Washington state's original Territorial CapitolAn early morning photo taken from the spot of Washington’s original Territorial Capitol
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)

Note to the reader: With the conclusion of the 2024 legislative session, this represents our final weekly edition of Notes from Olympia for the year. We plan to send out updates periodically throughout the interim. In the meantime, keep your eyes out for a survey – we are eager for your feedback and are always on the lookout for trivia suggestions. Thanks for reading!


License Plates. How many options do Washingtonians currently have to choose from for special design license plates?

  • Bonus Trivia: Had SHB 2489 passed, Washingtonians would have had another choice for a special design license plate. Which beloved icon would this new special license plate option have featured?

This Week’s Highlights

The Legislature adjourned Sine Die with its traditional fanfare March 7. The Legislature spent its last week passing three Initiatives to the Legislature, taking final votes on scores of bills, saying goodbye to colleagues, and passing Supplemental Capital, Operating and Transportation budgets.

Initiatives to the Legislature. As expected, the Senate and House passed three of the six Initiatives to the Legislature: I-2113 (vehicular pursuits), I-2081 (parental rights) and I-2111 (income tax). This means that these three initiatives will not appear on the November ballot.

The two bodies’ approaches to the debates and votes on the initiatives captured the tenor of the session; the Senate moved efficiently, debating and voting on all three in under an hour and the House took over an hour to debate just one of the three initiatives. For further details, we will continue to recommend the Washington State Standard coverage.

Since there was no action taken on the other three Initiatives to the Legislature, they will appear on the November General Election ballot for consideration and decision by the state’s voters:

  • I-2109: Repeal of the Capital Gains Tax
  • I-2117: Repeal of the Climate Commitment Act
  • I-2124: Opt-out option for Washington’s long-term care program Long-Term Care

If you would like more information about the initiative process, it was featured in our Jan. 19 edition of Notes From Olympia.

Bills, Bills, Bills. Last week we explained that when a bill is amended in the opposite chamber it must return to its originating chamber for “concurrence” in the amendments made in the opposite chamber. Early in the week, the Senate and the House spent time voting to concur in amendments made in the other body. This is a quick, but important step for a bill to take on its way to the Governor’s desk.

One important bill to note is ESSB 6038, clarifying tax exemptions for child care services. Deemed “Necessary to Implement the Budget,” it was not subject to legislative deadlines. Before approving the bill 95-1 Tuesday, the House adopted a Floor amendment that removed the provision prohibiting DCYF from charging licensing fees. With that change, the bill serves to expand the business and occupation tax exemption for child care services for children up to age 7 to children up to age 12 and children up to age 18 who have a verified special need or are under court supervision. Perhaps there will be another effort in 2025 to eliminate child care licensing fees. The Senate then concurred in the House amendments to ESSB 6038 March 6.

Check out Start Early Washington’s bill tracker on our state policy resources page for a look at which bills made it to the end of the process. Not surprisingly, the list of bills that did not make it is much longer than those that did!

Cliffhanger revealed – 5 p.m. bills. Last Friday’s Opposite House Cutoff 5 p.m. bills were meaty, and each brought a level of drama. The Senate took up ESHB 1589 relating to clean energy. This bill had been brought up for debate a day earlier but was ruled unconstitutional by the Lt. Governor after a Republican objection. Overnight, the bill was re-worked to address the issue and after consideration of many, many amendments, the bill passed. ESHB 1589 experienced further drama when it returned to the House for concurrence in Senate amendments Monday, March 5. After five hours in caucus, the House finally concurred in the Senate amendments in the wee hours of March 6, adjourning just after 2 a.m.

Over in the House, the 5 p.m. bill was ESB 5241, the Keep Our Care Act. After announcing ESB 5241 would be the final bill for the evening, the House broke for caucus meetings and did not return to the Floor, so the bill did not advance.


On Wednesday, Start Early Washington updated its state budget comparison chart to reflect the conference proposals for the Operating, Capital and Transportation budgets on our state policy resources page.

