What is the legislative newsletter?

DRW will provide a weekly update each Saturday morning during the 2021 Legislative Session. View the most recent newsletter sent out below! If you are interested in receiving this weekly newsletter, please subscribe below. 

April 17, 2021

Image Description: Picture of the top of the Washington State Capital Building with blue sky behind it. Text over the sky reads, “2021 Legislative Newsletter.” Below picture is the Disability Rights Washington logo with a blue graphic of a tree and the words “Washington’s protection and advocacy system” written underneath.

WEEK FIFTEEN: Budget and Blake

Today, Saturday April 17 is Day 96 in our 105 day session – the end of session is a week from tomorrow!

The biggest task the Legislature has each year is to come up with a budget, and we are deep into that process now. A small group of legislative leaders are negotiating, working out the differences between the Senate and House budgets. The State Constitution demands that they succeed, and that we have a budget ready by June 30, 2021 – in time for the beginning of the state’s fiscal year, July 1. Since the legislative session ends in a few days, they will need to work quickly. If they don’t succeed by April 25, the Governor will call a “special session” and they will keep working till they have a finished budget.

In the early stages of the legislative session, most of the process was pretty transparent. As you may recall, there were open hearings, a chance to read the bills and bill analysis and hear arguments, and to meet with legislators (this year via Zoom). But now, in the final days of the Legislative session, things are much less transparent. Rules Committee, the final committee that bills must pass through, has no public testimony, and of course there is no public participation in the action on the “floor” of either the Senate or the House. Much of the final work on the budget is done behind closed doors. The identity of the small group of legislators who will be negotiating what stays in the budget, and what is removed, is not widely known, and we don’t know what they are talking about and have no direct way to affect the outcome.

It is a waiting game, now, but soon there will likely be a budget that is agreed by both Senate and House negotiators. That version will be voted on and passed by both chambers on its way to the Governor. The Governor will then play his role – signing the final budget, after using his veto pen. But that comes a little later.

Capital Budget Sad News.

As was discussed a few weeks ago, there are three budgets – Transportation, Operating and Capital. All three are important to disability advocates this year.

The Capital budget has been of special interest this year, because of the proposed rebuilding of the Fircrest nursing home, and the new forensic building at Western State Hospital. Both of these projects have been strongly opposed by Disability Rights Washington. The Fircrest nursing home in particular was targeted by the Shut Them Down Coalition, which includes a large group of disability advocates and self-advocates. There was strong testimony by many advocates and self-advocates opposing both these projects, but nonetheless both the House and Senate versions of the Capital budget contain funding for the Fircrest nursing home and the Western State Hospital forensic building.

There is some good news. Millions of additional funding will be appropriated for more housing…though many advocates don’t believe it is enough.

Death with Dignity Dies.

As reported last week, the controversial bill that reduces the protections set up in the Death with Dignity Act (HB 1141) was until the cut-off last Sunday under consideration for a vote in the Senate. After strong opposition from disability advocates, this bill died for this session. It will be back next year. At the last minute before cut-off a version of the bill that would have set up a workgroup was floated. It was too late, and the bill sank.

Good news on transit equity

HB1301 “Providing expanded options for fare enforcement by regional transit authorities” was signed by the Governor and became law yesterday (April 16)!  This bill allows transit authorities to establish a less punitive fare system that allows notices rather than just tickets, and puts limits on the amount of the fines. It also allows nonmonetary sanctions instead of fines. See: https://twitter.com/TranspoChoices/status/1383134315366789124?s=19


HB 1086 “Requires the Department of Commerce to establish a State Office of Behavioral Health Consumer Advocacy and contract with a nonprofit organization to provide behavioral health consumer advocacy services.” This bill enjoys wide support in the disability advocacy community, and it is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.

E2SHB 1477 – Implementing the national 988 system to enhance and expand behavioral health crisis response and suicide prevention services. (Remote testimony.)

This bill is ready for a vote by the Senate. Provided this bill is “necessary to implement the budget” because the budget contains funding for it, it doesn’t need to meet the bill cut-offs that other bills must meet.

