The Home Stretch
Legislative Session Ends April 25
Nine days remain before the conclusion of the legislative session on April 25. The Legislature has these remaining days to reconcile any differences between versions of the same bill passed by the House and Senate and then deliver the bill to the governor. The governor may sign the bill into law or veto all or part of the bill. If the governor chooses not to act on the bill it may become law without a signature.
Good News: Bills Signed Into Law
Bill Prohibiting Private, For-Profit Detention Facilities Signed Into Law: On April 14 Governor Inlsee signed House Bill 1090 (HB 1090) into law. HB 1090 prohibits state and local governments from using private, for-profit detention centers, which are outside the purview of public oversight and accountability. Profiteering should not be associated with the detention system. Related to the bishops’ restorative justice and immigration legislative priorities, the WSCC supports HB 1090.
Voter Eligibility Bill Signed Into Law:On April 7 Governor Inslee signed House Bill 1078 (HB 1078) into law. HB 1078 will automatically restore voter eligibility to individuals convicted of a felony offense who are not serving a sentence of total confinement under the authority of the Department of Corrections. Currently, convicted persons must undergo a two-step process to regain voting eligibility. The new law’s effective date is January 1, 2022. In accordance with the Washington bishops’ restorative justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1078.
HB 1151, Which Bolsters Economic Recovery, Signed Into Law: On March 31 Governor Inslee signed House Bill 1151 (HB 1151) into law. This new law will bolster economic recovery by providing assistance to families in need. HB 1151 also requires the Department of Social and Health Services to update standards of need for cash assistance programs. Current standards are based on a 1991 study of living costs and do not accurately capture current need. Updating standards will have multiplying effects in getting assistance to more qualifying families and individuals. HB 1151 also permits Consolidated Emergency Assistance to be provided more than once in a 12-month period when directed by the governor and provides a one-time cash benefit and transitional food assistance. In accordance with the bishops’ economic justice priority, the WSCC supports HB 1151.
Private Schools Emergency Waiver Bill (HB 1131) Signed Into Law: On March 2 the governor signed House Bill 1131 (HB 1131) into law. HB 1131 provides a waiver for private schools to maintain their approval status when they are unable to meet minimum school days or instructional hours due to a significant disruption resulting from an emergency situation. This bill is favorable to Catholic schools and allows them to be in good status with the state as schools contend with the challenges of the pandemic. Related to the bishops’ Catholic Schools legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1131.
Your Voice Made An Impact
Assisted Suicide Bill Fails: The Senate failed to vote on House Bill 1141 (HB 1141), the expansion of assisted suicide. The bill is now dead for the session. Thank you to Catholic advocates for sending out nearly 1,500 messages to your legislators to vote against this bill. In 2008 Washington voters approved Initiative 1000, the Physician-Assisted Death Initiative, but only after being assured that certain “safeguards” would be in place. HB 1141 loosens safeguards, increasing access to physician-assisted suicide and accelerating the process. The bill broadens the definition of a “qualified medical provider” who can make a diagnosis and prescribe lethal medication. HB 1141 also loosens the definition of those who can provide counseling; in lieu of a psychiatrist or psychologist, a social worker, mental health counselor, or psychiatric advanced nurse practitioner may determine if a patient is suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgement. Additionally, this bill shortens the minimum amount of time from 15 days to just 72 hours that a patient is required to wait between making a request and receiving a prescription to terminate his or her life. The 72 hour wait time may even be waived if the “qualified medical provider” deems that a patient has less than 72 hours to live. HB 1141 also permits assisted suicide prescriptions to be delivered via the mail. Bishop Mueggenborg of the Archdiocese of Seattle and Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) Executive Director, Mario Villanueva, testified against HB 1141 on January 18. View their testimony at 1:29:02. In accordance with the bishops’ legislative priority to respect life, the WSCC opposed HB 1141.
More Good News: Bills That Have Passed Both the House and Senate
Next Steps: Bills in this section have passed both the House and Senate. Any differences between bill versions passed by the House and Senate must be reconciled before the bill can be passed to the governor for a signature. The governor may choose to sign bills into law, veto all or portions of the bill, or do nothing. A bill may be passed into law without the governor’s signature.
