Washington Legislative Update 2021
Washington 2021 Legislative Session Begins
Lawmakers have convened in person to begin the 2021 legislative session. Members of the House and Senate met in person at the state’s Capitol to approve rules for remote lawmaking. It is expected the 98 member House will shift almost entirely to remote operations. While over in the state Senate, the 49 members plan to operate in hybrid fashion with some lawmakers at the Capitol and others participating virtually.
By all accounts, it will be difficult to pass the typical number of bills that we see in a budgeting year. According to Washington REALTORS® we may only see some 200-bills passed, as compared to the usual 500 pieces of legislation. As a result, lawmakers may try to squeeze extra provisions into legislation that will require close monitoring.
Going into the session, lawmakers have indicated a focus on the ongoing response to COVID-19, police reform, addressing climate change and writing a two-year state budget. While the current budget is roughly $52 billion, Governor Inslee has proposed a $57.6 billion budget over the next biennium – an increase of about 10 percent.
For REALTORS® the key spending issues of note are a Capital Gains Tax, a .25% Payroll Tax on anyone making over $150k annually, a Digital Ad Tax and a large increase in the Unemployment Tax. The good news is that if tax projections hold, the state is still on track to take in $3.7 billion more in revenue during the 2021-23 biennium than in the current two-year budget cycle. Economic recovery and climate change regulations will also be center stage this session. While budget experts anticipate the state’s Transportation Budget could exceed $1 billion.
A survey on legislative issues by Wa REALTORS® reveals that Spokane area REALTORS® see housing costs and affordability as the top issues this session. Additionally, there is strong support locally for single family zoning changes to allow for more flexibility. A large majority oppose any increase in B&O Tax Increases. While Spokane REALTORS® do not support carbon taxes.
WaREALTORS® have issued a call to action focusing on three key issues:
- Removing racial covenants
- Incentivizing cities to build more attainable housing
- Ensure Accessory Dwelling Units are an available housing tool in our rural areas
How to Testify
The good news for those interested in testifying on legislation is that both houses of the legislature now allow for Universal remote testimony – so people can testify on any bill from anywhere up to an hour prior to a committee meeting.
- To testify remotely in the Senate: https://app.leg.wa.gov/CSIRemote/Senate.
- To testify remotely in the House: https://app.leg.wa.gov/CSIRemote/House
Follow the Legislation
Remember during the session – you can always keep track of legislation affecting REALTORS® by clicking here https://www.spokanerealtor.com/govt-affairs-brief/2021-leg-update/