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From Bacon to Bill + Take Action

By January 27, 2023February 9th, 2023Blog


Welcome to week three of session. We’re firmly into hearings with bills already advancing. Bills that aren’t filed by this week face an uphill battle with cutoffs approaching. This week, we saw the last of our priority bills drop. There’s a lot to be excited about and some disappointment too; we’ll dive into that at the end.

This week also saw a lot of tragedy. There’s not much to say. Everything we write about this sounds corny and stupid. But it bears repeating: gun violence has taken the lives of so many loved ones this week and for years before, and our communities are sick of it.

While gun violence prevention isn’t in our Top Nine this year, it remains an important, urgent issue. So with recent news (which is really news at any time) in mind, we want to highlight a few important bills under consideration this session:

Restrict Access to Assault WeaponsHB1240/SB5265 Semi-automatic assault weapons are responsible for some of the biggest tragedies we’ve seen in recent years. They are weapons that were designed for battlefields. They don’t belong in our communities.

Require a Permit to Purchase FirearmsHB1143/SB5211 Permit-to-purchase systems require a background check, safety training, and a waiting period. As it should be. States with permit-to-purchase have lower rates of firearm-related death. Obviously.

🥓 How the Bacon Gets Cured 🥓  

We all know that Olympia is the room where it happens when it comes to bill passage. But how do bills arrive at the legislature to begin with?

There’s a few different ways a policy can come into being. Best case scenario, policies are born of community need translated into good lawmaking. Sometimes that happens through legislators bringing forward legislation that impacts the communities they are part of– part of why representation matters so very much and exemplified by Rep. Mena’s (D-29) sponsorship of the WVRA this year.

🥹Coalitions come together to advocate and elevate community priorities.

🤓Sometimes, legislators love to nerd out on wonky stuff—think Sen. Noel Frame’s (D-36) obsession with tax justice leading to the wealth tax.

👿There are nefarious pet projects—think of the legislators that wrote an estate tax that exempted their own estates.

🫰And there’s request legislation, where agencies and/or the Governor’s office bring forward ideas or amplify bills through request. The support of these offices can be a big boost to bills during session.

Great ideas come from all over the place. But sometimes ideas get lost in translation. Or, to keep our meat metaphor going, the wrong spices get thrown into the mix. Anyone who’s worked a legislative session knows that a bill can change in an instant—sometimes even before it’s dropped. Some changes aren’t that important. Maybe there’s a small technical fix to a bill that doesn’t challenge its integrity. Or maybe it’s a compromise worth making.

But some changes are a big deal and support for the bill can hinge on those shifts. We’ve seen examples of bill changes big and small in our Big 9 this year.

The Local Options Bill was axed from our Big Ten before session even started because—get this!—democratically-elected legislators were sick of hearing about bills that would improve our democracy.

The climate bill has expanded in committee in ways we think are helpful!

But the disappointment for this week is the changes before the bill even dropped on the Independent Investigation of Police work. Some bills don’t even make it to day one without some mystery meat thrown in.

💰BONUS Policy Update: Margins Tax 💰

You’ve heard about the wealth tax. Also in the tax world? SB5482: a margins tax proposal to replace the business and occupation (B+O) tax. There’s no question the B+O tax needs some changes— like our entire upside down tax code. But to make a wonky story short, moving to a margins tax instead of a B+O tax wouldn’t meaningfully improve the regressivity of the tax and would likely make it more volatile. Translation? It’s not more fair and it’s less stable.

Also an issue? The tax is calculated by taking the gross receipts of a business and then subtracting the greatest of four possible deductions to figure out how much that business owes in taxes. Unfortunately, one of the options the policy offers for a deduction is a flat amount of 1 million dollars. This option allows companies to avoid paying taxes by inflating their executive pay to avoid paying the tax entirely. The whole point of fixing our tax code is to ask the wealthy and corporations to pay what they owe. The margins tax is a step away from this important work.