Friends — Some are still groggy from election night and/or holidays, but it’s already time to be gaming out your legislative session priorities.
If you’re new to The Tally, you should know this newsletter began as a way to bring grasstops leaders (read: you) closer to the sausage-making process that is crafting laws (read: #WALeg).
We started with a small list and big dreams. And last year, this group took over 1,100 actions and drove 17,700 visitors to our Community Whip Count (watch for updates!). That’s a big deal. Together, we helped pass a capital gains tax on the ultra wealthy and ended prison gerrymandering.
We’re committed to demystifying the process as the wheels of the legislature continue to turn. In the coming weeks and months, expect notes on committee chairs, cutoff schedules, bill numbers, biennium budgets and the like. For now, you just have to know that this is a long session, running through early May. So strap in. Gear up. Here’s what WCA and our coalition members will be fighting for—provided the bills are (re-)introduced:
🐐 Our Top
Ten Nine 🐐
🍎 Free School Lunch
In September, Washington SuperIntendent Chris Reykdal announced a proposal that would ensure all our public school students continue receiving free lunch at school. After this school year, 330,000 students will see free meals disappear when federal COVID-19 funds end. Thankfully, Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-3) and the superintendent are stepping up to make sure kids don’t go hungry.
Read up on last session’s bill: HB 1782 / SB 5670.
🏘 Missing Middle Housing
We all know rent is too damn high. One recent proposal circulating the legislature: increase the types of housing available across the state. Namely, duplexes and triplexes which were once abundant and played a crucial role in the building of America’s middle class. New cute middle housing options are currently banned. We’d like to change that—especially in high population areas. And also, for the love of god, make housing affordable.
🏦 Wealth Tax
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 that’s over a billion dollars.
Read up on last session’s bill: HB 1406 / SB 5426.
💌 Unemployment Insurance for Every Worker
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 caring for sick patients. All workers should be covered by the state agency that manages the unemployment system. That’s why we want the Employment Security Department to build a permanent infrastructure that includes undocumented workers.
Read up on last session’s bill: SB 5358.
📜 Improve the Washington Voting Rights Act
Just last year, Yakima county admitted to disenfranchising Latino voters (7 years after community successfully sued the city of Yakima for the exact same thing). Obviously our state Voting Rights Act is in need of some technical changes to strengthen voter protections, remove barriers to filing challenges, and ensure a path towards just redress in the courts.
Read up on last session’s bill: SB 5597.
🌎 Mitigate The Climate Crisis
The legislature keeps punting on the Growth Management Act (GMA) which, while sounding arcane, would help cities reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as protect people, communities, and natural resources from the accelerating impacts of a changing climate. This year, we want a GMA with an up-to-date definition of environmental justice that starts with most-impacted communities—often communities of color.
Read up on last session’s bill: HB 1099.
🧐 Independent Investigations of Police
The police should not be investigating police misconduct. It’s pretty 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.
Read up on last session’s bill: HB 1507.
🚔 Reducing Traffic Stops
There is limited evidence that low-level traffic stops improve safety. Instead of ticketing petty violations like expired tabs, we think traffic stops should only happen to reduce 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.
🇺🇸 Presidential Ranked-Choice Voting
During the last Presidential Primary, 25% of all Washington votes went to candidates who were no longer running, at no fault to voters. The presidential primary system includes candidates who drop out but sometimes remain on ballots and voters are left with no other recourse if that’s where their vote went. Luckily, there’s a really simple fix: Ranked-Choice Voting.
Read up on last session’s bill: SB 5851.
🗳️ Local Options for Local Elections Everyone knows by now that 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 barred from making changes to improve their local democracies. That should change. Read up on last session’s bill: HB 1156 / SB 5584.
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.