Right Now in Social and Economic Justice
Last year heralded a widespread reawakening to the effects of systemic racism and discrimination in America. The pandemic and the accompanying economic crisis are exacerbating the effects of this “other pandemic” on Black, Indigenous, people of color, and other marginalized groups. This legislative session, we will be watching for bills that seek to dismantle systemic oppression and promote more equitable outcomes for all.
This week, I want to take a moment to recognize our incredibly hardworking legislators. So many of them have responded to the strain of the pandemic by redoubling their effort to fight for equity and justice, reaching across the aisle and into their communities for support. As a result of their tireless efforts, SIX of the bills on this page made it out of the second house this week. Thank you, lawmakers, for your vision of a better Washington and your determination to bring that vision to life.
Bills the League Supports That Passed the Opposite House
Under HB 1016, Washington would recognize Juneteenth as a legal holiday. Juneteenth, observed annually on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The holiday is considered by many to be the true Independence Day of enslaved people. To learn more about the history and traditions of Juneteenth, explore this remarkable multimedia collection by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Status Passed by the Senate, 47-1! Signed by the Speaker on April 12.
HB 1061 Supporting youth with developmental disabilities who are exiting the child welfare system. This bill would bridge a gap in the child welfare system that puts youth at risk of homelessness or unnecessary hospitalization. Currently, there is little support in place for youth with developmental disabilities who are aging out of the child welfare system. This bill would require the Department of Children, Youth, and Family Services to study how many youths fall into that category each year and how to support their transition to adulthood by facilitating access to employment and housing.
Status Passed unanimously by the Senate! Signed by the Speaker on April 9.
HB 1259 Would expand public contracting opportunities for women and minority business enterprises by increasing the regulatory oversight and accountability of the office of minority and women's business enterprises. Supporting equitable outcomes in the business community is more urgent than ever as the pandemic wreaks disproportionate harm on businesses owned by people of color and women.
Status Passed out of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means on April 2 and sent to the Rules Committee for a second reading. Passed by the Senate 43-6 and was signed by the Speaker on April 12.
HB 1335 would require cities and counties to collaborate in identifying records with racist language in property records and notify property owners of their right to have it stricken.
Status Passed unanimously by the Senate!
HB 1356 Would forbid public schools from using Native American names, symbols, or images as mascots, logos, or team names in an inappropriate manner.
Status Passed by the Senate! On April 12, the House concurred in the Senate amendments.
SB 5025 The Consumer Protection Improvement Act strengthens penalties for violations of the Consumer Protection Act in alignment with laws in other states, enhancing penalties for unlawful practices targeting consumers based on race, sex, or other specified characteristics. This bill was requested by the Office of the Attorney General, which found that the Washington Consumer Protection Act is weaker than most other states, penalties have not increased since the 1970s. The changes in this bill keep up with inflation and equip the AG with additional tools to protect consumers.
Status Passed by the House in a divided vote of 57-41.
SB 5027 A bipartisan bill that would require places of public accommodation to provide closed captioning on televisions. Various exceptions exist, such as for programs on between 2-6 a.m. Businesses could opt out by showing compliance imposed an economic burden. Violations would breach the Washington State Law Against Discrimination.
Status Passed by the House with 97 votes in support!
SB 5052 would require the Department of Health, in conjunction with other stakeholders, to create health equity zones to assess the disproportionate impact of environmental and other health hazards on historically marginalized communities. Producing this data is the first step in creating better health outcomes for people of color, who have most recently faced the catastrophic effects of COVID-19.
Status Passed by the House in a divided vote of 57-40.
SB 5237 The Fair Start for Kids Act expands accessible, affordable childcare and early childhood development programs, establishes a new account for childcare and early learning, increases eligibility and reduces co-payments in the working connections childcare program, expands eligibility in the early childhood education and assistance program, and more.
Status Passed by the House!
Bills the League Supports That Missed the Cutoff
HB 1076 supports whistleblowers who stand up for workers. Despite numerous laws protecting workers from unfair wages, unsafe working conditions, and discrimination on the job, these problems persist. Enforcement agencies face a backlog of cases, and workers are paying the price. HB 1076 enhances worker protections by allowing individuals and organizations to sue employers for workplace violations on behalf of the state.
HB 1264 (companion to SB 5274) would require that legislative proposals contain an equity impact statement. The Office of Financial Management would develop procedures, guidelines, content, and formatting requirements for such statements and train staff accordingly.
HB 1395 promotes equity in farming through dissemination of information and outreach to historically underrepresented groups.
SB 5023 would exclude COVID relief funds from eligibility determinations for subsidized childcare. The relief funds are intended to mitigate the financial consequences of COVID, and their value as such would be undermined if they jeopardized another public benefit like subsidized childcare.
SB 5264 designates January as Chinese American History Month and encourages public schools to commemorate the occasion. To learn more about the contributions and challenges of Chinese learn more about the contributions and challenges of Chinese Americans in Washington State, please see these materials compiled by Northwest Heritage Resources.
Bills the League Is Watching
HB 1015 would create the Washington Equitable Access to Credit Act. The law would require the Department of Commerce to create and operate a grant program to for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), lending institutions that provide credit to historically underserved communities. Currently, there are 26 CDFIs in Washington State financing affordable housing, businesses, nonprofits, agriculture, and other community interests. (Source: CDFI.org.) Businesses contributing to the grant program would receive a tax credit. Qualifying CDFIs would pay for a percentage of the grant as well.
HB 1071 increases the sentence of someone convicted of a crime motivated by the defendant's perception of the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or mental, physical, or sensory disability.
Related Bills on Other Issue Web Pages
Social justice is a vision of change across institutions, transcending the focus of a single legislative committee or Issue Web Page. Read the Center for Social and Economic Justice's definition. Please visit our Issue Web Pages below to learn about other bills we support that promote social justice.
Visit the Issue Web Page on Criminal Justice, which covers numerous bills related to policing, prosecution, prison, sentencing, and re-entry.
Visit the Issue Web Page on Health Care, Behavioral Health, and Reproductive Rights for more about:
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