The Washington state legislative session is in full swing and state lawmakers are debating several pieces of legislation that would directly impact homelessness in King County.
Some didn’t make it far.
Senate Bill 6109 would have established a pilot program to allow Washington’s three largest counties — King, Pierce and Snohomish — to put people into involuntary treatment if they had “serious mental illness and substance use disorders.” The measure would have cost between $2.5 million and $3.4 million in 2021, according to the fiscal note provided with the legislation.
A measure that would give King County the authority to tax companies paying workers more than $150,000 is still alive, however. House Bill 2907 would allow counties with more than 2 million people to tax large corporations for the express purpose of fighting homelessness. It’s similar to the head tax that the Seattle City Council passed and then repealed in 2018, but would impact the entire county, if used.
The measure raised concerns on the right and the left.
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, one of the three Republicans on the nine-member council, called it a tax on jobs that would hurt local businesses. Others are concerned that the measure will be amended to include a poison pill that would mean that Seattle officials would not be able to pass another, local tax. Some estimates have suggested that a tax would bring less revenue to Seattle than the 2018 attempt, despite the fact that Seattle has the largest homeless population in the state and a concentration of services for people experiencing homelessness.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine have both signaled support for the plan.
House bill 2742, which would give people rights over their personal data and put protections on the development of facial recognition technology, survived committee and will be moving forward. The Washington Privacy Act establishes that companies that control or process personal data of more than 100,000 customers or make more than half of their gross revenues off the sale of personal data would have to allow the people who use their services to correct or delete their data and allow people to opt out of certain uses of that information.
A separate bill, House Bill 2856, would go further and put a moratorium on facial recognition technology. That bill also made it through its committee of origin, meaning that it still has a chance of being passed.
In Washington, bills are first introduced in the House of Representatives or the Senate and receive a hearing. They are then read in open session and referred to the Rules Committee, which then places them on a second reading calendar for debate or takes no action.
If a bill passes one house, it’s then sent to the other house to go through the same procedure. If it passes again, it goes to the Governor’s Office for signature. Relatively few bills make it through this procedure, particularly in a short session — the Washington state Legislature is in a short session and plans to meet for only 60 days this year.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC.
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