By Deirdre Bissonnette and Leslie Wolff, Legislative & Policy Subcommittee Chairs
The 2021 Legislative Session in Washington State came to a close on Apr. 25, 2021. Between the House and the Senate, 1,075 bills were introduced. Of those, 334 were passed into law.
The ICSEW encourages all of its members to participate in the civic process and advocate for issues they are passionate about. However, as state employees we cannot use state time or resources to lobby for or against legislative proposals in accordance with RCW 42.52.160 and RCW 42.52.180 (laws concerning ethics in public service and use of public resources for political campaigns). ICSEW asks that state employees share opinions on legislation in an ethical way, using their own personal time, phone, computers, devices and resources.
Every year, ICSEW’s Legislative and Policy Subcommittee members keep an eye out for bills that may impact state employed women. This session we tracked 15 bills, 12 of which were signed into law.
Bill Alerts Blog: With our new website relaunch, the ICSEW built in a section where you can see summaries of the bills we will be tracking during session. You can view that here: https://icsew.wa.gov/category/bill-alerts/
Here’s a brief summary of each of the bills our committee tracked that passed:
5044: Equity, Cultural Competency and Dismantling Racism in Public Schools – This bill adds equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism to existing cultural competency standards and training for school board directors, district staff, and school staff. It also directs districts to use one of their three professional learning days to focus on these topics.
5194: Equity and Access in Community and Technical Colleges – This bill requires development of a diversity, equity and inclusion plan for Community and Technical Colleges. It provides for hiring 200 full-time faculty over a three year period and creates a grant program for additional mental health counselors.
5237: Accessible, Affordable Childcare and Early Childhood Development Programs –This bill establishes a new account for child care and early learning purposes and includes a list of spending goals and strategies. It expands eligibility and decreases copayments in the Working Connections Child Care Program and expands eligibility in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and it increases supports for families of children from birth until the age of three.
Housing, Human Services:
1236: Protecting Residential Tenants – This bill specifies exclusive causes for eviction, refusal to renew, and ending a tenancy under the Residential Landlord-Tenant
Health and Wellness:
5052: Health Equity Zones - This bill requires the Department of Health, subject to funding, to designate health equity zones statewide and develop projects that meet the needs of each zone.
Natural Resources and Climate:
5126: Washington Climate Commitment Act – This bill establishes a cap and invest greenhouse gas emissions program at the Department of Ecology, convenes an Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Panel and directs distribution of auction revenues for the Forward Flexible Account.
Appropriations/ Ways and Means:
1273: Menstrual Products in Schools – This bill requires school districts, private K-12 schools, charter schools, state tribal compact schools, and public and private institutions of higher education to make menstrual hygiene products available at no cost by the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year
5096: Excise Tax on Sale or Exchange of Certain Capital Assets (Capital Gains Tax) – This bill imposes a 7 percent capital gains tax (CGT) beginning January 1, 2022. The first $250,000 of capital gains are excluded from the state CGT. Beginning with taxes due and payable in 2024, the $250,000 amount is adjusted annually by inflation.
Labor and Workplace:
1073: Expanding the Paid Family and Medical Leave Program – This bill provides grants to smaller employers with employees taking leave and provides grants to certain employees who are ineligible for paid family medical leave because they have not worked a sufficient number of hours.
1315: Task Force to Identify Role of Work Place in Curbing Domestic Violence – This bill creates a task force on workplace resources and the role of the workplace on helping to curb domestic violence.
1455: Use of Social Security Number by Dept. of Labor and Industries (LNI) and Employment Security (ESD) – This bill requires ESD and LNI to examine their current practices that involve disclosing full Social Security numbers in agency correspondences with nongovernmental third parties.
5115: Health Emergency Labor Standards – This bill requires employers to notify Labor and Industries when a certain percentage of their workforce becomes infected during a public health emergency. It also prohibits discrimination against high-risk employees who seek accommodations to protect themselves from the disease.
Now that session is over, the Legislative and Policy subcommittee is tracking the implementation phase of several of these new laws. We will continue to share information with ICSEW membership.
To learn more about the Legislative and Policy Subcommittee visit: https://icsew.wa.gov/subcommittees/legislative-and-policy/.