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WashingtonVotes NEWS: Friday, March 5, 2021

2021 legislative session reaches half-way mark with marathon floor action on dozens of bills. Income tax on capital gains likely headed for a Senate vote this weekend.

Thursday marked the half-way point of this year’s 105-day regular legislative session, which is scheduled to end on April 25, 2021. Lawmakers in both chambers have been debating and taking votes on dozens of bills in day-long and late evening sessions, including a rare Saturday session, for the past two weeks.

To date, the House has passed 173 bills, and the Senate has passed 149 bills. Current floor calendars, which list the measures legislative leaders plan to bring to a vote in each chamber, would add another 131 bills to the tally if passed. Lawmakers have until Tuesday, March 9th to pass bills in each bill’s originating house, to be sent to the opposite chamber for further consideration.

Many bills so far have passed by unanimous votes or broad, bi-partisan margins, but debate on controversial issues with dozens of proposed amendments has, at times, extended deliberations for hours on end, passing by narrow, mostly partisan vote margins.

According to House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm), House majority Democrats have focused on partisan priorities, such as the governor’s proposed carbon emissions tax and police reform, during the first half of this year’s session. At a legislative briefing hosted by Washington Policy Center this week, he said, “(The Democrats) made the greatest effort on the environment and on police tactics. We had those debates, they saved probably the two toughest debates of the first half of the year for Saturday. And that’s because they don’t really want a lot of [media] coverage of that debate.”

On the carbon emissions bill, which has been passed by the House three times in the past only to die in the Senate, Rep. Wilcox commented that the number of Democrat voting for the bill has gone down every year for the last three years. He noted that this year five Democrats, including the majority and deputy majority leaders of the House, voted against the measure. This year’s bill, HB 1091, passed 52-46, with all Republicans voting against it. Democrats, who control the House by 57-41 votes, lost five of their own members on the vote.

The latest Senate floor calendar lists SB 5096, an income tax on capital gains proposed by Democrats, for consideration by the full Senate this week. Observers in Olympia say the bill will likely be debated on Saturday, mirroring last week’s decision by House majority leaders to debate controversial bills on a weekend.

The action on the income tax measure is scheduled for this week despite a projected 7% increase in state tax collections and a  preliminary economic report showing the possibility for a big jump in collections when the next state revenue forecast is released on March 17th.

A Seattle Times editorial today urged Senate Democrats to delay the capital gains tax proposal, which according to the IRS and all 50 states constitutes an income tax prohibited by Washington’s state constitution. “Washington Democratic Senate leaders should think twice before voting on a capital-gains tax proposal likely destined for the courtroom. Slow way down. This bill is oddly being rushed to a floor vote ahead of a promising new revenue forecast report,” the editorial said. is a free service provided by Washington Policy Center and is the go-to tracking tool to keep up with all the action in Olympia, especially during this mostly virtual session. Please check in often and follow us on Facebook and Twitter at #waleg.

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