As one of the final actions before adjourning Sine Die, the Legislature voted to approve each of the budgets. On March 6, the Senate and House each unanimously approved the Capital budget and, as demonstrated by the picture below, with a bit of “fanfare” in the Senate. The Operating and Transportation budgets were each approved on the final day of session – March 7.

The budget is a bill and, like every other bill, does not go into effect until signed by the Governor. It is important to track to see if the Governor issues any vetoes on aspects of the various budgets.

Sen. Yasmin wearing a mullet speaking on ESSB 5949 supplemental capital budget Prior to voting in favor of the Capital budget, many Senators donned mullets in honor of Senator Mark Mullet, who oversaw the crafting of the Capital budget.
(Photo Credit: TVW screenshot)

In Memoriam

With heavy hearts, we want to honor Former Representative Peggy Maxie and acknowledge her passing on Feb. 18. We have included some information about her amazing life and accomplishments below, but if you would like to learn more about her career, we featured a more thorough overview in our Feb. 4, 2022 edition of Notes From Olympia.

Born in 1936, Representative Maxie was the first Black woman elected to the Legislature in 1970 and she served until 1983, for a total of six terms. She and her family came to Washington state in 1942 when her mother was hired by Boeing as part of the World War II workforce. After she graduated from high school, Maxie worked for the Attorney General’s office and for the Seattle Urban League. She then earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Seattle University and her Master of Social Work from the University of Washington. In addition to working as a consultant for health and community programs, she also trained for nine months to become a nun.

The story is that Representative Maxie had a somewhat comical entry into the political sphere. Her brother, Fred Maxie, had decided to run for Position 2 in the 37th District but changed his mind to go to law school. He’d already had campaign signs with their last name—Maxie—printed on them and didn’t want them to go to waste. It turned into a real-life example of the sunk cost fallacy, as he asked his sister to step up and run instead. Their other brother, Robert, had already forayed into the world of politics and had worked for years in the Democratic Party. Through providing organizational and financial support, he helped launch his sister’s political career, as she would soon become Representative Maxie. He even recruited Jim McGill, a professor of English at Seattle University, to be her campaign manager.

Peggy Maxie holding "Elect Peggy" campaign posterPeggy Maxie and one of her campaign posters
(Photo Credit: Seattle Times)

In Representative Maxie’s decade-plus tenure, she served on the House Appropriations, Judicial, Rules and Insurance Committees. She worked on notable legislation including the Landlord-Tenant Act and the Displaced Homemakers Act. The first act was responsible for defining the relationship between landlords and tenants and established some of the first tenant protections in our state. The bill faced active opposition from landlord lobbyists, but still passed. (Interestingly, the same Landlord-Tenant Act was a major issue during this 2024 session, with landlord lobbyists strongly opposing rent stabilization efforts). The second act supported women who had been “displaced due to divorce, death of a spouse, disability of a spouse, or other loss of family income of a spouse,” according to HistoryLink.

Peggy Maxie Peggy Maxie
(Photo Credit: Women in the Legislature)

We will be forever grateful for Representative Maxie’s contributions to civil rights, education and housing in the state. Her legacy has impacted so many—it extended beyond her time in the Legislature and will extend beyond her lifetime.

Trivia Answer

Washingtonians currently have 67 special design license plates to choose from. To see the full list of special design options for license plates, visit the Department of Licensing (DOL) website. And while it is a little pricier, you can also personalize your own custom plate—there are a few constraints on which characters you can use, so be sure to check out the DOL website. There are a few banned custom plates, which you can see at this link. It’s important to keep things decent, or as my college friend always said, “only good clean fun!”

If the Legislature had passed SHB 2489, it would have created a new special license plate option featuring … Smokey the Bear and his popular slogan, “Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!” Washington would have joined our fellow Smokey fans in Oregon and Texas, who already have Smokey license plate options.

