Hey snowpals –
As the year comes to an end we wanted to get you all prepped for a fast-paced, fully-packed, questionably-calendared short legislative session beginning on Monday, January 8th.
That is to say, there’s LIVE (yes, we update this constantly) messaging, background, resources, and actions all in one space for ALL the bills. It’s high time we know, with proof, whether our legislators support, oppose, or flip flop on the bills that would materially improve our lives. So you bet your bottom that the tool’s got proof of stances and votes. Be sure to let folks know about it!!!
Now, on to our Top Ten priorities for this legislative session. We’re bringing back some of our priority bills from last session so be ready to keep smashing those buttons and telling your reps about what matters to YOU! Let’s get into it (yuh) –
🐐 Our Top Ten 🐐
Washington is one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country in the world. But our children don’t benefit from this wealth and privilege when our best social programs still exclude half of low-income children. The state has the ability to dramatically lower poverty by developing a strong social safety net with well-designed universal policies, including expanding the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) to everyone age 18 and older. We support HB 1075 / SB 5249 because it expands WFTC access to 210,000 more Washington households—especially young adults and seniors—increasing the number of eligible households by nearly 50%.
We all know rent is too damn high. Rent gouging, excessive fees, and short notice of rent increases destabilize families and workers, and is the number one contributor to Washington’s housing crisis. It’s time for the legislature to stabilize rent increases and provide tenant households with more predictability on future rent increases. Unlike rent control which freezes rental rates on a unit, rent stabilization regulates the relationship between the landlord and tenant and provides predictable rent increases that a tenant can plan for. Washington residents depend on our legislators to make housing actually affordable.
Read up on last session’s housing wins.
Our state has the most regressive tax system in the nation. Like, all drama aside, we actually do. Those with the least pay the most. And that’s not right. Especially when our state ranks seventh in number of billionaires and third in total net worth. It’s high time we implement a 1% tax on wealth over a billion dollars. Last session the House and Senate companion bills were given public hearings in their respective fiscal committees but never moved further. In 2024, legislators should pass progressive revenue policies and stop letting the wealthiest households get special treatment.
Our unemployment system structurally excludes undocumented workers—many of whom pay taxes that fund unemployment benefits and do essential work like putting food on our tables and care for sick patients. All workers should be covered by our public unemployment system. Last session, the companion bills made it out of their respective policy committees but died in fiscal committees (because, surprise, someone said “how are we going to pay for it?”). In the mean time, Scholar Fund and Washington Dream Coalition are running a pilot program called Washington Excluded Workers Benefits Fund that offers critical, immediate support to undocumented workers while providing a proof of concept to legislators of what a fully robust unemployment system looks like. This year, legislators need to work harder to stabilize our economy by expanding Unemployment Insurance. They must pass a permanent solution co-designed with workers and community-based organizations that have been working on this policy for years.
Last year, the legislature passed several bills that integrated environmental and economic justice into our state’s housing and development policies by starting with most-impacted communities—often communities of color. Washington has also passed historic investments in transportation alternatives. Now we need to ensure that families at all income levels have the opportunity to live in transit-oriented communities created with community-led development.
Police should not be investigating police misconduct. It’s simple. When police officers engage in criminal misconduct—including and especially the deadly use of force—there should be an independent mechanism that investigates and holds law enforcement accountable. Last session, the bill made it through the House and Senate policy committees, then the Senate Ways & Means Committee put this bill on schedule for a vote and just let it die. That was former Chair Senator Christine Rolfes who has since left the legislature. We are eager to see the bill make it out of W&M under the leadership of the new Chair, Sen. June Robinson (D-38).
Read up on last session’s bill: HB 1579.
There is limited evidence that low-level traffic stops improve safety. Instead of ticketing petty violations like expired tabs, traffic stops should only be used to address real risks like impaired, distracted or reckless driving. This would reduce unnecessary interactions—bringing down debt and use of force—between police and low-income folks, and communities of color. Another component of this bill: Requiring written consent for vehicle searches. Last session the bill almost made it out of the House, but died during the final hours before cutoff because moderate Democrats didn’t support the bill. This session we’re hoping to see it cross the finish line.
Everyone by now knows our democracy is in constant peril. We need every tool in our toolbox to ensure election processes actually reflect the will of the people. And right now, cities and counties are essentially banned from making changes to improve their local democracies. That’s not cool. The VOICES (Voting, Options, Implementation, Compliance, Education, Standard) Act would ensure the state provides consistent and clear rules governing ranked-choice.
Read up on a past version of the bill: HB 1156 / SB 5584.
To build a truly multi-racial democracy, we should give cities and towns the freedom to switch the timing of their elections to even-numbered years when a majority of voters consistently turn out, and when turnout is much more diverse. Because we hold so few elections in odd-numbered years, voter turnout has floated around 40% since 2013, resulting in city and town leadership being chosen by a small, shrinking percentage of voters (read: old, white, and wealthy).
Read up on last session’s version of the bill: SB 5723.
Last year the legislature passed Free School Meals (HB 1238) that provides free meals at schools where over 40% of children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. But we want to see ALL students fed and set up for success. This year, we are working to secure funding to expand the program to ALL students regardless of income level.
What do you think? Have any questions? Tweet us your thoughts @WACommAlliance.
Keep up on the action and opportunities to get involved through our legislative newsletter, The Tally.