2021 Session – General Legislative Recap: Week of March 19, 2021

2021 Legislative Session , WBPA News ,

This is the 68th day of the 105-day session.

 

The next cutoff for bills to move from the Opposite House Policy Committee is on Friday, March 26, followed by the Opposite House Fiscal Committee cutoff on Friday, April 2 and the cutoff for bills to pass out of the Opposite house is on Sunday, April 11.

Below is a summary of what occurred this week for your general update. 

Inslee Announces Extension of Eviction Moratorium, Expansion of Vaccine Eligibility, Long-Term Care Visitations May Resume & Additional Proclamations

 On Thursday, March 18, Governor Jay Inslee announced that the statewide eviction moratorium will be extended through June 30, 2021

He also announced that the vaccine eligibility will expand to include:

  • Anyone with two or more comorbidities
  • Anyone between the ages of 60 and 64
  • Anyone living in congregate settings (correctional facilities, group homes for those with disabilities, those experiencing homelessness, etc.)
  • Additional workers in congregate settings (restaurants, manufacturing, construction)

By March 31, five million Washingtonians will be eligible for vaccination.

Effectively immediately, visitations at long-term care facilities and nursing homes may resume.

The Governor additionally signed two proclamations this week:

  • Proclamation - 20-23.15 – Ratepayer Assistance and Preservation of Essential Service, which extends utility shutoff through July 31, 2021, and
  • Proclamation - 20-49.14 – Garnishments, which still prohibits debt garnishment on federal pandemic payments.

To view additional information, click here. 

Economic Assistance Programs

SB 5214 requires the Department of Social and Health Services to allow a time limit extension to the five-year limit for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for months when the state unemployment rate was 7% or higher.  It also applies the bill prospectively and retroactively as of March 1, 2020.

5214 came out of the Senate with 29-19 vote with Republicans (and Sen. Mullet) voicing concerns about the implementation date as well as thinking the Federal rule limiting the state's ability to implement some of the provisions in the bill.  It has been scheduled for a public hearing on March 23rd in House Housing, Human Services & Veterans. 

Health Emergency Labor Standards

Senator Keiser prime sponsored SB 5115, which creates an occupational disease presumption, for the purposes of workers' compensation, for frontline employees during a public health emergency.  It passed out of the Senate with ease in a 48-1 vote (Sen. Wagoner voted no) but has found some resistance in the House.  It had a public hearing in House Labor and Workforce Standards on March 12th, and has been scheduled for executive session twice since but did not move out.  It is now scheduled for executive action for a third time on March 24th. 

Tenant Protections During and After Public Health Emergencies

SB 5160, attempts to address landlord-tenant relations by providing certain tenant protections during the public health emergency, providing for legal representation in eviction cases, establishing an eviction resolution pilot program for nonpayment of rent cases, and authorizing landlord access to certain rental assistance programs.

One particular point of contention is subject to appropriations, the court must appoint an attorney for an indigent tenant at any show cause hearing or scheduled trial.  Prioritization on the provision of legal representation services must be in those counties in which the most evictions occur, as determined by OCLA.  This bill passed out of the Senate on nearly party lines and has had a public hearing in the House.  It is scheduled for executive session on March 25th in House Housing, Human Services & Veterans.