Green and white license plate with image of Smokey the Bear and quote "only you can prevent wildfires"What could have been … A sample Smokey the Bear license plate
(Photo Credit: Washington State Democrats via KUOW)

Smokey’s association with fire prevention dates back to World War II, when there was a severe shortage of firefighters available to contain wildfires and much of the workforce participated in efforts directed towards different war-related activities. And while the bombings at Pearl Harbor did not directly cause a wildfire, the event still incited fear and concern. In response, the U.S. Forest Service established the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) program in 1942. Serendipitously, the film Bambi came out that same year, and Disney agreed that its characters could be used in the wildfire prevention campaign (spoiler: there are many traumatic parts of that movie, the wildfire only being one of them). Following on the movie’s heels, Smokey Bear was officially created August 9, 1944. His name honors “Smokey” Joe Martin, a courageous New York City Fire Department Chief.

A few years after the character was created, Smokey Bear became a national celebrity and got a real-life mascot: a little cub who survived a wildfire in the Capitan Mountains in New Mexico in 1950. At the time, forest rangers, local firefighting crews from New Mexico and Texas, and the New Mexico State Game Department worked to contain the fire when a crew member alerted everyone to a bear cub by itself near the fire line (a border used to help contain wildfires). According to smokeybear.com, firefighters got caught in the path of the firestorm and survived by lying face down on a rockslide; Smokey had taken refuge in a tree and was badly burned but was rescued by a ranger from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The ranger helped get him transported to Santa Fe for medical treatment, and the nation became invested in the little bear’s recovery after the United Press and The Associated Press published the story of his rescue. He lived most of his life at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., as he became the symbol representing the country’s federal conservation and wildfire prevention program.

Smokeybear.com reports that Smokey received so many letters of support and gifts of honey that he had to have his own zip code. He was returned to Capitan, New Mexico, upon his passing in 1976 and was honored with a burial at Smokey Bear Historical Park. So much bravery, both human and ursine!

Smokey’s campaign is the longest-running PSA in US history, so it makes sense that his catchphrase has evolved over the years:

  • Originally, in the 1940s, it was “Smokey Says – Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires.”
  • 1947: “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires.” Presumably, the campaign wanted to shift a sense of responsibility to the reader.
  • 2001: “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.” This edit was to clarify that Smokey is referring to unintentional, human-caused fires.

Another perhaps little-known fact about Smokey the Bear is that his name was originally “Smokey Bear,” but the song written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins added that small little word and ignited a fiery debate about what the bear’s *actual* name is. Once the song got popular, the new name spread like wildfire (is it too soon?). Smokeybear.com alleges that his name never changed and that it is officially “Smokey Bear.” No matter which name you prefer, Smokey is doing his job to spread awareness about forest fire prevention; hopefully you’ll be able to show your Smokey spirit sometime in the future!

About the Campaign [smokeybear.com]
Only you (almost) can put Smokey Bear on Washington license plates [Washington State Standard]
Peggy Maxie, first Black woman elected to WA state House, dies [The Seattle Times]
Story of Smokey [smokeybear.com]
Smokey Bear [Wikipedia.org]
Why Washington cars could get a little Smokey in 2024 [KUOW]

More Like This

The first light of the day greets the Capitol Building for more legislative activity
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)


The “Lost” Capitol. When it was still a Territory, Washington had a different Capitol Building. Where was the original Capitol Building located?

This Week’s Highlights

Action on three of the Initiatives to the Legislature. This week, joint legislative committees held public hearings on three of the six Initiatives to the Legislature:

While each of the initiatives were heard before joint legislative committees (for example, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee and the House Education Committee held a joint hearing on I-2081), each of the Senate and House Committees will meet independently Friday, March 1 in Executive Sessions to take a vote on the initiatives. Using the example of I-2081, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee will meet in its own Executive Session to consider I-2081 and the House Education Committee will meet separately in its Executive Session to also consider I-2081.

