Washington 2023 Legislative report, week 6

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

Feb. 19 marked the 40th day of the 2023 Legislative Session and the first deadline: policy committee cutoff. This means all bills needed to pass out of their respective policy committees in their house of origin by that date, or they are considered “dead” for the legislative session. However, no bill is ever officially “dead” until the gavel drops on the last day of the session.

The next cutoff date is Feb. 24, when bills must make it out of their fiscal committees to remain alive. The Senate fiscal committee was working over the weekend to meet this deadline.

Once bills advance out of both a policy and, if referred, a fiscal committee, they are referred to the Rules Committee in their respective chambers. Bills remain in the Rules Committee until they are selected to be brought up for a vote of the entire chamber of the House of Representatives or Senate. Once a bill passes out of one chamber, it then moves to the second chamber, and the process repeats.

House Fiscal Committee Holds Hearing on WRAP Act

The WRAP Act continues to move through the legislative process despite opposition from much of the business community. Last Wednesday, House Bill 1131, introduced by Rep. Liz Berry (D-Seattle), was heard in the House Appropriations Committee. As previously reported, the bill attempts to tackle a large swath of policy by not only aiming to establish an extended producer responsibility system, but also making changes to minimum postconsumer recycled content, outlining truth in labeling specifications, and creating producer responsibilities for beverage containers.

One area of particular concern for many interest groups is the absence of an exemption for federally regulated products. The provision is particularly important as it relates to food safety and medical products. The Food & Drug Administration has not approved post-consumer recycled materials for “food contact” packaging in produce.

Its Senate Companion Senate Bill 5154, introduced by Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), has yet to be heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Bipartisan Riparian Bill Passes Out of Policy Committee Unanimously

Last Friday, Substitute House Bill 1720, the bipartisan riparian legislation, passed out of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Mike Chapman (D), Rep. Tom Dent (R), Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D) and Rep. Joel Kretz (R).

House Bill 1720 as originally introduced would establish a voluntary, regionally focused riparian grant program to be administered by the Washington State Conservation Commission. The bill was amended to create a second riparian grant program to be administered by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. Landowners would have the option of choosing which program to participate in.

The bill would also establish a Salmon Riparian Habitat Policy Task Force to monitor and review the implementation of the riparian grant program.

The bill was heard in the House Capital Budget Committee on Feb. 20.

Notable “Alive” Bills After Deadline:

The following bills are considered “alive” for the 2023 Legislative Session. These bills have been approved by their respective policy committees and are currently under consideration in a fiscal committee or rules committee.

