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Thank you for following Poverty Action’s legislative priorities during the 2021 Legislative Session, and for advocating on their behalf! Check out our community-driven 2021 Policy Agenda to learn more about the issues we support.

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Basic Needs

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A strong social safety net is the foundation of a strong community. We should always have access to support and be able to meet our basic needs, even when life throws us unexpected challenges. Poverty Action supports bills that invest in basic needs support as a direct investment in our communities and a fundamental part of ensuring a baseline of economic security.

Change to TANF Time Limit during High Unemployment – SB 5214

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What It Does

SSB 5214 was amended to exempt months from the 60-month lifetime limit for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program when the state unemployment rate is above 7%. Poverty Action supports building in measures of equity and financial stability to the SSB 5214 bill language, restoring pre-2011 policy by allowing time limit extensions for more broadly defined hardships, and including a cash grant increase.

Bill Status

Passed to Rules Committee on February 22.

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Expanding Dental Therapy – SB 5142

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What It Does

This bill would allow dental therapists to work under the supervision of a licensed dentist in dental clinics throughout the state of Washington.

Bill Status

Unfortunately, this bill is dead for the session.

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Updating the Standard of Need and Increases Access to DCAP – HB 1151

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What It Does

This bill would update the "standard of need" used to calculate benefit amounts, allow families to access the Disaster Cash Assistance Program (DCAP) more than once in a 12 month period, and create a 5-month period of transitional food assistance for families not receiving other benefits.

Bill Status

Passed the House on February 25!

Promoting Economic Inclusion for People Experiencing Poverty – SB 5241

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What It Does

This bill establishes an economic inclusion grant program to be led by people experiencing poverty and available to local communities to promote equity, economic inclusion, and a stable financial foundation for people experiencing poverty, with a particular focus on people of color and people in rural counties. The Poverty Reduction Work Group (PRWG) steering committee will be consulted on these measures and compensated accordingly. Provisions are also made to help federally-funded state programs coordinate existing programs and resources more effectively.

Bill Status

Passed to Rules Committee on February 22.

Residential Tenant "Just Cause" Protections – HB 1236

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What It Does

This bill would protect residential renters during their tenancies by penalizing the inclusion of unlawful lease provisions and limiting the reasons for eviction, refusal to continue a lease, and termination of tenancy.

Bill Status

Referred to Rules Committee on February 9.

Education

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Higher education offers advantages that last generations for those who are able to attain a degree. However social and financial barriers prevent low-income students and students of color from attending and graduating from higher education institutions. Poverty Action supports bills that increase access to higher education and graduation rates for students of color and low-income students in Washington.

Creating Prison to Postsecondary Education Pathways – HB 1044

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What It Does

This bill permits the Department of Corrections (DOC) to implement postsecondary education certificate and degree programs, including special education services, at state correctional institutions. It also requires the DOC to establish a process for identifying, assessing, and accommodating incarcerated persons with learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and cognitive impairments and to provide unofficial transcripts to incarcerated persons who participated in postsecondary education programs.

Bill Status

Referred to Rules Committee on February 19.

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Modifying the Workforce Education Investment Act (WEIA) – HB 1504

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What It Does

Generates more funding for the Workforce Education Investment Account (WEIA) and requires the state Health Care Authority to establish a behavioral health workforce pilot program and provide training support grants to community mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers.

Bill Status

Amended to weaken, referred to Rules Committee on February 22.

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Expanding Washington College Grant Awards – HB 1517

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What It Does

This bill expands income eligibility for students to receive Washington College Grants, increasing access to financial aid.

Bill Status

Unfortunately, this bill is dead for the session.

Requiring Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Antiracism Training and Assessments at Higher Education Institutions – SB 5227

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What It Does

This bill requires public higher education institutions to provide faculty, staff, and students with training to address matters related to antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. This bill also requires public higher education institutions to regularly assess the impact of that training on the campus community and identify any measures needed to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Bill Status

Passed to Rules Committee on February 22.

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Expanding Access for Students Experiencing Homelessness and in the Foster Care System – HB 1166

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What It Does

Establishes a pilot program to provide assistance to students experiencing homelessness and to students who were in the foster care system when they graduated high school. This includes housing assistance, access to technology, reduced-price meal plans, and case management services.

Bill Status

Referred to Rules Committee on February 4.

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Expanding Access to the College Bound Scholarship – SB 5321

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What It Does

Expands eligibility for the College Bound Scholarship by automatically enrolling eligible students.

Bill Status

Passed to Rules Committee on February 22.

Revenue

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For years, Washington state has had the worst tax code in the country. Families making the least amount of money pay up to 6 times more as a share of their income in taxes compared with the wealthiest Washingtonians. We support legislation that balances our tax code and creates equitable and progressive streams of revenue for Washington state.

Working Families Tax Credit/Recovery Rebate – HB 1297, SB 5387

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What It Does

The Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) was originally passed into law in 2008 - however, the state legislature has never funded it. The WFTC is our state's version of the federal government's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and, if implemented, would refund a portion of the state sales tax (an average of $500) to eligible households including those who file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Bill Status

The House version of this bill was referred to Rules Committee on February 22. The Senate version of this bill had a hearing in the Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation on February 4 at 1:30 PM.    

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Wealth Tax – HB 1406, SB 5426

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What It Does

This bill intends to improve the equity of Washington state's tax code by creating the Washington state wealth tax and taxing extraordinary financial intangible assets which would increase state revenue.