If these initiatives are approved by their respective committees, they will move to the Senate and House Floors for debates and votes there. Those initiatives passed by both bodies will NOT appear on the November general election ballot.

Initiatives to the Legislature are not subject to legislative cutoff deadlines, nor do they require gubernatorial approval. For more information, the Washington State Standard has been covering the hearings on I-2113 (vehicular pursuits), I-2081 (parental rights) and I-2111 (income tax).

Another day, another committee cutoff. In what now feels like weeks ago, Monday, Feb. 26 represented the final committee cutoff – the deadline for bills to pass out of the opposite chamber’s fiscal committee.

For many advocates (including this writer), it made for quite a tense weekend of waiting to see if your beloved bill would make the Monday Executive Session schedule AND receive a vote. The bill that received the most attention was in the Senate Ways and Means Committee where an effort to pass rent stabilization failed to garner sufficient support for passage. Again, our friends at the Washington State Standard captured the issue – and the political implications – in a thorough manner.

“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” Friday, March 1 at 5 p.m. represents the Opposite House Cutoff. This means that all bills (except those deemed Necessary to Implement the Budget) must be passed by the opposite body.

Maybe it is because so many bills did not make it through the filter this year, but it does feel like the Legislature has a more manageable list of bills to tackle before 5 p.m. on Friday. We again get to play the game of “What is the 5 p.m. bill?” (We really need more entertaining hobbies in this work). Check out the February 16 edition of Notes from Olympia for a description of the 5 p.m. bill concept.

The demise of the rent stabilization bill, as noted above, takes one of the likely options off the table for the Senate’s 5 p.m. bill. In the House, talk is that the “Keep Our Care Act” (ESB 5241) could be their 5 p.m. bill. Supporters argue the Keep Our Care Act will ensure that hospital mergers do not limit access to critical health care.

Check back next week for the riveting conclusion to the question gripping the state of Washington – “What was the 5 p.m. bill?” In the meantime, visit our state policy resources page for the latest status on bills. 

What’s on deck for the final week?

What can we expect? Other than the unexpected, of course!

Finalization and approval of budgets. A major – if not the primary – “to do” in the final week of the legislative session is the release and ultimate approval of the compromise Operating, Capital and Transportation budgets. Typically, this is one of the final acts before adjournment. If you are sitting in the Senate and House galleries watching the Floor debate right now, it is quite common to see budget writers popping on and off the Floor as they continue to iron out budget details. They are working to craft a balanced budget that also garners sufficient support for passage. As part of this process, Senate and House budget negotiators are identifying areas of variance between their two budget approaches and working toward compromise. Again, always with an eye toward a balanced budget that will pass both chambers.

Once the compromise budgets are released, Start Early Washington will update its budget chart with all the details on our state policy resources page.

“Get it right back where we started from.” Just like in the classic Maxine Nightingale song, sometimes you gotta “get it right back where we started from.” (Google the song if you don’t know it – it’s a classic toe tapper!). I’m working hard to spice up the rather dry mechanics of the legislative process, folks!

If a bill has not been amended in the opposite chamber, it can go straight to the Governor for action following passage and signature by the respective leaders. Conversely, when a bill has been amended in the opposite chamber, it must go back to where it started from (I did have a point with the song reference!) so the originating body can give their A-OK on the amendments made in the opposite chamber. This process is called “concurrence.” Much of the last week of the legislative session will focus on the Senate and House concurring on the opposite chamber’s amendments. There are occasions when there is disagreement over the direction the bill has taken in the opposite chamber, and there are steps in place to address when this occurs.

“So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu.” This classic song from “The Sound of Music” feels very appropriate right now. At the end of every two-year legislative session, it is customary for lawmakers to announce retirements. Sometimes legislators are retiring from elected office altogether while others might be seeking an office different from the State Legislature.

