Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Last month, the Legislature adjourned a historic and unprecedented remote session. Not only will it be remembered for its entirely virtual environment, but my colleagues and I passed groundbreaking legislation. We made so much good change even in this remote session. Here is an update on my bills and some of the landmark legislation we passed to address the unprecedented public health crisis, economic recession, racial inequities, and climate change.
Session’s Successful Priority Bills and Investments
The House Democratic Caucus was laser focused on four priority issue areas during the 2021 legislative session: COVID-19 response, economic recovery, racial equity, and addressing the global climate crisis. Below is a brief overview of a few of the most impactful priority bills successfully passed this session.
COVID-19 Response & Economic Recovery
- The Washington Recovery Budget (HB 1094/SB 5092): The final 2021-23 state operating budget was built with state and federal funds, supporting people hit hardest by the pandemic. The budget supports public health and economic recovery, businesses and schools, renters and landlords, restaurants and main street, frontline workers and undocumented families. We also made significant investments in child care, digital equity, behavioral health, substance use disorder treatment, and vaccine distribution. It also prioritizes the needs of Black, Brown and Indigenous communities that have suffered disproportionate impacts during the pandemic.
- The Fair Start for Kids Act (HB 1213/SB 5237): In order to restart our state’s economy, we knew we needed to invest in child care, the main focus of the session for me. When child care doesn’t work, neither can parents. This impacts businesses that can’t reopen until their workers have a safe and affordable place to take their kids, and all kids deserve a fair start. This new law makes child care more affordable and accessible for families across Washington state and supports child care providers who are predominantly women of color. By investing in child care, and therefore in our children, we are making an investment in the future of our state.
- Working Families Tax Rebate (HB 1297): Sponsored by the 41st District’s own Rep. My-Linh Thai, this policy sets up a sales tax rebate of between $500 and $950 for which over 400,000 taxpayers in our state will be eligible. It puts more money directly into the pockets of working families and is a critical tool to help build economic stability for low-income families, who pay a disproportionate amount of their earnings to taxes.
- Unemployment Insurance Relief (SB 5061): This bill provides much-needed relief for employers across the state whose tax bills skyrocketed due to COVID-19 layoffs. It also helps the lowest-wage, hardest-hit workers by raising their minimum unemployment benefit.
Racial Justice & Equity
- Police Tactics (HB 1054): This bill sets a baseline of acceptable tactics and equipment that make it clear that preserving and protecting human life must be law enforcement’s highest value. It bans chokeholds, neck restraints, no-knock warrants, and military weapons. The bill also restricts the use of tear gas and requires the highest elected official in a jurisdiction to authorize the use of tear gas – so we will know who to hold accountable.
- Independent Investigations (HB 1267): This bill creates an independent agency to investigate deadly uses of force, allowing families of those killed by police, as well as the community, to have faith that a proper investigation occurred.
- Use of Force (HB 1310): This bill requires officers to use de-escalation tactics, setting the clear expectation that de-escalation should be an officer’s first instinct and that deadly force should only be a truly necessary last resort. It replaces the existing law that allows police to complete an arrest by any means necessary.
- Ensuring a Safe Environment for Each Student in our Schools (HB 1214): My bill extends training requirements including restorative justice and other requirements to help young people feel safer in their schools, especially our students of color who sometimes don’t feel they are in a safe environment.
- Anti-racism Training for K-12 Staff (SB 5044): This bill ensures school staff have access to anti-racism and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training, which will help dismantle institutional racism, better support every student, and improve relationships between schools and families. We must honor the lived experiences of all students and engage in intentional, anti-racist learning and unlearning. Every student deserves to be fully seen when they bring their whole selves into the classroom.
- The Climate Commitment Act (SB 5126): This bill establishes a comprehensive, economy-wide program to limit greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution in overburdened communities, and make investments in clean jobs, environmental justice, and climate resilience. The program sets a statewide emissions budget (a “cap”) that applies to the largest polluters in the state, and gradually ratchets down that cap to meet Washington’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050. The program creates a market for polluters to buy and “trade” pollution allowances that will become increasingly expensive — an incentive to cut emissions. The policy includes a variety of mechanisms to control the costs of compliance and impacts on consumers.
- Low Carbon Fuel Standard (HB 1091): The transportation sector makes up 45% of the emissions in our state and, with this new law, Washington is joining our neighbors on the West Coast by adopting emissions standards for transportation fuel. This bill will not only make Washington state cleaner and reduce emissions, especially in highly-impacted communities, but it will also spur economic activity and growth. Washington state can become a leader in producing and exporting clean, green biofuels and also create sustainable, living wage jobs.There were so many other impactful pieces of legislation and investments that the legislature passed this year. I look forward to continuing to share outcomes with you in ongoing communications.
With the session over, I wanted to update you on the final status of the bills that I sponsored this year!
Find a vaccine appointment
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there are also signs of hope! The great news is everyone 16 and older– and soon 12 and older– is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine! I got mine just a few days ago! More and more local locations are opening up with walk-in appointments, but for help finding an appointment, use the Washington State Department of Health Vaccine Locator or call 1-800-525-0127, then press #. Language assistance is available.
Thank you for doing your part to keep our community safe and put us on the road to recovery!
I will continue to share more news about the amazing work accomplished during this legislative session. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your questions, concerns, or comments. Although session is over, my work supporting and connecting with constituents is year-round. I look forward to hearing from you.
Rep. Tana Senn