  • Pesticide Advisory Board (HB 1019), sponsored by Rep. Tom Dent (R-Moses Lake) would establish a formal and permanent Pesticide Advisory Board to advise the Department of Agriculture. Of the 10 voting members accounted for in the bill one of the seats is reserved for an agricultural producer.
  • Commercial Driver’s Licenses (HB 1058), sponsored Rep. Dave Paul (D-Oak Harbor) aims to simplify the commercial driver’s license process by reducing exam fees, striking the requirement for renewals to happen in person, and allowing the waiver of qualification standards for applicants who previously had voluntarily surrendered a commercial driver’s license.
  • Drought Preparedness (HB 1138), sponsored by by Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) is Department of Ecology-request legislation. The bill would provide permanent funding source to prepare and respond to drought emergencies, including unanticipated and sudden droughts.
  • Clean Energy Siting (HB 1216/SB 5380), sponsored Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-West Seattle) and Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-White Center) is governor-request legislation. The bill makes a number of changes to the siting of clean energy projects in the state including but not limited to:
    • Establishing an Interagency Clean Energy Siting Coordinating Council co-chaired by the Department of Ecology and the Department of Commerce.
    • Requiring Commerce to establish an application process for the designation of Clean Energy Projects of Statewide Significance and creating a more streamlined and expedited process for such projects.
    • Making several changes to SEPA related to clean energy project proposals.
  • Reusable Packing Materials (HB 1422), sponsored by Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland), clarifies that renting or leasing of packing material under a packing material sharing and reuse program is not subject to retail sales and use tax. The clarification provided by HB 1422 is necessary as a recent Washington Court of Appeals decision determined that reusable wooden pallets leased by food manufacturers constituted a “retail sale” and are subject to sales and use taxes.
  • Tax Preferences for Dairy, Fruit and Vegetable, and Seafood Processors (SB 5277 /HB 1573), sponsored by Sen. Lynda Wilson (R-Vancouver) and Rep. Alicia Rule (D-Blaine), would extend the expiration date of business and occupation tax preferences for dairy, fruit and vegetable, and seafood processors until 2035.
  • Personnel Records (SB 5061), sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), requires an employer to provide an employee with a complete copy of their personnel file at no cost within 14 days of a request. Additionally, an employer would be required to provide a former employee with a signed written statement with the effective date of discharge, whether the employer had a reason for the discharge, and if so, the reasons, within 14 days of the written request.
  • Climate Response Strategy (HB 1170/SB 5093), sponsored by Rep. Chipalo Street (D-Seattle) in the House and Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) is Department of Ecology-request legislation. The proposal would require Ecology to update its Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy by July 2024, and every four years after that. Additionally, the bill requires that Ecology work with the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group when updating the Strategy.
  • Wage Replacement (SB 5109/HB 1095), sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle) and Rep. Amy Walen (D-Kirkland), creates a wage replacement program for workers who are unemployed and not eligible for the state and federal unemployment insurance. The bill raises several questions for employers regarding how workers may be rehired and how it may cooperate with federal regulations.
  • Pesticide Registration Committee (SB 5143) sponsored by Sen. Nikki Torres (R-Pasco), moves to change the name of the Commission on Pesticide Registration to the Commission on Integrated Pest Management in order to align the name of the Commission with the work it is conducting.
  • Climate Change Planning (SB 5203/HB 1181), sponsored by Rep. Davina Duerr (D-Bothell) in the House and its companion legislation sponsored by Sen. Liz Lovelett (D-Anacortes) in the Senate, was requested by the Office of the Governor. The proposal amends the Growth Management Act to incorporate goals and provisions related to climate change.
  • Musculoskeletal Injuries (SB 5217), sponsored by Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond) would repeal the law prohibiting the Department of Labor and Industries from adopting rules related to ergonomics or musculoskeletal disorders. The bill would then allow L&I to adopt rules for certain risk classes of workers, so long as the Department did not take up more than one set of rules for an industry per year.
  • Pesticide Application (SB 5330) sponsored by Sen. Nikki Torres (R-Pasco), is Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA)-request legislation that makes several amendments to the Washington pesticide application act including:
    • In certain cases, permitting the WSDA Director to suspend or revoke a license based on a termination of a certification from another jurisdiction.
    • Removing the provision that applicants for certain applicator licenses must be at least 16 years old.
    • Requiring WSDA to adopt standards for pesticide applications from noncertified applicators of restricted use pesticides under the direct supervision of a certified applicator.
    • Several definitional additions.
  • WA Food & Agricultural Products (SB 5341), sponsored by Sen. Ron Muzzall (R-Oak Harbor) would direct the Washington State Department of Agriculture to establish an advisory committee of food production organizations to submit recommendations concerning a voluntary location-based program to brand and promote local food and agricultural products in Washington. Following the submission of such a report, the legislation allows the WSDA director to adopt rules necessary to implement the program. The proposal was supported and requested by WSDA.
  • Voluntary Stewardship Program (SB 5353), sponsored by Sen. Keith Wagoner (R-Sedro-Woolley), would allow additional counties to join the Voluntary Stewardship Program and be eligible for program funding. The bill also requires the Conservation Commission to determine which watersheds in the new participating counties received adequate funding to implement the program every two years and requires county action if adequate funding is not received.
  • Paid Leave Data (SB 5586), sponsored by Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima), would provide employee PFML claim information to employers necessary to implement the program such as claim duration, payments and type of claim.
  • Irrigation District Elections (SB 5709), sponsored Sen. Nikki Torres (R-Pasco), would permit irrigation district board of directors to conduct an election via mail-in ballots. The bill also clarifies who may vote in an irrigation district election and establishes measures to ensure election security.