The 988 system – an alternative to calling 911 in a crisis – is also under consideration by Congress.

SB 5163 Concerning Special Commitment Center release placement

This bill passed the House recently, and once the Senate and House agree on a final version the bill will be at the Governor’s desk.

“BLAKE” bills: Legislative response to Washington Supreme Court decision 

Things are moving fast on the bills responding to the Washington State Supreme Court’s landmark decision, in February, State v. Blake,  which will bring major changes in our state justice system’s response to substance use. Non-partisan legislative committee staff describe the decision as follows: 

“Washington’s statute governing possession of a controlled substance is a strict liability offense. That is, a person can be found guilty of possession without proof that the defendant knew they possessed the substance. In February of this year, the Washington Supreme Court found this statute to be unconstitutional, holding that the Legislature’s criminalization of passive conduct with no requirement to prove criminal intent is a violation of due process. This decision invalidated any Washington sentence for simple possession of a controlled ‘substance.” 

1) Blake bill #1: SB 5476 “Addressing the Blake decision.”

Opportunity for advocacy: There is a hearing on SB 5476 in House Appropriations on Monday, April 19 at 9 AM.  

2) Blake bill #2: HB 1578 – Representative Goodman filed this bill just yesterday, and it was assigned to the House Appropriations Committee. The bill has a very different approach to SB 5476. As of this writing there is no bill report and no hearing, but one is likely soon.

You can still make your voice heard. You can contact legislators – especially your own legislators – and ask them to support or oppose bills you are watching. You can watch the progress on TVW.

Police accountability bills headed to the governor’s office:

HB 1001 – This bill establishes a law enforcement professional development outreach grant program that would provide greater access for more diverse candidates into the law enforcement profession. The bill seeks to address lack of diversity in law enforcement. This contributes to the misunderstanding of people’s lived experiences, including people with disabilities, which often leads to incarceration or the deadly use of force.

HB 1088 – This bill requires the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys to update its policy addressing potential impeachment disclosures. To ensure the safety of persons with disabilities who come in contact with law enforcement, it is important for prosecuting authorities and law enforcement agencies to be aware of whether the peace officer has ever been subject to potential impeachment disclosure in the past.

HB 1089 – This bill authorizes the state auditor to review a deadly force investigation to determine whether the involved actors complied with all applicable rules and procedures. Implementing oversight and measures of accountability concerning the practice of peace officers and corrections officers is essential to ensure the rights and safety of persons with disabilities are protected.

SB 5263 – Concerning defenses in personal injury and wrongful death actions where the person injured or killed was committing a felony. Individuals who have been victims of police violence oftentimes do not receive proper justice for their grievances, considering that people with disabilities disproportionately face such violence. This bill seeks to ensure that their grievances are adequately addressed.

Cross Disability Advocacy Network Announcements

Events and Trainings:

  • WLPA Tuesday NIGHTS and BILLS Update! FINAL Virtual Meeting!
    • Tuesday, April 20 from 5:30 – 7:00 PM 
    • Click here to pre-register.
    • We will tour sections of the Website and take your questions.
    • Learn about next steps for WLPA in the spring and summer months.
    • Host Special Guest Speaker Kelly Olson, Public Policy Manager, Civil Survival Project

This year all public participation in the legislature will be done online.

How do I sign up to testify?

There are three ways to interact with hearings: 1) sign up to testify live 2) submit written testimony 3) sign in on the record in support, opposition, or other. How to do all three of these actions and where to find them on the legislature’s website can be found in our Remote Testimony Written and Video Guide.

Need to email House or Senate members of a committee?

We’ve gathered and organized the email addresses of each committee’s members, legislative assistants, and staff. Visit our House and Senate Email Lists page for a quick way to copy and paste these email addresses into your message.

Where can I find more legislative resources?

DRW and CDAN have teamed up to create a page dedicated to legislative resources. There you will find documents created by DRW, links to the legislative website, and more! Do you have a legislative resource that others may find helpful? Send an email to mekdesa@dr-wa.org.