This year in Washington State, more legislators of color were sworn in on Monday than ever before! Black and Brown communities are entering this legislative session more organized and more powerful than ever.
Washington Community Alliance is getting to work! Sign up for our legislative newsletter The Tally to keep up with the action. This is what we’re focusing on this legislative session:
The Big Five
️1. Local Options to Strengthen Democracy (HB 1156)
We need to get rid of the racist ban on ranked-choice voting. Our current voting system prevents multiple candidates of color from running and appealing to the same communities, while giving a free pass to racist politicians who can get away with demonizing Black and Brown communities if they represent a minority of voters. By passing the Local Options Bill for ranked-choice voting, we’ll strengthen one of the safest and most secure voting systems in the country.
- Champion: Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley (D-37th LD)
- Community: More Equitable Democracy and FairVote Washington
- Our take: Off to a great start: 27 co-sponsors — including a Republican(!) Rep. Jim Walsh.
- Call to action: Tell your rep to support! If we fight, we can win. Plus, this is the time to build energy for our coalition to get ranked-choice voting passed locally.
2. Community Oversight for Police Accountability (HB 1203)
This bill dropped on Wednesday and represents the largest shift in power away from the police toward the community. It would create a statewide standard for community oversight boards, which would have the power to select candidates for police chief, investigate misconduct, and create other accountability mechanisms. Having already garnered national attention, it is the flagship bill for the police reform task force this legislative session.
- Champion: Rep. Jesse Johnston (D-30th LD) & Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley (D-37th LD)
- Community: Washington for Black Lives
- Our take: We feel good about the chances for this bill — but the biggest danger to this bill is that it will be so watered-down that it won’t create any real change in our community.
- Call to action: Be ready to demand that legislators pass the bill as-is.
3. Unemployment Insurance for Undocumented Workers (SB 5425)
Even though undocumented immigrants pay into our unemployment insurance program, they’re banned from accessing it — even now during record high lay-offs from the pandemic. This bill would right that injustice, and is part of a broader legislative agenda that also includes healthcare access for undocumented immigrants and closing the Northwest Detention Center.
- Champion: Sen. Rebeca Saldaña (D-37th LD)
- Community: Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN), OneAmerica, and organizations from Washington Immigrant Relief Fund
- Our take: This has an uncertain path to becoming a law and will require a big push from everyone because it’s 1) a new policy and most first-time bills die quickly, 2) likely to gather controversy, and 3) going to compete against other spending priorities.
- Call to action: Sign on here! We’re fighting hard for this bill. Equal access to unemployment insurance for undocumented workers would be a game changer for immigrant rights across the country.
4. Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act (SB 5489)
After a summer where the sky literally turned red, we know tackling climate change through environmental justice is critical. It’s part of an ambitious agenda to get us to a Resilient Future quickly. The agenda is supported by local Sunrise Movement chapters and is part of FutureWise’s #WACantWait campaign on reforming the Growth Management Act.
- Champion: Sen. Rebeca Saldaña (D-37th LD)
- Community: Front & Centered, Climate Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, FutureWise, and Sunrise Movement Washington have put this bill together.
- Our take: Hearings in the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee. Look out for calls to action!
Washington state has the most upside down tax code in the country. Working-class Black and Brown people pay more in taxes than the white billionaires in our state. To address the most pressing issues facing our communities and provide economic relief brought on by the pandemic, we need to pass a suite of progressive tax policies. There are several awesome bills this session:
- Working Families Tax Credit (HB 1297/SB 5387)
- Progressive estate tax (HB 1465)
- Anti-displacement tax exemption (HB 1494)
- Capital gains tax that would help fund early learning (HB 1496/SB 5096)
It’s a positive sign that a new crop of progressive legislators are ratcheting up the pressure and Governor Inslee proposed a capital gains tax on the top 2% of income earners Washingtonians.
- Community: Balance Our Tax Code
- Our take: This has been one of the longest ongoing fights in Olympia but there is more momentum entering this session than ever before.
Sign up for our legislative newsletter The Tally to stay up to date as the bills move through the session and take action with us.