We are starting to see the retirement announcements roll out, including from freshman House Republican Spencer Hutchins from the 26th legislative district in Kitsap County. Last week, Representative Hutchins announced he would not seek reelection to the Legislature due to the impact holding office has had on his family and business. On Wednesday, former House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, who has served the 2nd legislative district representing parts of Pierce and Thurston counties since 2011, shared his plans to retire at the conclusion of his term.

During the last week of session, we will see time set aside in the Senate and House for lawmakers to honor and thank their departing colleagues for their contributions.

SINE DIE is March 7 – the end is near! In Latin, “Sine Die” literally means “without day.” What that means in the legislative context is there is no day designated on which the Legislature will resume its activities (until the next year).

During the legislative session, when the Senate and House officially adjourn each day, they announce their return. So, when the Senate adjourned last night, they announced the Senate was adjourned until 9 a.m. Friday, March 1, the 54th legislative day. Sine Die is the one day they do not announce a return date.

What Sine Die means for those involved in the legislative process either as a legislator, staff, advocates or other interested parties, is we can take a second to breathe and catch up on some much-needed sleep.

It might be Sine Die, but the work is not quite done. As we near the end of session, everyone is eager to get their bills approved by both chambers (relatively intact), signed by the House Speaker and Senate President and to the desk of the Governor for his hopeful signature. Of course, bills are not considered “law” if they don’t get the Governor’s “John Hancock.”

The timing of when the Governor must act on bills that reach his desk is connected to the timing of when they are delivered to his desk. In short, there are two main rules:

  • Any bill that is delivered to the Governor’s office when there are MORE THAN five days before the legislative session ends, becomes a “5-day bill”—that is, the Governor must act upon it within five days.
  • Any bill that is delivered to the Governor’s office when there are FEWER than five days remaining in the legislative session, becomes a “20-day bill”—the Governor must act upon it within 20 days.

Like with any rule, there are exceptions! One exception involves how the days are counted. Per the Governor’s office website, these time periods are counted using calendar days, not business days. Even Saturdays and state holidays are included in the count! But Sundays are not included.

Much like with babies, the key detail in this process is the delivery date, meaning the day the bill shows up at the Governor’s office. For example, a bill may have passed Feb. 29, but due to need for leadership signatures, it may not be delivered to the Governor’s office until March 2, so it becomes a 20-day bill because of when it was delivered.

Today, March 1, is the cutoff for 5-day bills. So, if you’re eagerly awaiting Governor Inslee’s signature, here’s to hoping your bill(s) was delivered to his office today!

How to track the status of bill signings? Governor Inslee’s website contains a bill action section that will include updates on scheduled bill actions and note actions taken to date. Most of the bill activity will occur in the Governor’s conference room in the Legislative Building but sometimes a bill signing will be scheduled at a relevant location off-campus, such as a school for an education-related bill.

If you’re *really* excited about a bill getting signed and want to see its signature ceremony, the best way to watch is on TVW. Bill sponsors are afforded a few invitations, but unfortunately bill signings have been closed to the public since the pandemic.

Trivia Answer

The first Capitol Building, also known as the Territorial Capitol, was located on the current Capitol campus between what we now know as the Legislative Building and the Insurance Building.

“X” Marks the Spot of the Original Capitol Building for the Washington Territory
Map courtesy: Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (edited by Start Early WA)

The Territory Capitol Building was originally a small structure built out of wood in 1856, paid for using federal funding. Although it was understood to be a temporary location, legislators (among others) complained about the location because they thought it was too far out of the way. The building was just a tad smaller than our Legislative Building today, measuring only 40 by 60 feet. The first floor held a “hall” for the House of Representatives and two small committee rooms. The upper floor housed the Council (Senate), two additional committee rooms and a Territorial library. 75 delegates worked from the building.

