February Olympia Update

by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
| Feb 08, 2021
 
The Washington State Legislature has now been in session for a month. As we approach the first round of deadlines for bills to be heard in committee, here is a look at some of the bills that GSBA is watching so far:

Pandemic Relief
With a few emergency bills sailing through both chambers of the Legislature, GSBA is still supporting efforts to get the most needed supports in the hands of small businesses. Most notably is the $2.2 billion COVID relief bill funded by federal supports. This bill includes $714M for K-12 schools; $618M for public health; $365M for housing-related items like rental assistance; $240M for small business assistance grants; $100M for epidemiology, laboratory grants, and vaccines; $91M for other income assistance; $50M for childcare; and more.

Other business-related relief efforts include making pandemic-related assistance grants tax exempt (HB 1095). GSBA is also monitoring SB 5251 regarding business interruption insurance claims.

Education

With the nation's first LGBTQ scholarship fund, equity in education has always been a focus for GSBA. In the state legislative session, there are a number of efforts to specifically increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism efforts in public schools. GSBA has endorsed both SB 5044 and SB 5227, which provide guidance for these efforts at the K-12 and higher education institutions respectively. GSBA has also endorsed the Fair Start for Kids bill (HB 1213), which gives significant support to childcare programs and expands eligibility for early childhood education and assistance programs.

Equity
GSBA has participated in the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare for many years, focusing on the access and available of medically necessary healthcare for transgender and gender-diverse Washingtonians. Parallel with our ongoing efforts at the Washington Healthcare Authority, GSBA has joined the Coalition in endorsing SB 5313, which closes loopholes and makes it clear to insurers that they may not deny coverage for medically necessary gender affirming treatment or apply blanket exclusions to that treatment.

Continuing our support for the establishment of the Washington State Office of Equity in last year's session, we support efforts to fully fund that office (cut due to the pandemic) and SB 5105 which would implement the recommendations of the Office of Equity Task Force. Additionally, we are supporting GenPRIDE's request for a $1 million budget appropriation to fund LGBTQ senior services at the future LGBTQ senior housing development in Capitol Hill.

There are many other issues that GSBA is monitoring during this session, including various proposals for progressive taxation. Tune in to our February 22 Civic Engagement Series to learn more about those efforts. Next week we will be writing about the many police accountability bills that the legislature is considering this year. If you have any questions about GSBA's legislative work, please reach out to MattL@thegsba.org