The 2019 Washington State Legislature convened on January 14th and adjourned on April 28th.
The House of Representatives was comprised of 57 elected Democrats and 41 elected Republicans. At the beginning of session, the twenty-year Speaker of the House announced his transitional plans to revert to “just a normal legislature doing general legislation.” The jockeying for the position began almost immediately. There are three top contenders, all female. The appointment of the next Speaker will take place in late summer.
The Senate had 28 Democrats and 20 Republicans. There is one swing member who is elected as a Democrat yet caucuses with Republicans and votes along those lines a majority of the time.
There will be two special House of Representative elections this year in Washington. Both races are in eastern Washington and will not shift party make up in the chamber. As of now, there will be no special elections to be held for Senate seats though that could shift if the Washington Governor advances in the presidential campaign.
As for the session details, the Democratic majorities wasted no time getting to business and making up for lost time. The House introduced 1212 bills while the Senate kept pace with introducing 1066 bill. This was by far one of the busiest sessions for bill drafts and thousands upon thousands of amendments.
Ultimately, the Washington State Legislature passed a total of 481 bills to the Governor for his review and consideration. The House passed 274 out of their distinct chamber and the Senate, once again, kept pace by passing 214 pieces of legislation. (Seven bills in total were not agreed upon and thus the deviation.) He has till mid-May to sign, veto, or allow to become law without signature.
Olympia began the 2019 legislative session in the best financial position since the Great Recession with a $2.8 billion budget surplus. Democrats passed new taxes that add up just under $6 billion over the next four years. The new taxes support a budget that increases state spending by $8 billion, an increase of 18-percent over current levels. The revenue enhancement includes a 20-percent rate increase on some 40 industries and categories of professional-service providers.
The Legislature’s budget writers had $50.5 billion available for the 2019-21 budget when they arrived in January. The Democrat majority budget spent $52.4 billion.
WAMFT had two high priority bills, both of which are on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature – Senate Bill 5054 and House Bill 1768.