Apparently, it was already falling apart by 1874 (including rotting and sinking floors), and Congress gave the state $5,000 for repairs (which were completed), but there was a push for an entirely new building in the 1890s. The original Capitol building was abandoned in 1905 and destroyed in 1911. The State Board of Control wanted it to get demolished for free, but not surprisingly, the construction workers wanted to be paid for their labor. Eventually, W. J. Giggey and J. W. Relf of Olympia made an offer to knock down the original Capitol Building and accept the scrap lumber as payment—this offer was accepted. Construction on the current Capitol Campus began in 1912 and the Capitol Building we know today, was completed in 1927.

After the first Capitol Building was torn down, the Legislature met in the Old State Capitol Building in downtown Olympia from 1905 to 1928 (this building is now the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction). Sadly, the Old State Capitol Building caught fire in 1928. The Tacoma Fire Department responded as quickly as they could to the fire (although they got stuck in weekend traffic) and the community helped save the valuables inside, including stuffed and mounted animals on display in the lobby. According to History Link, “all the records and files were saved, but some were water soaked.” While taxidermy wouldn’t have been my first thought to save, it’s great that important documents and these items were preserved.

To contextualize the timing: Washington was created from the larger Oregon territory on March 2, 1853, and officially accepted to the Union on November 11, 1889. At the time, Washington state was going to be called the “Territory of Columbia,” but Representative Richard H. Stanton pointed out that people might confuse it with the nation’s capital territory at the time, Territory of Columbia (now the District of Columbia). While he did make a valid point, perhaps ironically, we did not escape the confusion with the nation’s capital, as we still need to clarify Washington state versus Washington D.C., the city.

Washington state's original Capitol Building in the snow (1911)The original Capitol Building in the snow (1911)
(Photo Credit: Washington State Archives via Olympia Historical Society
& Bigelow House Museum)


Abandoned Territorial Campus in the Snow [Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum]
Fire damages Old State Capitol Building in Olympia on September 8, 1928 [HistoryLink.org]
Territorial Capitol 2/5/17 [Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum]
Lost Landmark: Washington’s “Temporary” Territorial and First State Capitol [Thurston Talk]

More Like This

The Legislative Building awaits another busy week
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)


The Humble Bivalve. HB 1984 by Representative Mike Chapman would designate which clam as the official clam of Washington state?

Spoiler alert: This bill was pre-filed before the legislative session, but it didn’t make it out of committee. Perhaps it will “mussel” its way through the Legislature in another year.

Highlights of the Week

Potato Day! The potatoes this year really hit the spot, and you can tell the people on campus love these sponsored food days. Thank you to the Washington State Potato Commission!

Potato Day!
(Photo Credit: Zoë Erb)

Caseload Forecast

On Friday, Feb. 16, the Washington State Caseload Forecast Council released its updated caseload forecast. These caseload forecasts project expected caseloads for entitlement programs ranging from K-12 education to public assistance to corrections. Budget writers use this data to inform their budgets.

In terms of early learning, the following are updated forecasted caseloads:

Narratives accompanying the caseload forecasts and analyses of note (including any risks to the forecasts) are as follows:

  • Transition to Kindergarten (TTK). TTK has been more popular in smaller school districts and rural communities, and less common in certain areas such as King County. Risks to the forecast include variance depending upon the month in which a school district starts its TTK program. The narrative also notes TTK is a newer program, which makes forecasting future caseloads more challenging.
  • ECEAP. The narrative notes that nearly all of the enrollment growth for ECEAP in the 2022-23 school year was from children who were not “entitlement eligible” (meaning children who meet eligibility to participate under rules adopted by DCYF, not those eligible by income). The forecast also finds enrollment has been higher in the 2023-24 school year than in the 2022-23 year.
  • Working Connections Child Care. The forecast accounts for recently enacted legislation that builds on the Fair Start for Kids Act and further expands eligibility for Working Connections Child Care. There is also assumed continued recovery from the pandemic in terms of child care usage.
  • Early Achievers Subsidy Providers. The forecasted growth in Early Achievers Subsidy Providers should have an asterisk next to it because it represents the use of a new system to track number of providers. With this new system, we should have a more accurate count of the number of licensed providers participating in Early Achievers going forward. One particular item of note is the assumption that the increased enrollment of new providers is being driven by recent increases in reimbursement rates, particularly those for family child care providers.