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

  • Riparian Areas (HB 1215), sponsored by Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles), was the initial riparian proposal by the governor this session. While there was a hearing on the bill, it was never brought up for a vote of the policy committee and instead a bipartisan group of legislators drafted a separate riparian bill (HB 1720) which is currently still alive.
  • Agricultural Overtime (SB 5476), sponsored by Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima), would have allowed for a level of flexibility under the recent agriculture overtime requirements. Under the proposal, an agricultural employer would have been able to select any 12 weeks in a calendar year as special circumstance weeks for labor demand. During the selected weeks (which do not need to be consecutive), the employer would be permitted to schedule agricultural employees up to 50 hours before the requirement to pay overtime would be triggered. There was a hearing held on the bill, but it was never brought up for a vote.
  • Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land (HB 1412), sponsored by Rep. Clyde Shavers (D-Oak Harbor), would have prohibited foreign governments, foreign enterprises, and foreign business entities from purchasing, acquiring, leasing, or holding any interest in agricultural land (including timber lands) beginning August of 2023. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, the Department of Agriculture would have been required to review and approve all agricultural land sales in Washington.
  • Clean Fuels Program Report (SB 5362), sponsored by Sen. Drew MacEwen (R-Union), would have moved up the due date for the Department of Ecology’s report covering the previous calendar year of Clean Fuels Program activities to Feb. 1, 2024. The report would otherwise be due on May 1, 2025. A hearing was held on the bill, but not brought up for a vote.
  • Salmon Voluntary Stewardship (HB 1076), sponsored by Rep. Mark Klicker (R-Walla Walla) would have provided a voluntary option for cities and counties planning under the Growth Management Act to incorporate an additional element on salmon recovery into their comprehensive plans. The bill received a hearing, but was never brought up for a vote.
  • Methane Capture (SB 5551), sponsored by Sen. Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham), provides funding from the Conservation Commission’s Sustainable Farms and Fields Program for implementation of best practices that increase carbon sequestration in soil and standing vegetation, or reduce livestock and soil greenhouse gas emissions. The bill also establishes an advisory committee administered by the Commission and WSDA to guide grant awards from the funding provide and notify the agricultural community about opportunities to participate in various carbon emissions reduction programs. While this bill did not move out of the policy committee by the deadline, it could easily designed as “necessary to implement the budget” and not subject to cutoff deadlines.
  • CA Vehicle Emissions Standards (HB 1183), sponsored by Rep. Mary Dye (R-Pomeroy), would have repealed the statutory authority allowing the Department of Ecology to adopt California motor vehicle emissions standards which bans the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles in the state by 2023. The bill never received a hearing.
  • Building Code & Greenhouse Gas Emissions (HB 1193), sponsored by Rep. Mary Dye (R-Pomeroy), would have clarified that the State Building Code Council does not have the authority to consider greenhouse gas emissions as a factor in any decisions about the state building code or the state energy code. The bill also would have specified that the SBCC could not restrict the use of natural gas or natural gas appliances in residential construction unless a statute is enacted to grant the council such authority. The bill never received a hearing.
  • State Building Code Council Operations (HB 1404), sponsored by Rep. Keith Goehner (R-Dryden), would have made a number of changes to the operations of the SBCC, but never received a hearing. The bill proposed a number of changes to the SBCC including:
    • Adding a member representing utilities to the SBCC.
    • Clarifying that employees of the SBCC, members of the SBCC, and technical advisory groups must receive training on the rules of procedure used by the council and ethics in public service.
    • Specifying that the managing director of the building code council is subject to confirmation by the senate.
    • Requiring the SBCC to supplement cost estimate information provided in an amendment with independent research if the initial information is not sufficient.
    • Requiring the SBCC to identify the sources of information reviewed and relied upon when adopting code changes.
  • Preventing Carbon Market Manipulation (HB 1659), sponsored by Rep. Mary Dye (R-Pomeroy), would have required the Washington State Institute of Policy to study and make recommendations for establishing an independent agency (separate from Ecology) for oversight of the carbon market resulting from the Climate Commitment Act (CCA). It also would have required a performance audit, by the State Auditors Office, on the effectiveness of the Cap and Invest Program. The bill never received a public hearing.
  • Municipal Water Supply (SB 5622), sponsored by sponsored by Sen. Nikki Torres (R-Pasco), was introduced in response to a denial by Ecology on a groundwater transfer requested by Pasco. SB 5622 would have clarified an alternative water right can be used to do a transfer between two water right holders, including two municipals, if the terms of the transferred right are preserved. A hearing was held on the bill, but it was not brought up for a vote.