WA Legislature keeps most of its priority bills alive — so far

At the 2024 session midpoint, lawmakers are focusing on big statewide issues such as clean energy, rent stabilization and police accountability.

The Washington State Capitol Building

The Washington State Capitol Building, also known as the Legislative Building, in Olympia, in a 2020 photo. (Jovelle Tamayo for Crosscut)

The Washington Legislature is halfway through its 2024 session, with many bills traveling toward the governor’s desk. But it’s still too early to see clearly how everything is going to fall into place by March 7.

Some significant bills, many covering the priorities lawmakers expressed before the session began in early January, appear to be making their way toward passage. Others appear to be dead. Worth noting: All six of the citizen initiatives to the Legislature are heading directly to the November ballot, as the Democratic majority isn’t inclined to act on these Republican-backed measures.

A lot of the biggest issues, including more spending on behavioral health and housing, will likely be decided as part of budget negotiations. The next big hurdle for legislation is a Feb. 21 deadline to make it out of policy committees in the opposite house, or Feb. 26 for budget bills to make it out of a fiscal committee.

Lawmakers are considering a couple of measures addressing drug overdoses, including Senate Bill 5906, which would require the Department of Health to develop a drug overdose prevention campaign, and which passed unanimously out of the Senate on Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, and colleagues from both parties, would also require an annual report on the effectiveness of the campaign and would need to be part of the budget before it took effect.

Among the wave of bills aiming to address the opioid epidemic is Senate Bill 5804,  which would put the opioid-overdose reversal medication Narcan in all public schools, expanding access to the lifesaving drug that is currently required only in Washington high schools in districts with more than 2,000 students. The bill, which was proposed to prime sponsor Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, by a group of Lake Washington high school seniors, has passed out of the Senate and is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Committee on Education.

Concerning housing, at least one popular idea is moving forward. House Bill 2114, a rent stabilization bill that would cap annual rent increases at 7%, passed the House on Tuesday with a vote of 54-43. Sponsored by Emily Alvarado, D-West Seattle, the measure would also prohibit rent increases during a renter’s first year of occupancy. 

More money to build affordable housing is likely to be part of budget negotiations, which will happen closer to the end of the session, even though the Legislature put $400 million into the Housing Trust Fund last year.

Another housing initiative, Senate Bill 5901, to bring back multifamily units formerly known as SROs or boarding houses but called “co-living housing” in the bill, has died. But a companion bill, HB 1998, is very much alive, having passed out of the House on Feb. 7.

To address another legislative priority – helping municipalities hire more police – the Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed Senate Bill 6242 to increase state funding for law enforcement training. Under current law, the state covers 75% of the cost to train a new officer and the local agency pays the remaining 25% to the Criminal Justice Training Commission. Under this bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, and Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, the state would cover 100% of officer training.

One bill that appears to be dead for this year: House Bill 1062 to bolster police accountability by making statements made during interrogations inadmissible if the officer used deception. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, passed out of the House Committee on Community Safety, Justice and Reentry but did not make it to the House floor.

To address barriers to work for undocumented immigrants seeking professional licenses, the House passed House Bill 1889 with a vote of 66-31. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Amy Walen, D-Kirkland, aims to encourage qualified applicants to pursue professional licenses by striking citizenship requirements for all applications, and creating more clarity for undocumented Washingtonians seeking these licenses.

Environmental bills still alive this year include: House Bill 1368 to spend $80 million from the Climate Commitment Act – Washington’s carbon pricing system – on purchasing new electric school buses; House Bill 1589 to help the state’s largest gas and electric utility, Puget Sound Energy, transition to clean energy and help individuals do the same; and House Bill 1391, which the advocacy group Climate Solutions calls a “one-stop shop” for clean energy incentives from both the federal government and the Climate Commitment Act.

Details about how the Legislature wants to spend the income from the cap-and-invest system will be worked out during budget negotiations, but many ideas are floating around Olympia. Preliminary budgets are expected to be released soon.

Expanding current revenge porn and child pornography laws, House Bill 1999 would create civil and criminal legal remedies for sexually explicit deepfakes – nonconsensual pornographic content made using artificial intelligence. Because victims of sexually explicit deepfakes currently have no legal recourse, prime sponsor Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, says the bill is needed to protect Washingtonians from a growing threat posed by AI. The bill has passed out of the House and is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Law and Justice.

House Bill 2169 proposed a pilot program in the Washington State Penitentiary East Complex dedicated to creating a healthier prison environment through painting and planting projects, as well as emphasizing communication between inmates and staff. The bill did not make it to the House floor and has died.

Both Senate or House bills aimed at changing the vote threshold for passing a school bond ballot measure also appear to be dead, or are at least on life support. Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal asked lawmakers to introduce bills to switch that constitutional requirement back to a simple majority. Because this proposal involves money and a potential constitutional amendment, it could potentially come back to life later in the session during budget negotiations.

Efforts to adjust overtime requirements for farmworkers seem to have stalled this legislative session. Senate Bill 5476, which would have allowed growers an exemption of up to 12 weeks in labor-intensive periods during which the overtime threshold would rise from 40 hours a week to 50, didn’t make it out of committee.

House Bill 1879 to honor the late Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, by renaming the state’s Indigenous History curriculum after the man whose advocacy brought it to life, has passed the House and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering what happened to House Bill 1648, affectionately known as the Taylor Swift bill. The Swift-inspired deceptive ticket sale proposal has not passed out of the House, but because it’s a fiscal measure, Swifties should not give up hope. It may come back to life. 

CLARIFICATION: Adds information about an alternative housing bill, HB 1998, that could still pass. And adds context to the paragraph about the simple majority for school bonds that explains that some proposals can come back to life later as part of the budget.

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About the Authors & Contributors


Scarlet Hansen

Scarlet Hansen is a student journalist at the University of Washington and Crosscut's 2024 legislative intern.