Bill Status

The House version of this bill had a hearing in the Finance Committee on February 2 at 1:30 PM. The Senate version of this bill was referred to the Ways & Means Committee on February 4.

Capital Gains Tax – SB 5096

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What It Does

This bill would enact an excise tax on gains from the sale or exchange of certain capital assets.

Bill Status

Passed to Rules Committee on February 18.

Public Safety

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The global movement to affirm the value of Black lives has invited elected officials to make real changes to our legal system and law enforcement. Poverty Action supports calls from Black-led organizations across the state to strengthen police accountability measures in Washington.

Police Tactics – HB 1054

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What It Does

This bill bans the use of chokeholds, neck restraints, tear gas, and military equipment by peace officers as well as the use of police dogs for the purpose of arrest. This bill also requires peace officers to be reasonably identifiable while on duty and specifies the process for which a peace officer may conduct vehicular pursuit, enter an enclosure for purpose of arrest, and secure a warrant.

Bill Status

Referred to Rules Committee on January 26.

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Community Oversight Boards – HB 1203

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What It Does

This bill establishes a statewide standard requiring independent, community oversight for any department with 10 or more officers, allocates adequate funds to community oversight, entrusts community oversight boards to select candidates for Police Chief when hiring, requires Police Chiefs to testify on recommendations made by the oversight board for disciplinary and policy actions, empowers community oversight boards to investigate and resolve all complaints within 120 days, enables community oversight boards to subpoena documents and evidence for investigations, and ends conflict of interest by banning current police officers or close relatives from serving on the boards.

Bill Status

Referred to Rules Committee February 22.

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Independent Investigations for Police Use of Force – HB 1267

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What It Does

This bill concerns independent investigation of potential criminal conduct arising from police use of force, including custodial injuries, and other officer-involved incidents.

Bill Status

Referred to Rules Committee on February 22.

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State Oversight and Accountability – HB 1082, SB 5051

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What It Does

This bill establishes the Washington state criminal justice training commission with the purpose of providing programs and standards for the training of criminal justice personnel, and establishing and administering standards and processes for the certification, suspension, and decertification of peace officers and corrections officers.

Bill Status

The Senate bill version was passed to Rules Committee on February 17. The House bill version had a hearing in the House Committee on Public Safety on January 15 at 10:00 AM.

Consumer Protections

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Debt in all forms is more pervasive in communities of color due to a longstanding gap in the accumulation of wealth. Poverty Action supports consumer protection bills that mitigate the very real costs of an unequal economic system.

End Debt-Based Driver's License Suspension – SB 5226

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What It Does

This bill would end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses as a punishment for an inability to pay a debt.

Bill Status

Passed to Rules Committee on February 15.

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Prohibit the Use of Credit Scores to Determine Rates for Personal Lines of Insurance – SB 5010

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What It Does

SB 5010 originally banned the use of credit-scoring for calculating rates for auto, renter's, homeowner's, and life insurance. The bill has been amended to prohibit insurers from using credit history to increase rates at the time of renewal. Because the amended bill allows insurers to continue using credit scores to calculate rates, it does not address discrimination embedded in the credit scoring system for people of color and those living on low incomes.

Bill Status

Amended to weaken, passed to Rules Committee on February 15.

Automatic Protection from Over-Garnishment – HB 1525

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What It Does

This bill would automatically protect bank accounts from garnishment below $1,000 so a person does not have to go through a court process to recover their money that was unlawfully garnished by a collector.

Bill Status

Referred to Rules Committee on February 15.

Home Foreclosure Prevention due to Delinquent Property Taxes – HB 1410

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What It Does

This bill intends to prevent home foreclosures by eliminating harsh penalties and lowering the interest rate from 12% to 9% on delinquent property taxes.

Bill Status

Referred to Rules Committee on February 22.

Anti-Displacement Property Tax Exemption – HB 1494

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What It Does

This bill creates the anti-displacement property tax exemption to exempt up to the first $250,000 of assessed property valuation on a homeowner's primary residence from property tax collection.

Bill Status

This bill had a hearing in the House Finance Committee on February 9 at 1:30 PM.

Estate Tax – HB 1465

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What It Does

This bill makes the estate tax more progressive and generates funding for the Foreclosure Fairness program and a new Equity in Housing program to increase foreclosure prevention assistance.

Bill Status

This bill had a hearing in the House Finance Committee on February 9 at 1:30 PM.

Other Issues

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Fair Access to Civil Legal Aid – HB 1072

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What It Does

This bill removes one of the restrictions on the use of civil legal aid funds to allow representation regardless of immigration status.

Bill Status

Passed the House on February 12! Scheduled for a hearing the Senate Law & Justice Committee on March 4 at 8:30 AM.

Ban Private, For-Profit Detention  – HB 1090

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What It Does

This bill would prohibit private incarceration (with some exceptions) in Washington state, including the Northwest Detention Center.

Bill Status

Passed the House on February 23! Referred to Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation on February 25.

Unemployment Benefits for Immigrants – SB 5438

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What It Does

This bill would provide unemployment benefits to workers who are unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and not eligible for unemployment benefits due to immigration status.

Bill Status

Public hearing in the Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs on February 15 at 8:30 AM.

HEAL Act – SB 5141

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What It Does

This bill would implement the recommendations of the environmental justice task force and address disproportionate impacts from pollution by aiming to create the same high standard of environmental health quality in every community.

Bill Status

Passed to Rules Committee on February 22.

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