A Flurry of Progress: Our 2019 Legislative Summary

Monday, April 29, 2019
Climate lobby day

The 2019 legislative session is over, and if we had to describe it in one word, it would be “supercharged.” 

After sweeping victories in the 2018 elections, Democrats held the largest and most progressive majorities in Olympia in a decade. The newly empowered and energized majorities wasted no time tackling an impressive array of important issues. 

Based on your feedback in our 2018 year-end member survey, we established three top legislative priorities around climate change, immigration, and balancing our tax code. Here’s how they fared: 

1. 100% Clean Electricity for Washington: Passed! 

By far the top priority of Fuse members in our survey was fighting climate change. We supported legislation to wean Washington off all coal power by 2025 and transition to 100% clean electricity by 2045. We created social media shares, organized phone banks, and sent grassroots emails to build support for this legislation. 

Lobby Day 2019

Fuse members and partners at the Environmental Lobby Day supporting 100% Clean Electricity for Washington

Most importantly, we organized our biggest lobby day ever for this bill. We worked with our partners to recruit more than 500 activists from across the state, including 27 from Spokane, who traveled to Olympia and participated in more than 30 meetings with legislators in support of 100% Clean Electricity. 

Fuse and 350 members from Spokane meeting with Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig in Olympia

Thanks to our partners at Washington Environmental Council, Climate Solutions, the Sierra Club, and so many others whose leadership made this legislation possible! 

2. Protecting Immigrants and Refugees: Passed! 

We also prioritized the Keep Washington Working Act to protect immigrants and expand their rights to a safe and healthy workplace. This legislation was necessary to protect our communities in the face of relentless attacks from the Trump administration. 

Fuse Organizer Yvette Maganya at the LD 47 Town Hall with legislators, Fuse members, and local residents.

Congratulations to our friends at the ACLU-WA , Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO, OneAmerica, Faith Action Network, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and others who worked hard to build support for this legislation! You can send a thank you note to prime sponsors Sen. Lisa Wellman and Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self to thank them for their advocacy on Keep Washington Working!

3. Balancing Our Tax Code: More work to do 

Our most ambitious legislative priority was to balance our state’s upside-down tax code. First, we supported ending the tax break on capital gains for people who sell more than $100,000 in stocks or bonds in a year. We also supported using some of the revenue to fund a Working Families Tax Credit that would give low-income families an average of $350 per year. This one-two punch of progressive reforms would have gone a long way toward balancing our tax code. 

Fuse staff phonebanking for the Working Families Tax Credit

Unfortunately, we came up just a couple votes short because a small group of middle-of-the-road Democrats joined all Republicans to block these important tax reforms. We prioritized this because Washington has the most upside-down tax code in the country, where low-income families pay six times more of their income in state taxes than the wealthiest 1 percent. We’re disappointed that legislators were unable to pass these long-overdue reforms even with relatively large Democratic majorities. 

While the legislation fell short, we want to recognize the progressive legislators who championed these bills, including Rep. Debra Entenman (D-Kent), Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-West Seattle), Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), Rep. Gael Tarleton (D-Seattle), Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane), Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond) and so many others. 

You can be sure that we’ll be back next year working even harder to balance our tax code! We’ll also make it a priority in 2020 to ensure we have real progressives in Olympia who will stand up for our communities. 

But wait, there’s more! 

Legislators often worked late into the night passing an incredible number of bills this session. Here are a few other highlights you might not have heard about: 

  • The final budget included parts of the HEAL Act, which prioritizes environmental justice and improves environmental health, particularly in areas where communities suffer most from pollution. Thanks to our partners at Front and Centered for their leadership on this! You can learn more here.

  • The Legislature also strengthened protections to protect transgender kids from bullying. The bill requires all schools to create a plan for protecting transgender kids and increase training for school staff. You can learn more here.

  • Legislators passed several bills to protect Puget Sound Orcas. These measures include requiring whale watching boats to stay farther away, reducing pollution in Puget sound, and requiring tugboats for oil tankers. You can learn more here.

  • Cascade Care, the state’s version of a public health care option, became a reality this legislative session as well. You can read Gov. Inslee’s announcement of the proposal here.

  • Washington also became the first state in the country to create a Long Term Care insurance program this session. This will help families pay for things like nursing homes, in-home care, and assisted living. You can learn more here.

  • The Legislature also passed landmark legislation to protect renters from unfair evictions and reduce homelessness. You can read more here.

  • An important equity bill passed this year that will clear the records of people who were convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana. This will help tens of thousands of people apply for jobs and housing more easily, which is especially impactful in communities of color, where marijuana convictions are disproportionately given out. You can read more here.

  • The passage of I-1000 ends a two-decade ban on affirmative action in Washington. This will allow state universities and contractors to take "race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, and honorably discharged veteran or military status" into consideration when hiring someone. You can read more here.
  • Last but not least, legislators passed the Workforce Education Investment Act, which will make public college tuition-free for families earning less than $50,000 a year. You can read more here.

This busy legislative session demonstrated the power of progressive majorities in Olympia. Unfortunately, some of the bolder and most important progressive reforms we championed were defeated by a group of Republicans and middle-of-the-road Democrats. We’re determined to hold them accountable to their constituents and the people of Washington for obstructing long-overdue and badly needed legislation.

We're ending this legislative session with a note of gratitude. We're grateful for the support of our members, partner organizations, representatives, and all the community organizations that made these wins possible across the state. Congratulations to all involved for passing some powerful reforms. We're looking forward to next year's session!