2024 State Legislative Report for week ending 02/25

By Diana Carlen
Lobbyist, Washington Association of Wheat Growers

Feb. 25 marked day 49 of the 60-day session. This past week was filled with committee hearings on bills from the opposite chamber and rollouts of the state’s supplemental operating, capital, and transportation budgets. Now that all the budget proposals have been released, the differences between the House and Senate proposals will need to be reconciled.

The next deadline is Monday, Feb. 26, where all bills need to be voted out of the opposite chamber’s fiscal committee to remain under consideration. Beginning Feb. 27, floor time will occupy the remaining days of the legislative session along with budget negotiations as we approach the end of the session on March 7.

Supplemental Budget Proposals Unveiled

This past week, the Senate and House each rolled out their proposed budgets for this session. Our state runs on a two-year budget cycle. This is the second year of the cycle, so these are supplemental budgets that make tweaks to the budgets from last session.

The House- and Senate-proposed supplemental operating budgets look similar. Both budget proposals assume $1.1 billion for maintenance level funding, however, new spending varies a little, with the Senate proposing $722 million in new investments, and the House answering with a $1.1 billion price tag. Another area of difference between the two is a variation in Climate Commitment Act (CCA) dollars spent. The Senate proposal includes $280 million, while the House takes a slightly lower approach with $237 million.

Both proposals include $30 million to pay farmers who bought fuel for agricultural purposes but had to pay a surcharge due to the Climate Commitment Act (CCA). Under the CCA, fuel used for agricultural purposes is supposed to be exempt from these kinds of added fees. The rebates would begin being issued by Sept. 1 by the Department of Licensing based on a tiered system. The $30 million is well below the $150 million that the Farm Bureau estimates is needed to cover the carbon surcharges paid by farmers since the CCA went into effect.

The rebates would begin being issued by Sept. 1 by the Department of Licensing based on a tiered system. Farmers who bought fewer than 1,000 gallons of fuel would be eligible for a $600 refund. Farmers who bought up to 4,000 gallons would get $2,300. Famers who bought more than 4,000 gallons would get $3,400. The Senate proposal has a new fourth tier which provides $4,500 for farmers who purchased more than 10,000 gallons of fuel.

Both budget proposals also include $150 million to provide a $200 credit on residential electricity bills for low and moderate income families. The state would distribute this money as grants to utilities and then utilities would pass it on their ratepayers.

Other Notable Operating Budget Items of Interest:

  • $500,000 is provided in the Senate budget for a grant to a Washington nonprofit organization that supports farmworkers to help develop and share farmworker ideas to improve production.
  • $250,000 is provided in both budgets for a comprehensive report with recommendations on a grant program to support farmers purchasing green fertilizer.
  • $250,000 is provided in the Senate Budget to complete an assessment of how many acres of agricultural land could be removed from active production for the state to meet the requirements of CETA and the state energy strategy.
  • $250,000 is provided in the Senate budget for a study on how other states regulate and permit agritourism.
  • $100,000 is provided in the House budget for elk management in the Skagit valley.

The Senate voted out their operating budget on Feb. 23, while the House voted their proposal off the floor on Feb. 24. Now negotiations get serious with final agreement expected a couple days before the session ends on March 7.

Notable Bill Action This Past Week:

Carbon Market Linkage (SB 6058) is Department of Ecology-request legislation intended to facilitate linkage of Washington’s carbon market under the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) with the California-Quebec carbon markets. This past week, the bill passed the House Environment & Energy Committee.

Greenhouse Gas Disclosures (SB 6092), directs the Department of Ecology to research and deliver a report to the legislature on the SEC’s climate-related disclosures. The reporting deadline under the legislation would be 18 months after the adoption of the final SEC rule. This past week, the bill passed out of the House Environment & Energy Committee and a public hearing was held in the House Appropriations Committee. It is scheduled to be voted out of the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 26.

Organic Food Waste (SHB 2301) as originally introduced contained problematic date labeling standards that would have removed the words “sell by” and replace them with “use by” or “best by” but this section was removed. The amended bill now focuses most of its attention on requiring local jurisdictions to create new composting facilities and add composting to curbside collection. It also contains a grant program and a workgroup for collaborating on how to further incentivize businesses to reduce waste. The bill was heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Employer Political Speech (SB 5778) prohibits employers from taking adverse action against an employee refusing to attend or participate in an employer-sponsored meeting communicating the employer’s opinion concerning religious or political matters. This past week, the bill passed out of the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee.

Neonicotinoid Pesticides (SB 5972) prohibits the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on outdoor plants beginning Jan. 1, 2026, unless the application is made by a licensed application or during the production of an agricultural commodity. This past week the bill was heard and voted out of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. The committee amended the bill to further clarify that an individual cannot use neonicotinoid pesticides on nonproduction outdoor ornamental plants, trees, and turf, unless the application is made as part of a licensed application, a tree injection, or during the production of an agricultural commodity.

Tax Exempt Agriculture Products (HB 2454) extends the expiration date for the hazardous substance tax exemption for pesticides sold out of state from Jan. 1, 2026, to Jan. 1, 2036. The bill passed out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee this past week.

Refrigerant Gases (HB 2401) would require producers of bulk refrigerants and precharged appliances to participate in and implement a refrigerant gas stewardship program. This past week a public hearing was held in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Avian Predation (HB 2293) directs the Department of Fish and Wildlife to convene an Avian Salmon Predation Work Group. The work group is required to report to the Legislature on avian species that predate on juvenile salmon, whether those species are overpopulated or overconsuming, and remedies for the harvest or abatement of those species. This past week the bill passed out of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.

Paid Sick Leave (SB 5793), allows an employee to use paid sick leave when their child’s school or care center is closed due to weather or a public emergency. Additionally, the bill would expand the definition of family member for the purpose of using paid sick leave. This past week the bill passed out of the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee.

Worker Wage Recovery (HB 2097) requires the Department of Labor and Industries to convene a work group to recommend strategies helping workers recover wages owed when an employer violates provisions of the Minimum Wage Act or wage payment requirements. On February 19, the bill passed out of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.

Notable Bills That Did Not Make the Opposite House Policy Cutoff (Dead Bills):

 Landowner’s Lessee Penalties (HB 2074) would have prohibited the Department of Ecology from levying a civil penalty for a violation of the water code against a landowner if the actions of the landowner’s lessee are the basis for the violation. Instead, in such cases, Ecology could have levied the civil penalty against the lessee.