On Valentine’s Day, House members were treated to an extra special occasion – an all-nighter floor session. After a marathon debate on HB 1837, the House finally adjourned at 6:30 am the next morning. The bill seeks to undo the repeal of Initiative 841 (I-841). In 2000, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) adopted a set of workplace ergonomics regulations requiring employers to reduce exposure to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The business community thought these rules went too far and spearheaded the passage of I-841 in 2003. The initiative repealed the existing regulations and prohibited L&I from regulating such musculoskeletal disorders except as required by the federal government. With the exception of home offices, if passed, HB 1837 would allow L&I to decide whether to adopt new rules. After around 7 hours of debate overnight, the bill passed the House on what might be the closest vote of the session – 50-48.
While not that extreme, the busyness will continue throughout the next week. The state economic and revenue forecast was released on Wednesday, as expected. Washington’s projected Near General Fund (NGF) revenue collections for the 2021–23 state budget have increased by about $1.45 billion. Total NGF revenues are now projected to be nearly $61.7 billion for the current two-year budget cycle, which began July 1, 2021. The council also increased the NGF forecast for the next biennium (2023–25) by more than $1.32 billion and projects NGF revenues will total nearly $65.4 billion for the next biennium, which begins July 1, 2023.
According to Rep. Drew Stokesbary, ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, this represents a 16% increase over the last biennium and a 4-year surplus that’s close to $14 billion.
With dollar figures now in hand, budget proposals are starting to show up. The Senate heard their capital budget proposal on Thursday. The striking amendment has not been released, but the House has scheduled their version for hearing on February 22. Likewise, word has it that the media will be briefed on the operating budget proposals on Sunday, with details released to the public on Monday, just in time for the hearings scheduled that afternoon. The House version – HB 1816 – is scheduled in Appropriations on Monday at 3:30, and the Senate version – SB 5693 – is scheduled in Ways & Means at 4:00. In addition to the transportation “package” – SB 5974 and SB 5975 – that aims to raise additional revenue to spend on specific projects, the full transportation budget proposals (SB 5689) will also be coming next week. Once released, each version will have summaries and additional detail that can be found on the state’s fiscal website. After each house passes their versions, negotiations will begin in earnest.
With next Thursday being the date by which bills have to pass out of a policy committee in the opposite house, next week will be chock full of hearings in addition to all the budget reviews. WSAC staff will compare and contrast each version, and will provide a briefing document as soon as possible after the budgets have been released. Hearings WSAC is weighing in on can be found on this week’s Hot Sheet.