Taxing debates on capital gains, police reform, evictions

Here’s what’s happening on Day 57 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2021 Washington Legislature, Day 57 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, March 8, 2021 — Good Monday morning.

Quite a weekend. Still hung over from Saturday’s protracted Senate debate culminating with majority Democrats pushing through a capital gains tax bill by a single vote?

That milestone moment is a consequence of November’s election, which shifted the Democratic caucus leftward with the addition of a progressive, Sen. T’wina Nobles, D-Fircrest, and subtraction of a moderate, Dean Takko of Longview.

For Gov. Jay Inslee, the bill’s passage, in a chamber long resistant to take up the legislation, is one of his biggest legislative victories since assuming office in 2013.

Senate Bill 5096 will now move through the House and go to Inslee for signing. After that, it could land on the ballot via referendum, since senators stripped off an emergency clause. Or it could land in court.

Meanwhile, with this win, will Democrats shelve any of the other taxes on their agenda? They’ve got bills for taxes on health insurance plans, sugary drinks and carbon emissions. And a gas tax hike is getting floated in both chambers.

We’re probably not done with tax fights this session.

Meanwhile Saturday, a united Senate Democratic caucus advanced an ambitious expansion of child care and early learning programs on a party line vote.

Senate Bill 5237, dubbed the Fair Start for Kids Act, would increase subsidies for licensed child care providers, reduce co-pays for families receiving Working Connections subsidies and expand eligibility for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP. Those are the major pieces of a 52-page bill.

It will be pricey, about $720 million over the next four years. However, lawmakers hope to tap federal funds to cover the costs. Congress is about to send $635 million to Washington for child care services through the massive COVID-19 relief package.

Not to be outdone, the House didn’t break for the weekend.

It had its own spirited debate Saturday, preceding passage of House Bill 1310 to establish a statewide standard for when police can use any degree of force, including deadly force.

Then Sunday, they tackled House Bill 1236, which extends the statewide moratorium on evictions through the declared end of the pandemic and tightens restrictions on evictions when there is no public health emergency.

To the cut-off and beyond

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz are running out of time to get their priority bills through the Legislature.

Tuesday is the deadline for each chamber to advance bills. Kreidler’s bid to end use of credit scoring in setting insurance rates (Senate Bill 5010) and Franz’s blueprint for improving forest health and bolstering wildfire resources (House Bill 1168) still need to be voted on.

Lawmakers will dive back into committee work Wednesday morning.

On tap at 8 a.m. that day are public hearings on controversial measures for a low carbon fuel standard (House Bill 1091) and restoration of voting rights for felons (House Bill 1078).

Preventive medicine

Concern about unsanctioned ballot collection containers popping up on street corners, which occurred in some states last fall, has spurred passage of a bill making it a crime to set up an unofficial ballot drop box in Washington.

“I call this our little 2021 vaccination bill for election integrity,” said Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5015, which passed 47-0.

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