Legislature Passes the Working Families Tax Exemption: On April 11 the Senate passed House Bill 1297 (HB 1297), the Working Families Tax Exemption. The House concurred with Senate amendments, and the bill will soon be sent to Governor Inslee for his signature. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law. Also commonly known as the Working Families Tax Credit or the Recovery Rebate, HB 1297 will assist low-income, working individuals and families, including tax-paying immigrants. The HB 1297 tax credit addresses Washington’s regressive tax system, which causes low-income Washingtonians to pay six times more in taxes as a percentage of their household income in comparison to wealthier residents. The Working Families Tax Credit would reach 500,000 households, including one in four children; have an outsized impact on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities; and would provide a base credit of $500 to $900. In accordance with the bishops’ priorities of the state budget, economic justice, and racial justice, the WSCC supports HB 1297.
Postpartum Maternal Health Coverage Bill Delivered to Governor: On April 12 Senate Bill 5068 (SB 5068) was delivered to Governor Inslee. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law. SB 5068 expands postpartum maternal coverage from 60 days to one year for recipients of Apple Health. Apple Health provides health coverage for eligible families, children, low-income adults, and certain disabled individuals. Throughout Washington state and the US, maternal mortality rates are much higher than other developed countries, with stark ethnic disparities. Related to our health care and racial justice legislative priorities, the WSCC supports SB 5068.
Bill To Eliminate Copays for Student Reduced-Price Lunches Sent to Governor: On April 13 House Bill 1342 (HB 1342) was delivered to Governor Inslee for his signature. It is expected that the bill will be signed into law. HB 1342 eliminates lunch copays for students who qualify for reduced-price lunches under the National School Lunch Program. This program provides nutritionally balanced meals to qualifying low-income children at public schools and nonprofit private schools, including Catholic schools. Related to the bishops’ legislative priorities of economic justice and supporting families and children, the WSCC supports HB 1342.
Senate Passes Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education: On April 9 the Senate passed House Bill 1044 (HB 1044), which provides pathways from prison to postsecondary education. On April 14 the House concurred with Senate amendments. HB 1044 will soon be delivered to Governor Inslee, and it is anticipated that he will sign the bill into law. HB 1044 permits the Department of Corrections (DOC) to implement postsecondary education certificate and degree programs at state correctional institutions. It also establishes processes for identifying, assessing and accommodating incarcerated persons with learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and cognitive impairments. Related to the bishops’ restorative justice priority, the WSCC supports HB 1044.
House Passes Farmworker Housing Bill: On April 9 the House passed Senate Bill 5396 (SB 5396). It will now be sent to Governor Inslee, and it is anticipated that he will sign the bill into law. SB 5396 encourages the building and maintenance of farmworker housing by expanding tax exemptions to include housing in which at least 50% of housing units are used as farmworker housing. Tax exemptions are also broadened to include seasonal farmworker housing and housing occupied by households with at least one member who is a farmworker. In line with the bishops’ housing and immigration legislative priorities, the WSCC supports SB 5396.
Juneteenth To Be Sent to the Governor: On April 9 the Senate passed House Bill 1016 (HB 1016), which will make Juneteenth a holiday. The bill will now be sent to Governor Inslee, and it is anticipated that he will sign it into law. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation, when Galveston, Texas learned the Civil War ended, and enslaved people were freed. Juneteenth commemorates the abolition of slavery and recognizes the contributions of Black/African Americans. Forty-six states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or day of observance. As part of the bishops’ racial justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports HB 1016.
Senate Passes Civil Legal Aid Funds for Undocumented Immigrants: On April 13 House Bill 1072 (HB 1072) was delivered to Governor Inslee. He is expected to sign the bill into law. HB 1072 gives undocumented immigrants access to civil legal aid funds. These funds can be used for legal matters such as domestic relations and family law, elder abuse, disability rights, and health care. In accordance with the bishops’ legislative priorities to help low-income individuals, including immigrants, the WSCC supports HB 1072.
Legislature Passes Just Cause Eviction Bill: On April 8 the Senate passed House Bill 1236 (HB 1236), which addresses just cause for evictions. The House concurred with Senate amendments, and the bill is expected to be delivered to the governor soon. It is anticipated that Governor Inslee will sign the bill into law. Under current law, landlords can evict tenants with just 20 days notice, even if the tenant has never violated lease terms nor paid rent late. Landlords are not required to provide any reason for the “no cause” terminations, which allows discrimination and retaliation to go unchecked. BIPOC households are disproportionately impacted, with Black women experiencing the highest eviction rates. HB 1236 protects tenants by penalizing the inclusion of unlawful provisions in lease agreements and limiting reasons for eviction, refusal to renew a tenancy, and termination of tenancy. In accordance with the bishops’ housing and economic justice priorities, the WSCC supports HB 1236.
