FILE – Olympia Capitol building

The Washington state Capitol building in Olympia, Washington. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) — The Washington Legislature's 105-day session is well on its way to being half over, and a global pandemic has not stopped it from pushing a host of historic bills.

Washington Democrats wield strong control over the state Legislature. This year, they boast a majority of 29-20 in the state Senate and a majority of 57-41 in the House in addition to the governor's mansion.

COVID-19 relief continues to dominate legislative discussions in 2021 in addition to education, labor, policing, transportation, the environment, and a handful of tax reform measures.

The Washington Legislature typically passes between four and five hundred bills per session, but this year will likely see far fewer due to legislative leadership's apparent focus on economic, environmental, and racial issues.

Monday marked the deadline for voting bills out of committee in their chamber of origin and into the record on the floor. That applies to House fiscal committees, transportation, and Senate ways and means committees.

Bills considered critical to the state budget are exempt from cutoff dates up until the Washington Legislature’s adjournment on April 25, though many "die" due to lack of political interest.

As of last week, 389 bills have been introduced in the House this session. Of those bills, 288 have received a hearing and 202 have made it out of committee.

In the Senate, 304 bills received policy hearings and 76 have had fiscal hearings, but many of those bills can typically get hearings in policy and fiscal committees.

Here are some of the highlights 43 days into the 2021 session.

Signed into law:

Senate Bill 5061 boosts minimum unemployment benefits for workers and offers tax relief for businesses over the next five years to cover some of the economic impacts of COVID-19 shutdowns. Requested by Gov. Jay Inslee, the bill was passed with bipartisan support.

House Bill 1368 is a $2.2 billion relief package of federal stimulus to pay for small business grants, vaccine distribution, food aid, and immigration services. The bill had bipartisan support despite seeing only Democratic sponsorship.


House Bill 1111 aimed to close several investment and banking loopholes, but died in the House Finance Committee last week after receiving no hearings.

Senate Bill 5039 limited gubernatorial power and referred emergency orders from the governor to state lawmakers for approval after 30 days. The bill was primarily backed by Washington Republicans opposed to Inslee's COVID-19 shutdowns. 

Senate Bill 5107 required counties to set up a minimum number of homeless shelters, each with police present. Its last hearing was on February 3.

House Bill 1215 would have given Washington parents $7,000 per year to enroll their child in a private school or homeschooling program. The bill never saw action by the Education Committee.

Probably dead:

House Bill 1465 would raise Washington's estate tax threshold from $2.1 million to $2.5 million to address homeownership equity. Its last hearing was February 8.

Senate Bill 5094 is GOP-backed legislation banning the use of neck restraints by Washington law enforcement. It has seen no further hearings since February 2.

House Bill 1400 would rework state occupational licensing standards to let out-of-state workers obtain temporary licenses and substitutes re-licensing requirements with skills tests. The House Environment and Energy Committee has revisited it since its February 12 hearing.

Probably Alive:

Senate Bill 5139 would set a six-month ban on rent increase after the end of the state's eviction moratorium expires. It still awaits executive action by the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee despite frequent consideration. 

House Bill 1490, called the "Energy For All Act," would set up payment plans for low-income power customers to repay overdue power bills and ban utility companies from enacting power shutoffs for the disabled. With 21 sponsors, the bill still has major backing despite seeing no legislative action this past week.

Senate Bill 5096, a capital gains tax funding child care, would raise $550 million per year or about half the $1 billion of the original. It passed the Senate Ways and Means Committee and awaits action from the Rules Committee.

Senate Joint Resolution 8200 would invest state money in the stock market to pay for long-term senior care. The bill saw no action from the Senate Ways and Means Committee in January, but has strong bipartisan backing.

House Bill 1297 would create a wealth tax on assets in excess of $1 billion. The bill awaits executive action by the House Finance Committee.


House Bill 1263 would set up a grant program for expanding rural broadband to help the state meet its 2024 goal of establishing high-speed broadband statewide. A substitute version made it out of the House Capital Budget Committee on Friday.

House Bill 1140 would guarantee juveniles access to an attorney while interacting with law enforcement. The bill passed the House Appropriations Committee and awaits referral to the Rules Committee on its road to a floor vote.

House Bill 1204 would ban all new passenger and light-duty vehicles sold in the state from using fossil fuels by 2030. Scheduled for possible executive action by the Transportation Committee on Monday.

Senate Bill 5126 would jumpstart cap and trade pollution regulations to help the state meet its 2050 clean energy goals. It's still on the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee's agenda this Thursday.

Senate Bill 5265 would create a makeup year for struggling Washington students affected by the pandemic. It will be taken up by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.

House Bill 1054 would ban the use of tear gas, no-knock warrants, and military-style weapons by Washington police. The popular bill is on its second reading in the Rules Committee.

Senate Bill 5078 would ban high-capacity magazines of more than 10 bullets in an effort to minimize mass shooting deaths. The bill was referred to the Senate Rules Committee for a second reading in late January.

House Bill 1168 would set up a diverse state firefighting force and partnerships with landowners to foster good forest health practices from prescribed burns to wildfire mitigation. It was referred to the Rules Committee on Friday.

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