Supplemental Budget Updates. Earlier this week, the Senate and House released their Operating and Capital budgets (as well as Transportation budgets). The released documents reflect more of a traditional supplemental budget approach, with the limited new investments focused on high priority, time sensitive items such as fentanyl response, housing and the overall workforce crisis.

Start Early Washington shared a side-by-side comparison of the various – and varying – approaches to the Operating and Capital budgets proposed by the Senate, House, and the Governor that impact early learning, on our state policy resources page. The side-by-side comparison chart highlights how the bodies invested quite differently in early learning. With just 13 days left in the official legislative session, the clock is ticking for the two bodies to come to an agreement on their differences and settle on final budgets that will garner sufficient votes for passage.

We will continue to update the budget summary comparison chart as the process continues. We expect the Senate and House to pass their respective Operating budgets over the coming weekend.

One important tip to remember: it is protocol for the initially released budgets to include funding for bills passed out of the House of Origin. Typically, funding for a House bill would be included in the House budget, but not in the Senate budget, and visa versa. There are pros and cons to this approach in that each body’s budget holds “space” for funding of bills, but it also means – particularly in tighter fiscal years – there will likely need to be cuts during the negotiations to accommodate the funding of all of the bills that will make their way through the process.

Bills, Bills, Bills! Weds, Feb. 21 represented the final policy committee cutoff. Most early learning-related bills were heard – and approved – by the policy committee cutoff deadline. Start Early Washington updated its bill tracker on our state policy resources page to reflect the latest versions.

Continuing the theme of “no rest until interim” (sung to the tune of “no sleep till Brooklyn”), Thursday morning saw the start (again!) of marathon fiscal committee hearings in advance of the Feb. 26 opposite chamber fiscal committee cutoff. (Yet another weekend of work. Oh, joy.) And then it’s back to the floor where the bodies will consider bills from the opposite chamber. PHEW!

What’s on Deck for Next Week?

Hearings on Three Initiatives

This week, Democratic leadership announced public hearings on three of the six certified Initiatives to the Legislature Feb. 27-28, with the remaining three initiatives destined for voter determination in the November general election.

Scheduled public hearings include:

  • Initiative 2111 relating to limiting the ability of state and local governments to impose an income tax, will be heard in a Joint Hearing by the Senate Ways and Means and the House Finance Committees Feb. 27 at 12:30 p.m.
  • Initiative 2081 concerning parental rights and their children’s public school education, will be heard in a Joint Hearing by the Senate Early Learning and K-12 and the House Education Committees Feb. 28 at 8 a.m.
  • Initiative 2113 relating to vehicular pursuits by police officers, will be heard in a Joint Hearing by the Senate Law and Justice and the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee Feb. 28 at 9 a.m.

Speculation around the Capitol campus is that following these public hearings, the Senate and House will vote to accept these three Initiatives to the Legislature, so they will not go before the voters.

There is question about how consideration of these initiatives will factor into the typical end-of-session busyness involving budget resolution, final passage of bills and concurrence in amendments made in the opposite chamber. One thing can be said about Olympia – it is never boring!

The remaining three initiatives still slated to head to the November ballot are:

The Feb. 16 edition of the Washington State Standard has a great piece by Jerry Cornfield covering the ins and outs of this issue. And refer to our Jan. 19 edition of Notes From Olympia for more information on the six initiatives and the initiative process.

Trivia Answer

A side-by-side of the razor clam and the geoduck
(Photo Credit: iStock.com via The Columbian)

Had Representative Chapman’s HB 1984 passed, the Pacific razor clam, aka the Siliqua patula, would have become the official state clam.

