by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
| Apr 12, 2021
As the state legislature wraps up, we are thrilled to announce that every GSBA-endorsed bill that got a hearing in both houses has now passed the Legislature. Some of these were signed into law as emergency legislation earlier in the year. Others have differences between the versions passed in the House and Senate and must still be reconciled before heading to Governor Inslee for his signature. GSBA advocacy staff are still going over any amendments that may have changed the final bill text, but overall we are very pleased to see so many of our priorities address this session.
GENDER AFFIRMING TREATMENT ACT
As states around the country are attacking and outlawing healthcare for transgender and gender-diverse children, Washington State is moving in the opposite direction to better provide medically necessary care. SB 5313 prevents insurance carriers in Washington from being able to classify medically necessary care as “cosmetic” in order to categorically deny or limit access to gender-affirming services. The bill maintains that healthcare determinations by insurance carriers must be made in consultation with medical providers who are experienced in administering gender-affirming care or treatment. It asserts that gender affirming care can be prescribed to two spirit, binary and nonbinary transgender, intersex, and other gender diverse individuals.
There were multiple emergency bills that were enacted in February to bring quick assistance to small businesses, including making COVID grants tax exempt and repairing parts of the unemployment insurance system (including preventing $1.7 billion in new tax increases on businesses). HB 1368 provided $2.2 billion in COVID relief funding to those who needed it most. This funding effort included additional $240 million for Working Washington’s business assistance grants.
There are also a number of business-related bills that have passed in recent days. HB 1332 sets up a system for property tax deferrals during the pandemic. HB 1399 reduces barriers to professional licenses for formerly incarcerated people. HB 1504 expands the Workforce Education Investment Act to support demographically underrepresented students, establish a behavioral health workforce pilot program, increases the cap on state match dollars, and supports workforce development and career connected learning. HB 1073 creates flexibility in the Paid Family Medical Leave Act to acknowledge the difficult circumstances during the pandemic for many workers when original definitions made it difficult to access the program as intended.
EDUCATION & EQUITY
The Fair Start for Kids bill (SB 5237) expands eligibility, funding, and services for child care and early learning programs. Two bills will build on efforts around diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in our K-12 schools (SB 5044) and in higher education (SB 5227).
HB 1078 provides for automatic restoration of voting rights to a person convicted of a felony when they leave prison. This helps formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society once their time has been served, and also recognizes that disproportionate incarceration of people of color and those with mental illness has led to their corresponding and disproportionate disenfranchisement.
While a bill regarding the state’s Office of Equity Task Force did not make it out of committee this year, GSBA is happy to learn that the Office of Equity itself will be fully funded this year. Established last spring, the Office’s funding was cut alongside most new 2020 spending in the early days of the pandemic.
POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY & SAFETY
Eight police accountability bills that GSBA has been following have all passed. This includes limits on police tactics (HB 1054), requirements around impeachment disclosures (HB 1088), compliance audits (HB 1089), independent investigations of police conduct (HB 1267), use of force policies (HB 1310), de-certification procedures (SB 5051), an officer’s duty to intervene (SB 5066), and requirements around law enforcement data collection (SB 5259). Several of these bills are being reconciled between House and Senate versions to come to agreement on amendments offered during the legislative process.
Additionally, the Legislature approved a bill harmonizing and updating the various policies on civil protection orders. HB 1320 creates a uniform rules and procedures for the six protection order policies on domestic violence, vulnerable adults, anti-harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and extreme risk.
As budget negotiations continue between the caucuses, GSBA is strong in our support for an appropriation for $1 million towards GenPRIDE’s LGBTQ senior services to be located in their future housing project on Broadway.