As of Friday, January 21, we are 12 days into the 2022 legislative session and halfway to the first policy committee cutoff on day 25. The pace of this session remains high.

As expected, the House passed HB 1732  and HB 1733 addressing the state’s long-term services and supports trust program (LTSS) that went into effect at the beginning of the year. After much debate, the former passed the House with a 91-6 vote and the latter with a vote of 67-29. HB 1732 delays the start date for the premium assessments under the LTSS from January 1, 2022, to July 1, 2023, and delays the date benefits will become available from January 1, 2025, to July 1, 2026. The bill allows individuals born before January 1, 1968, who do not meet the program’s vesting requirements, to receive partial benefits based on the number of years of premium payments. Finally, it requires employers that have collected premium payments to refund employees within 120 days of collection. HB 1733 creates four new voluntary exemptions from the program – certain veterans,  spouses and registered domestic partners of military service members, non-immigrant temporary workers, and employees who work in Washington and maintain a primary residence outside of Washington. Both bills will be heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Monday, January 24 at 4:00 pm.

SB 5554, a bill sponsored by Senator Bob Hasegawa, would eliminate the prohibition on local net income taxes if certain revenue neutrality requirements are met. In the hearing, Senator Hasegawa admitted he did not actually expect the bill to be heard but appreciated it due to the importance of the conversation regarding Washington’s regressive tax structure. 192 people signed in against the bill.

Another Senator Hasagawa bill, SB 5116, is scheduled for hearing in Senate Ways and Means on January 25 at 4:00 pm.  The bill did not pass last year, and a workgroup spent the summer developing recommendations that were largely ignored in the proposed substitute.

William Kehoe, Director of Washington Technology Solutions and State Chief Information Officer, sent a letter to the senator this week stating that “[in] its current form the bill will likely be extremely costly for the state to implement and encompasses broad and unwieldy definitions of technology as well as concepts that are not well-established or understood by state agencies or the technology sector.

The same sentiment pertains to the bill’s application to local governments. It requires public agencies to develop an “algorithmic accountability report” that meets certain requirements on the use of “Automated Decision Systems” (ADS), specifies minimum requirements when an agency uses an ADS, prohibits an agency from using such a program under certain conditions, and expands liability. Counties would be required to create “algorithmic accountability review office[s]” that would be tasked with reviewing and approving the use of such systems by other local governments like cities. WSAC encourages counties to sign in against the bill.

Finally, HB 1933 would allow cities and counties under 50,000 people to impose a local excise tax on marijuana producers and processors. The jurisdiction must also demonstrate a scarcity of manufacturing and industrial lands. The tax may be no more than 1 percent of the gross receipts and may be imposed by resolution or ordinance. The House Finance Committee will hear the bill on Tuesday, January 25 at 1:30 pm.