12. March 2024 · Comments Off on FUSE Washington March 12, 2024 · Categories: Announcements

Let’s just say it wasn’t our favorite legislative session ever. Lawmakers were very cautious this year, especially compared to the 2023 legislative session, where they passed sweeping reforms to ban assault weapons, build middle housing, and kick Tim Eyman’s rigged and senseless advisory votes off our ballots.

The Legislature is usually less ambitious in a short session, with less time to resolve issues, less budget flexibility, and most legislators eyeing fall campaigns. While legislators largely failed to pass the most impactful progressive legislation, there were plenty of smaller successes and signs of future opportunities for the bills we supported this year. On the positive side, they launched the transition to electric school buses, expanded access to basic health care for undocumented immigrants, tightened gun rules for public spaces, and banned the mandatory anti-union meetings that employers often use to fight union organizing drives.

We want to thank every one of you who took action. Whether you donated, signed in for a committee hearing, or sent your representatives emails urging their support, we’re grateful for your efforts in making Washington state one of the most equitable and progressive places to live in the country.

Here’s our summary of some of the top issues in Olympia this year:

Senate drops the ball on housing

After last year’s successful session addressing key issues of housing supply and homeownership, we were hopeful that the Legislature would pick up where they left off on protecting families from becoming homeless. Despite some truly heroic efforts by Rep. Emily Alvarado and Sen. Yasmin Trudeau, the rent stabilization legislation did not pass. Opposition in the state Senate, particularly among Senators Annette Cleveland and Mark Mullet, means that renters still have no protections against price gouging. Our neighbors deserve to have a roof over their heads and we’ll be back in 2025 to demand that the Legislature do more to protect renters and ensure people can stay in their homes.

Housing and Homeless Advocacy Day rally in Olympia

We’re also very disappointed that the Legislature failed to pass The Affordable Homes Act, which would have created the first-ever dedicated funding source for affordable housing by making the Real Estate Excise Tax more progressive. Tackling the twin crises of a lack of affordable homes and our upside down tax code was a clear win-win, but the bill died in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Making sure every vote is counted

In some good news, the ballot curing bill to reduce ballot rejection rates was passed unanimously by both chambers of the Legislature! Washington disproportionately rejects ballots of people of color and young voters for signature issues. We worked with our partners at the Washington Voting Justice Coalition to create a standardized process for voters to be notified about and correct their ballot errors across the state.

Big Oil dodges accountability

After years of record profits for Big Oil corporations and skyrocketing costs for consumers, we joined together with environmental partners to try and hold these corporations accountable. The Oil Industry Accountability Act would have created transparency around how gas prices are set, and establish regulations against price gouging by the oil industry like those already in law for gas and electric utilities.

The bill initially made good progress in its committees, but oil industry lobbyists successfully weighed down the bill with unnecessary, expensive requirements for vast new cybersecurity updates. This dramatically raised the cost of implementing the bill, which lobbyists and more conservative Senators cynically used as an excuse to vote down the bill.

Tax justice remains elusive

The bill to create a pilot of the Evergreen Basic Income program went the furthest it ever has in the Legislature, with public hearings held in both the House and Senate. We will continue fighting to pass this bill to get working people monthly cash with no strings attached, so that we can eventually ensure that everyone can afford the basics.

Fuse Communications Manager Abigail Leong with partners from the Statewide Poverty Action Network and YWCA at the Balance Our Tax Code rally

Our early hopes to expand the popular Working Families Tax Credit to all workers over the age of 18 (by including working seniors and young people without kids) were dashed by budget limitations this year. Budget leaders did not prioritize funding the expansion, killing the bill’s prospects.

Attacks from the Right

Late in this session, legislators’ attention was eaten up by the six “Backwards Washington” initiatives to the legislature. Republican mega donor Brian Heywood spent $6 million to qualify all six of the highly partisan and deceptive initiatives, working with MAGA Republican Party Chair Jim Walsh. When an initiative is sent to the legislature, lawmakers can either pass it, do nothing and let it go to the November ballot, or offer an alternative.

Three of the Backwards Washington initiatives were basically just right-wing hot air balloons meant to inflame the Republican base and troll Democrats, and three are extremely serious threats to the future of Washingtonians’ quality of life.

Republican hedge fund mogul Brian Heywood speaks at a rally for the initiatives he bankrolled

The state Legislature ultimately passed the three less substantive initiatives, choosing to focus the political spotlight and campaign resources on the remaining three initiatives that would devastate funding for our kids and schools, dismantle our protections against air and water pollution, and take away long term care benefits for millions of working Washingtonians.

Two of the three that they passed change virtually nothing about our current laws, and can be amended quickly if there are unintended consequences:

  • I-2081 mostly repeats the same rights that parents already have to be involved in their child’s school curriculum
  • I-2111 bans an income tax, which everyone already knows is already prohibited and Washington doesn’t have

The third initiative the Legislature passed – I-2113 – is more troubling. It weakens the rules on police pursuits that were designed to prevent accidental deaths. Adopting national best practices for police pursuits has reduced deaths caused by police pursuits by 75% in Washington. Time will tell if I-2113 reverses that trend, but the initiative leaves many of the police pursuit reforms in place, and it was clear that Heywood and Walsh’s primary goal with I-2113 was to drive MAGA turnout at the polls with a divisive, fear-mongering culture war issue.

The three Backwards Washington initiatives that will be on the ballot this fall would have a massive impact on our state budget and quality of life in WA:

  • I-2117 will kill efforts to fight pollution and climate change by ending Washington’s program to make polluters pay
  • I-2109 cuts $900 million in funding for childcare and schools by repealing the capital gains tax on the wealthy few
  • I-2124 takes away over $8 billion in critical long term care benefits from 3.5 million working Washingtonians by bankrupting Washington’s long term care benefit fund

What’s next?

Here at Fuse we’re gearing up for a monumental election year this fall. We’ll be taking a leading role in defeating the remaining three regressive “Backwards Washington” initiatives on the ballot, while fighting to re-elect Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in the 3rd Congressional District to the U.S. House.

We’ve also set our sights on flipping control of the Spokane and Pierce County governments. In Pierce, we’ll be working to elect progressive Democrat Ryan Mello to end eight years of Republican control of the Pierce County Executive seat. Over in Spokane, we’ll be campaigning to flip Al French’s seat to create a Democratic majority on the County Commission.

With several prominent retirements in the Legislature this year, as well as a handful of sitting lawmakers running for higher office, we can expect many changes across both the House and Senate. Stay tuned for our upcoming Progressive Voters Guide recommendations in all of these races!

New changes to the Legislative District (LD) map in Central Washington are also coming with a court case on the 14th LD that could create new opportunities to add more Democratic seats in the Legislature.

We’re already on the ground organizing in some of these key races and starting our research for the Progressive Voters Guide. The only question is whether we can build a solid, community-based foundation for our work in the crucial election to come. Unlike our opponents, our support comes from grassroots members like you. Will you stand with Fuse and our fight for progress today by making an early donation to our 2024 election campaigns?

No matter how you choose to support us, we’re grateful for all of you who have stood for progress this year. We’re excited to continue this work in the 2025 session, and bring our best organizing strategies to the upcoming campaign season.

Thanks for all that you do,
Rosey and the entire team at Fuse

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