OLYMPIA — State lawmakers neared the end of a sometimes contentious 2022 session Thursday night after a final day marked by the passage of a record state supplementary budget and a transportation package of nearly $17 billion.

They were wrapping up a 60-day session in which the enduring presence of COVID forced dozens of members to work virtually, as they did a year ago.

But the pandemic hasn’t slowed down lawmakers. They passed hundreds of bills. Most will soon be enacted.

Here are 10 things they did — and one they didn’t — that will be the talk of the town for some time to come:

Payroll tax stopped

At the start of the session, a top priority was to curb WA Cares, a program providing eligible workers with money to cover the costs of long-term care support and services. Legislation signed Jan. 27 by Gov. Jay Inslee delayed the start by 18 months and stopped the payroll tax some workers were paying. This law also allows out-of-state workers, military families, and non-immigrant temporary workers to opt out of the program (they previously could not). Questions remain about the solvency of this initiative.

A matter of strength

Reforms passed in 2021 to curb violent interactions involving law enforcement have been revamped amid fears that restrictions on their use of physical force will cuff their ability to do their job. A new law allows the use of reasonable force in a non-criminal incident, such as helping someone in a mental health crisis. Meanwhile, another bill addressed to the governor would authorize the use of force to prevent people from fleeing temporary investigative stops.

Hey big spender

Lawmakers approved a two-year $59.1 billion operating budget last April. The complementary plan passed Thursday adds $6.2 billion in new spending. Among the big additions are a $2 billion transfer to the transportation package, $350 million to bolster the paid family leave program, $232 million for raises and one-time retention payments for state employees. and $236 million for a cost-of-living adjustment for public school teachers. Among the classifieds are $341,000 for two additional Snohomish County Superior Court judges, $200,000 for a task force to study the potential for a legal psilocybin industry and $50,000 to identify the historic properties owned by African Americans in Washington.

Buses, cars, ferries, oh my!

On the final day, a 16-year, $16.8 billion transportation plan was approved by the Legislative Assembly, along partisan lines. The Democrats did not involve the Republicans when they drafted the Move Ahead Washington package. Unsurprisingly, Republicans voted against it, while acknowledging that it contained worthwhile investments. There is no gas tax increase like previous packages. Senate Democrats have proposed a tax on exported fuel. It was dropped in favor of taking money each year from the general fund — an idea long championed by Republicans and opposed by Democrats — and the public works trust fund. The rest of the dough will come from increasing several vehicle-related fees, federal dollars, and proceeds from the sale of carbon emission allowances through a cap-and-trade system. This transfer of $2 billion from the operating budget, in addition to these annual sweeps, will allow spending to begin this year.

Lower medical costs

The Legislature greatly expanded those eligible for free hospital care or reductions on their hospital bills. They did this by changing the state’s charitable care law, intended to help low-income patients. House Bill 1616 sets different requirements for hospitals, depending on their size. Patients in general, such as Swedish Edmonds and Providence in Everett, will be eligible for some level of financial assistance if their household earns less than 400% of the federal poverty level, or $111,000 for a household of four. Patients at small hospitals in Snohomish County would be eligible if they earned less than 300% of the poverty standard — $83,250 for a household of four. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who requested the bill, estimates that a million more people will be eligible for help.

Meanwhile, Inslee has already signed a new law to cap insulin outlays at $35 for a month’s supply. The current cap is $100, based on a law passed in 2020.

Weapons and ammunition

The Democrats achieved one of their long-standing goals by banning the manufacture, sale, distribution, or import of high-capacity ammunition magazines, defined as those capable of holding more than 10 rounds. A separate bill bans all firearms at school board meetings, ballot counting centers and election offices. It also prohibits the “open carry” of firearms where city and county councils meet, but allows a person with a concealed weapons license to conceal carry at those locations. No Republican supported either bill.

Tax exemption, tax reductions

You won’t see widespread reductions in sales, property or business taxes this year. You may be eligible for a tax reduction. A measure will exempt baby and adult diapers from sales tax from October 1. And around 125,000 businesses may not have to pay business and professional taxes next year under another measure. Tax payments are now triggered when annual gross income exceeds $28,000 for a non-service business or $46,667 for a service business. This threshold increases to $125,000 for both.

Preparing for the future

Major counties will soon be updating their comprehensive plans, voluminous documents that will guide their planning in the future. Lawmakers, after two years of debate, expanded the list of items that must be included. Specifically, House Bill 1099 states that counties must include a “climate change and resilience element.” These must specify how they will combat the effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gases and vehicle miles travelled, and address climate impacts such as increased fires and flooding.

Converter theft prevention

A continued increase in thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles has led to new efforts to deter would-be thieves. House Bill 1815 places restrictions on scrap companies buying used catalytic converters. They will not make cash payments on site. Instead, they will pay by check a few days later. If you are going to sell a catalytic converter to one of these companies, you must prove that you own the vehicle it came from. The bill also requires the development of a comprehensive law enforcement strategy to combat the theft of catalytic converters.

In search of the missing

Washington will soon deploy an alert system to help locate missing Natives. When activated, the alert will broadcast information about missing Indigenous people on message boards and in roadside warning radio messages. It will also provide information through press releases to local and regional media. It will work in the same way as “silver alerts”, issued for missing vulnerable adults.


executive authority

This session, like the previous one, Republicans have called for limiting the governor’s emergency power. They argued it was high time for Inslee to lift the emergency declaration it issued more than two years ago at the start of the pandemic. The majority Democrats did not want to act. This year, the Senate passed a bill to urge lawmakers to end an emergency under certain conditions. It didn’t do much, but Senate Bill 5909 still died in the Democratic-controlled House.

Journalist Katie Hayes contributed to this report.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; [email protected]; Twitter: @dospueblos.