony, or simply recording a position for or against a part of the legislation.
Important Bills at a Glance HB 1110/SB 5190 – Increasing Intermediate Housing in Areas Traditionally Dedicated to Single-Family Detached Dwelling Sponsor: Bateman and Barkis Link: House Bill, Senate Bill Description and Notes: Missing mid-rise housing legislation allowing any 4-plexes Single family zoned and 6-plexes near transit Current Status: January 9 – First Reading Resources: See the City Planner team’s 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: House Bill, Senate Bill Description and Notes: Reintroduction of last session’s HB 1099, a bill to climate change provisions in their Comprehensive Plans. Current Status: 9th January – First Reading Resources: Please see the December meeting campaign page with Futurewise and Futurewise. HB 1045 – Establishing Permanent Basic Income Pilot Program Sponsor: Berry and Peterson Link: House Bill Description and Notes: Monthly payment equal to county fair market rent at time of application for 7,500 pilot recipients. Begins July 1, 2024. Eligible: adults with income <200% fed poverty level with transitions or conditions associated with high economic instability: pregnant, children under five, homeless, immigrants, refugees, asylees, out of custody or the justice system, domestic violence, disability or behavioral health disorder. Current Status: January 11 - Scheduled for a public hearing before the House Committee on Human Services, Youth, and Early Learning at 1:30 p.m. Sources: We've got a South Park pilot of guaranteed basic income and the latest look at Scientific American on universal basic income. HB 1026 – Local Government Design Reform Review Sponsor: Walen and Duerr Link: House Bill Description and Notes: Limits housing design review to administrative design review and removes public meetings from outside boards. It has the potential to overcome predatory delays by removing local power to seek design review of public housing meetings. Current Status: January 10 – House Committee on Housing Public Hearing at 4:00 p.m. Sources: The Urbanist's coverage of Seattle's need to overhaul design review and quiet first steps. HB 1131 – Improving Washington's Solid Waste Outcomes (WRAP Act) Sponsor: Berry and Doglio Link: House Bill Description and Notes: Producer responsibility for packaging and paper products, post-consumer recycled content requirements, standards of bottle storage and changes in solid waste management. Current status: January 9 - First reading, referred to Environment and Energy. Resources: Check out Ashley 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: House Bill Description and Notes: Aerospace and aviation advisory committee compiling a list of industry strengths and needs for the Secretary of Transportation. Plenty of representation on the committee from aerospace and aviation, but only one representative from a "nationwide environmental organization." The Committee on Greenhouse Gases review is point F after expansions and technological considerations. Current Status: January 11 - Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Innovation, Community and Economic Development and Veterans Affairs at 8:00 am. Jan. 13 - Scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Innovation, Community and Economic Development and Veterans Affairs at 10:30 a.m. Sources: A very extensive article from the Journal of Air Transport Management about the huge impact that aircraft have on greenhouse gases and the possibility of net zero business models, if this is a priority higher than F. Focus of of the week: State of the state
The commencement of 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 several broad initiatives in the areas of housing and education. An emailed blurb from his press office highlighted these key points in the speech:
In his speech, Inslee reflected on several important actions passed by the Legislature in recent years that will allow leaders to boldly respond to the 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 protecting reproductive freedom are also top priorities for the session.”
One hearing found the delivery a little less focused with vague “let’s get it done” and “additional investment” claptrap lines that stood in for the actual dismantling of segregationist barriers to housing and teacher pay. If you’d like to read the prepared speech without the applause lines and rhetorical setups, it’s available on the Governor’s Medium page. Otherwise, the entire speech is available on TVW. There is about an hour of legislative business before State Poet Laureate Rina Prift reads at 52:00 These Bountiful and Bountiful Homelands. Inslee starts speaking at 58:00.
Ray Dubicki is a stay-at-home dad and on-call parent to take care of general school and neighborhood duties around Ballard. This allows him to see how urban planning works (or doesn’t) during hours when most people are locked in their office. He is an attorney and urban planner by training, with experience in the 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.