The new 60-day Legislative Session for 2020 begins Monday. Its only true purpose is to tweak the $52 billion, two-year operating budget the legislature adopted last year.
But every year, much more debate and action happens. A total of 2,210 bills were considered last session and already legislators have introduced nearly 250 new bills in advance of Monday’s opening of the new session.
Financially, state coffers are in good shape. Revenue forecasts are up and state-funded program caseloads are down so there is not much demand for new taxes. However, a wildcard is the voter-approved $30 car tab initiative that is being challenged in court. If upheld, transportation funding could plummet and the legislature may be forced to look for new ways to pay for road needs. Keep in mind that this is a separate pot of money from the general state operating budget.
Other big issues left over from last year include finding funding for education and mental health treatment, and addressing the growing homeless crisis. Also, there is talk about further climate change measures and gun control bills.
Washington Retail will review every bill introduced to ascertain the impacts on retailers and their customers. We will then gauge the likelihood of passage and determine our strategic positioning and engagement level.
2020 is a major election year with all 98 House members, half the Senate and all of the four-year elected state officials, including the Governor, up for election. State law prohibits current elected officials from soliciting contributions while they are in session – so there is an incentive for them to complete work by the scheduled March 12 adjournment date and get on the campaign trail. Additionally, all three chambers are controlled by Democrats, which should make it easier to conclude business on time.
WR will provide at least weekly updates on the hot issues impacting retailers throughout the session.