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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Legislature adjourned sine die on Thursday, March 7. It was a whirlwind 60-day session. There were some positives to come out of the legislative session and also disappointments. Below is a breakdown of the 2024 session. If you have any questions about this update or what happened in the Legislature, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Upcoming town hall

I will be hosting a town hall meeting on Saturday, March 23, 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. I hope you will be able to join me. We will give you an overview of what happened in the 2024 legislative session and answer your questions. I look forward to seeing you there. Details below:

  • When: Saturday, March 23
  • Time: 4 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Location: Spokane Valley Library (Diane E. Zahand Meeting Room)
  • Address: 22 N. Herald Rd., Spokane Valley

Bills sent to the governor

I have two bills on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature.

House Bill 2127 would provide workers’ compensation incentives for employees to return to work as part of Washington state’s Stay at Work Program and Preferred Worker Program. The right-to-work incentives benefit both employers and employees. This legislation would build on those incentives by increasing reimbursement amounts and providing new training programs. We want to get employees back to work.

House Bill 1898 would streamline the process related to unemployment insurance (UI) benefit charging. This is legislation I have been working on with the Employment Security Department (ESD). Recent legislation modifying UI eligibility and benefit charging did not consistently address how benefits are charged to employers. It has been a very burdensome process. The governor is scheduled to sign this bill into law on Wednesday.

Rep. Schmidt hears testimony on her House Bill 2087.

More work to be done

There are two bills I worked hard on but did not get through the legislative process. I plan to finetune both bills during the interim and fight to get this important legislation passed next session.

House Bill 2079 would deter assaults and threats of violence at public schools. I am working to improve school safety for officials and school staff by increasing penalties for intimidation, threat of force, or violence at elementary and secondary schools and school-related athletic activities. A watered-down version of this bill passed the House unanimously, but it stalled in the Senate.

House Bill 2087 would help eliminate barriers to getting apprenticeship programs approved in our state. We had a great turnout for the public hearing. It would streamline the process and deter frivolous and unreasonable objections. This is an issue I will continue to monitor and work on moving forward. We have a workforce shortage in our trades and need to get more people through the apprenticeship program.

Operating budget

The operating budget passed on party lines in the House. Very little changed from the spending plan we passed a few weeks ago. The spending is still unsustainable and fiscally irresponsible. No relief for middle-class families and it spreads spending too thin instead of focusing on priorities.

Capital budget

In case you missed it, I worked hard to ensure taxpayers’ dollars were coming back to the 4th District in the capital budget. Click here for my news release. I have also listed the projects again. (See below).

  • $4.7 million for the Kaiser Aluminum boiler replacement;
  • $2 million for the Seven Nations Healing Lodge youth expansion;  
  • $1 million for Broadway Senior Housing;
  • $975,000 for Gray and Oregon Road forest fire recovery;
  • $300,000 for the Spokane Scale House Market and Kitchen;
  • $258,000 for a playground at Intersection Preschool and Daycare;
  • $150,000 for the Spokane Valley Cross Country Course; and
  • $32,000 for the W. Valley Centennial Middle School field, fences, and dugout.

Three initiatives pass the Legislature

Good news! The Legislature passed three of the six citizen initiatives successfully and are now on their way to becoming law. Initiatives before the Legislature do not require the governor’s approval and signature.

The three initiatives that passed with strong, bipartisan support:

  • Initiative 2113. This initiative will allow our police officers to use the “reasonable suspicion” standard to pursue criminals rather than “probable cause” in the 2021 law passed by the majority party. Click the photo below to watch my floor speech on I-2113.
  • Initiative 2081. This initiative will create a Parents’ Bill of Rights that will increase transparency and ensure that public schools must share with parents any records relating to their children and instructional materials.
  • Initiative 2111. This initiative will prohibit further efforts to impose a state and local personal income tax. With our state’s affordability crisis, this will protect people from any plans from the majority party to impose personal income taxes at any level.

How historic was the passage of three initiatives in one session? Since the adoption of the initiative and referendum process in 1912, 1,728 initiatives have been presented to the Legislature by citizens; however, only 38 have been certified, and only six have been passed by the Legislature. This underscores the significance of the recent passage of these three initiatives. You, the citizens of Washington, deserve a lot of the credit. Those who signed the initiatives, pushed on your legislators, and signed up for the public hearings helped push these across the line.

Three initiatives did not pass. I support all three of them. They will now advance to the November ballot and Washington voters will decide if they pass or not. Initiatives that did not pass:

  • I-2117: Repealing the Climate Commitment Act, or carbon tax.
  • I-2124: Opting out of the state long-term care insurance program/payroll tax. 
  • I-2109: Repealing the capital gains tax.

Good bills and bad bills

Some of the good bills we were able to pass this session:

  • House Bill 1899 requires the Department of Commerce to establish and administer a disaster relief payment for financial assistance to qualifying property owners and local governments that had buildings damaged or destroyed by wildfires. I co-sponsored this legislation as part of our wildfire recovery. It ended up watered down compared to the original bill, which was disappointing. For more information on what happened with this legislation read Sue Lani Madsen’s column: How a simple bill became bloated.
  • House Bill 2153 establishes new felony and gross misdemeanor crimes for trafficking in, possessing, selling, or offering to sell catalytic converters.
  • House Bill 1987 allows rural public facilities sales and use tax to be used for affordable workforce housing.
  • House Bill 2375 extends the senior property tax exemption and deferral programs to detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
  • House Bill 1982 – Makes the Community Economic Revitalization Board’s (CERB) Rural Broadband Program permanent.
  • House Bill 2003 – Creates a leasehold excise tax exemption when public lands are used for affordable housing.
  • House Bill 1989 – Requires the Washington State Department of Transportation to create a graffiti abatement program.

Some of the bad pieces of legislation that made it through the Legislature:

  • House Bill 1589 requires Puget Sound Energy to stop connecting new customers to gas and direct them to blend the gas line of business and the electric line of business into one rate base This will drive up energy costs for many people.
  • Senate Bill 6058 amends the Climate Commitment Act to facilitate a linkage of carbon markets with California and Quebec. 
  • House Bill 2331 restricts local control of school board authority regarding instructional materials and school library materials.
  • Senate Bill 5462 requires the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into all new or revised state learning standards in every subject for every grade level. It also requires school districts to adopt inclusive curricula that include the study of various groups.
  • House Bill 1282 requires contractors on covered projects to provide certain environmental, health, labor, and human resource data about construction materials used. 
  • House Bill 1903 requires a person who suffers a loss or theft of a firearm to report the loss or theft to local law enforcement within 24 hours.

Stay in touch

While the Legislature has adjourned, please keep in mind I am your state representative year-round. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need assistance with a state government issue. I look forward to seeing you this interim around the 4th District.

It is an honor to serve you!

Suzanne Schmidt

State Representative Suzanne Schmidt, 4th Legislative District
468 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7820 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000