2020 Legislative Session Begins

Monday, January 13 marks the first day of the 2020 Legislative Session, which looks to be a short, 60 day session that will end on time.

The big issues legislators expect to tackle include:

  • Homelessness — the Governor’s budget proposed a $318 million spending increase in this arena
  • Transportation — Legislators must look at how to fill a nearly $500 million gap in transportation funding thanks to the passage of I-976
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions — Lawmakers and the Governor want to expand on last year’s successes in clean energy with more of a focus on the transportation sector.  Expect Zero emission goals for vehicles and heavy lobbying to pass a low carbon fuels standard.
  • Labor issues — Modifications to the state’s paid family leave law to add clarification, independent contractor legislation, and secure scheduling proposals are all on the docket.

There is enough money in the budget to keep things going and not enough to do a lot of new things.  This means a fairly even year when it comes to budget spending — the subject that usually puts us into overtime.  However, we do expect to see continued discussion and legislation to put in place a capital gains tax.  Rumors abound about how this will happen, including the possibility of an initiative to fund early learning using this new tax.

But let’s remember that this is an election year and legislators on both sides will be reluctant to do too much that could garner the ire of voters.  The tax increases passed last session were overwhelmingly “turned down” on the advisory votes on the last November ballot which will make many legislators cautious about passing more tax increases regardless of who that tax would apply to.  Also, issues like per mile road usage charges – that require significant debate — may have some air time this session but will likely be passed off until the longer budget session next year.

We will be watching all issues pertaining to housing and homelessness as well as transportation funding.  Our first priority is to ensure the Connecting Washington projects and timelines are not impacted and remain on target for completion.  Proposals that provide local governments more options for housing development and services for homeless individuals will be reviewed for support potential.  Education will remain a priority, but with all the action over the last two sessions, this is expected to be a quiet year.  Funding for special education to help our districts comply with mandates and needs, as well as continued CTE enhancements will be a focus for the FME Chamber and our South Sound Legislative Coalition partners.