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2020 legislative session roundup

2020 legislative session roundup

Washington’s 60-day 2020 legislative session concluded March 12 after state lawmakers approved a supplemental operating budget amid growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak’s long-term impact on the state economy.

In response to the public health situation, state lawmakers quickly appropriated $200 million from the state’s rainy day fund to assist with containing the virus. The session was also marked by the introduction of other significant legislation – some of which passed, some didn’t. A recap follows.


What Passed


B&O Tax:  SB 6492 sponsored by Rep. Drew Petersen (D-21) creates a new set of business and occupation (B&O) taxes and surcharges to replace a prior tax regime funding workforce development programs.

Greenhouse Gas:  ESSHB 2311 sponsored by Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-48) revises the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals that were created in 2008.

Aerospace Tax Incentives:  SB 6690 sponsored by Majority Floor Leader Marko Liias (D-21) removes aerospace industry tax incentives in order to avoid possible retaliatory tariffs, though the incentives could be restored if the legal disputes are settled.

Plastic Bag Ban: Introduction last year, ESSB 5323 sponsored by Sen. Mona Das (D-47) has cleared the legislature. The bill bans the use of plastic bags throughout Washington and allows stores to charge a fee between $.7-$.10 per paper bag.

Sports Gambling: ESHB 2638 sponsored by House Commerce & Gaming Committee Chair Strom Peterson (D-21) permits Washington tribes to conduct sports gambling operations on tribal lands. The bill was introduced after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found states could legalize this. However, the proposal was controversial for not extending sports gambling beyond non-tribal lands.

 Growth Management Act Reform: HB 2342 sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) changes the schedules for local government comprehensive plan updates required under the Growth Management Act and periodic reviews under the Shoreline Management Act.

Drought Response:  ESHB 1622 sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake (D-19) and requested by the state Department of Ecology allows the state agency to issue a drought advisory along with recommended voluntary actions to mitigate a potential drought. Certain industries and communities would receive priority for emergency water withdrawals.


What Didn’t


Low Carbon Fuel Standard: ESHB 1110 sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) would have created a statewide low carbon fuel standard (LCFS). Introduced last year, the bill cleared the House but once more was unable to advance out of the Senate Transportation Committee. This marks the third year an LCFS proposal has been introduced and is likely to be part of discussions over a new transportation package proposed next year.

Job Tax: HB 2907 sponsored by Rep. Nicole Macri (D-43) would have allowed King County to place a .01-.02 percent tax on an employer’s payroll expense. The bill did not advance out of the House Rules Committee for a floor vote.

Road Usage Charge: SB 6586 sponsored by Senate Transportation Vice Chair Rebecca Saldaña (D-37) would have created a road usage charge (RUC) program for electric and hybrid vehicles. The bill failed to clear the Senate Rules Committee for a floor vote.

Car Tabs:  SB 6606 sponsored by Majority Floor Leader Marko Liias (D-21) would have repealed I-976 provisions eliminating Sound Transit’s motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) and switched the transit agency’s MVET to a 2006 vehicle depreciation schedule. The bill was one of three introduced this session addressing I-976 or Sound Transit’s MVET. It is the third session legislators have unsuccessfully attempted to enact some form of car tab relief following the passage of ST3 during the November 2016 election.

Local Infrastructure InvestmentHB 2804 sponsored by Local Government Committee Vice Chair Davina Duerr (D-1) would have increased the state contributions to the Local Revitalization Financing (LRF) program created in 2009.

Clean Air Rule: HB 2957 and HB 289 sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) would have granted the state Department of Ecology the authority to regulate “indirect” emissions after the State Supreme Court last year invalidated most of the agency’s Clean Air Rule.

Hydropower: SB 6012 sponsored by Sen. Brad Hawkins (R-12) would have added certain hydropower parts and labor to a list of renewable energy tax exemptions under the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) passed last year. The bill was voted out of the Senate but didn’t make it to the House floor.

Community Aviation: SB 5011 sponsored by Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-15) would have created a Community Aviation Revitalization Board to oversee a revolving loan account to finance community airport improvements. This marks the second session the bill has been unable to get a House floor vote.

Final Frontier: HB 2596 sponsored by Rep. Matt Boehnke (R-8) would have had the state Department of Commerce create an advisory committee and study ways to improve the state’s business climate regarding the new space industry. The bill cleared the House but did not pass the Senate.

Premobilization: HB 2228 introduced by Rep. Larry Springer (D-45) would have allowed for the premobilization of state resources under the state mobilization plan against local wildfires. It cleared the House unanimously but was unable to advance from the Senate Rules Committee.

Kids’ Drinks:  SB 6455 sponsored by Majority Floor Leader Marko Liias (D-25) would have restricted the default beverages offered on kids’ menus to water, unflavored milk and nondairy alternatives. It passed the Senate but did not advance to the House floor.

Urban Forestry: HB 2768 sponsored by Assistant Majority Whip Bill Ramos (D-5) would have had the state Department of Natural Resources provide technical assistance to local governments and public agencies to promote urban forestry. The bill passed the House but did not clear the Senate Rules Committee.

Gasoline Car Ban: HB 2515 sponsored by Rep. Nicole Macri (D-43) would have required all new vehicles sold in the state to be electric starting in 2030. The bill failed to clear its committee before the legislative cutoff date.


TJ Martinell is a native Washingtonian and award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Bellevue, he’s been involved in the news industry since working at his high school newspaper.

His investigative reporting for various community newspapers in the Puget Sound region has been recognized by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.

A graduate of Eastern Washington University, he has a B.A. in journalism and was the news editor of EWU’s student university newspaper.

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