Week 5 Legislative Update
Week five, and fiscal policy cutoff is also behind us. As we get closer to the end there are less and less bills to report on. But some priority bills are still play. And there is a lot to say.
First, a bit of “inside baseball.” Although the bills that didn’t make it out of their respective fiscal committee are considered dead, there are certain Lazarus bills that can defy death. Referred to as “bills that are needed to implement the budget (NTIB)”, these include bills that are needed to implement the budget like Capital and Operating Budget bills, but also bills that can affect the budget, either negatively or positively through their enactment. Bills that have a large positive or negative fiscal note, the argument goes, affect the budget, so although they didn’t pass out of their fiscal committee in time they could still be resurrected. Although it isn’t common, it is something we watch for in the bills we track.
One such bill is Sen. Kuderer’s B & O tax bill, SB 6136, which would levy a 1.5% - 1.75% tax on our industry. Although it didn’t pass out of (S) Ways and Means and wasn’t even scheduled for a hearing by the deadline, due to a large positive fiscal impact on the budget, it could be considered NTIB. There are no current rumblings about it, but it pays to reman diligent.
Of the remaining bills in play, three rise to the top of our list, HB 2114, rent stabilization, SB 6191/HB 2276, real estate transfer tax (RETT), and SB 6212, credit reporting for rent payments. We oppose all of these bills.
HB 2114 is in Rules and could be brought to the House floor early next week. Right now, it is being discussed in the house majority caucus who, as a body, will decide whether or not to schedule it for floor debate and vote. We are hoping that it does not get scheduled, but if it does our team has been laying the groundwork for a hard fight on the floor. We should know more next week, but if it passes out of the house, it has a hard road ahead in the Senate where the other rent stabilization bill, SB 5961 died thanks to a strong vote taken by Senator Annette Cleveland.
SB 6191/HB 2276 are holding in their respective finance committees, but as true NTIB bills they are still in play. A large group of stakeholders have undertaken a campaign to educate citizens of the harms this bill would have on our housing crisis which will be followed shortly by an effort to encourage citizens to contact their legislators directly with these concerns. Although not taking lead, WMFHA is active with this group providing financial support, campaign management and continuing the conversation on the ground in Olympia. Last week an ad was released as part of this campaign by Washington REALTORS®.
SB 6216, which would require housing providers to report positive rent payments to credit agencies is still alive, however the sponsor Sen. Sharon Shewmake has been receptive to industry concerns and continues to meet with stakeholders including WMFHA regarding those concerns. Friend of the Industry, Sen. Chris Gildon has also been working to fix this bill. WMFHA members Renturis and CredHub have been instrumental in highlighting the problems with the bill as currently written and continue to be an important part of this dialogue.
As always at this point in session, things are moving quickly, and the fate of legislation can turn on a dime. Please continue to monitor your e-mail for updates and action alerts. Thank you to everyone who has responded to past action alerts and requests for testimony. Your voice is the voice of the industry; there is none more powerful.