House Passes the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act: On April 10 the House passed the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act, Senate Bill 5141 (SB 5141). The House and Senate versions of the bill will now need to be reconciled to advance the bill further. Low-income and communities of color are disproportionately affected by environmental burdens. The HEAL Act addresses this by implementing recommendations of the Environmental Justice Task Force. Among its provisions, the HEAL Act defines environmental justice and requires some state agencies to complete environmental justice assessments, using a racial justice lens. The HEAL Act also incorporates tribal consultation, directs funding with environmental benefits towards communities highly impacted by pollution or climate change, and establishes the Environmental Justice Council. In accordance with Pope Francis’s call to care for God’s creation in Laudato Si’, the WSCC supports the HEAL Act.
House Passes Extensions to Economic Assistance Programs: On April 6 the House passed Senate Bill 5214 (SB 5214), which provides extensions to economic assistance programs. Differences between the House and Senate versions of this bill must now be reconciled in order for the bill to advance further. As the economic impacts of COVID-19 have affected low-income families and individuals disproportionately, SB 5214 creates benefit extensions for recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). TANF provides temporary cash assistance, subsidized childcare, and work programs for families. Under SB 5214 TANF recipients may apply for hardship extensions during months that the state unemployment rate is at or above 7%. In line with the bishops’ economic justice legislative priority, the WSCC supports SB 5214.
Senate Passes Clean Fuels Bill : On April 8 the Senate passed House Bill 1091 (HB 1091), the Clean Fuels Bill. Amendments to the bill passed by the Senate must now be reconciled with the House for the bill to progress further. The Clean Fuels Bill reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In accordance with the call of Pope Francis to care for God’s creation in Laudato Si’, the WSCC supports HB 1091.
House Passes the Landlord-Tenant Bill: On April 8 the House passed Senate Bill 5160 (SB 5160), which addresses landlord-tenant relations. Differences between the House and Senate versions of this bill must now be reconciled before the bill can advance further. As low and moderate-income workers have experienced economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic due to layoffs and reduced hours, paying rent has become more difficult. In response, SB 5160 provides some tenant protections during the current public health emergency, provides legal representation for tenants in eviction cases, establishes an eviction resolution pilot program for nonpayment of rent cases, and authorizes landlords to access rental assistance programs. In line with the bishops’ affordable housing legislative priority, the WSCC supports SB 5160.
Additional State Legislative Updates
State Budget: Budget negotiators continue to work to reconcile differences between the operating and capital budgets proposed by the House and Senate. Details are expected to be released soon. Negotiations on the transportation budget continue; the transportation budget will be released at a later date. House and Senate operating, capital, and transportation budget proposals may be found here.
Senate Passes Abortion Mandates for Student Health Plans: On April 13 House Bill 1009 (HB 1009), which mandates that student health plans cover abortion, was delivered to the governor. It is expected that he will sign the bill into law. HB 1009 expands the coverage of abortion in student health plans for colleges and universities: any student health plan that provides coverage for maternity care or services will also be required to include equivalent coverage to permit the abortion of a pregnancy. HB 1009 is also problematic as it would compel Catholic students and other prolife students at public colleges and universities to purchase health insurance that would subsidize and promote a procedure that violates their consciences. WSCC staff testified against this bill during its January 13 hearing in the House and during its March 17 hearing before the Senate Committee on Health and Long Term Care. In accordance with the bishops’ legislative priorities of religious liberty and respecting life, the WSCC opposes HB 1009.
Voice Your Opinion on Legislation: As a reminder, you may submit written comments on a bill at any time. To leave a message for legislators about a bill, call 1-800-562-6000.
WSCC Legislative Priorities: Each year the bishops of Washington establish state legislative priorities based on the teachings of the Catholic Church. Details of these 11 priorities may be found on our website. These priorities are reflected in the WSCC’s positions on the bills above.
Virtual Cornerstone Catholic Conference: October 30: The bishops of Washington State invite you to attend the virtual Cornerstone Catholic Conference on October 30. Fr. Robert Spitzer and Gloria Purvis will present their keynote addresses in English, and the Washington bishops will be hosting a panel. Fr. Agustino Torres and Brenda Noriega will present their keynote addresses in Spanish. Pedro Rubalcava will provide music. Spanish interpretation will be provided, and some workshops will be offered in Spanish. There is no charge for this virtual conference. Registration will open in May.