HB 1984 includes the statistic that people in Washington have harvested over 8 million clams annually in recent years, and that clam digging is an important activity—not just in terms of fun, but also as a source of food and cultural significance.

According to the Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Pacific razor clam is one of the “most sought after shellfish” in the state. The Department even developed this handy-dandy guide for clam digging. If you decide to try your hand at clam digging, be sure to check for any current razor clam season information, as well as the rules and regulations for sport fishing.

If this bill seems familiar, it’s because we’ve seen it before, but in a different form. Former Representative Brian Blake and current Representative Jim Walsh sponsored HB 1061 which was heard in both 2019 and 2020, but it didn’t quite make it to the finish line.

The Seattle Times credits the original effort to designate a state clam to David Berger, who wrote “Razor Clams: Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest” and lobbied lawmakers for the designation. The Times also informed its readers that Berger was so passionate about this issue that he contacted Kelli Hughes-Ham, a sixth grade teacher at Hilltop Middle School in Ilwaco, Pacific County. She used the bill as an opportunity to teach her students about the legislative process, and her class made posters to encourage lawmakers to designate the razor clam as the official state clam. This is not unlike the efforts of Amy Cole’s former fourth grade class to make the Suciasaurus Rex the official state dinosaur, which Governor Inslee finally signed into law after a multi-year effort in 2023.

One of the sixth grade lobbyist posters in support of the Pacific razor clam
(Photo Credit: Kelli Hughes-Ham, courtesy of the Seattle Times)

Perhaps one of the reasons these bills haven’t made it to the governor’s desk is because this has become a hot topic at the Legislature—a battle of the bivalve mollusks if you will. Governor Inslee even referenced this heated debate at an event this week, saying that the Legislature shouldn’t rest until we have an official state clam!

While the Pacific razor clam has supporters, the geoduck is still a formidable opponent. Members of the House’s State Government and Tribal Relations Committee wanted to be sure to give proponents of the geoduck an opportunity to have their say as well. Both geoducks and clams are members of the bivalve mollusk family. For those of you who may need to Google it (I know I did), bivalve mollusks “have an external covering that is a two-part hinged shell that contains a soft-bodied invertebrate” according to the National Ocean Service. In this instance, an invertebrate is simply an animal that does not have a backbone. (This is just begging for a joke about politicians and backbones.)

Although the geoduck is already the school mascot of the Evergreen State College, we can see the argument for designating it as the state clam as well. Geoduck aquaculture is alive and well, frequenting approximately 200 square acres of tidelands in our state. Much of that tideland is privately owned, but the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has explored whether publicly owned state-lands could host geoduck farms. Washingtonians are not the only geoduck fans; they are a delicacy in Asia and can fetch a rate of up to $125 per pound. DNR reported in 2020 that the state exports around 11 million pounds each year. Clearly it plays a huge role in the state economy, and it is also allegedly the biggest shellfish found on Washington beaches.

What do you think our official state clam should be? If you have strong feelings, please let your lawmakers know (and us at Start Early WA – we’re quite curious)!

Geoduck Aquaculture [Department of Natural Resources]
Razor clams, geoducks battle to be WA’s top clam [The Columbian]
Razor clams, geoducks battle to be WA’s top clam [The Seattle Times]
Razor clam seasons and beaches [Department of Fish & Wildlife]
Suciasaurus rex becomes official Washington state dinosaur after Gov. Inslee signs bill [NBC Right Now]

More Like This

Below are summaries of blogs that we issued in 2023 that highlight some of the things that we’re focusing on.

Unconscious Bias & Colorism

This blog shares insights on how unconscious bias influences policy, programs, and overall decision-making processes.

ParentChild+ Washington State Program Director, Pamela Williams, reflects on her experience at the 18th World Congress for the World Association for Infant Mental Health in Dublin, Ireland. Focused on Equity and Social Justice in Infant Mental Health, Pamela led a session exploring the Residual Effects of Colorism and the Impacts of Implicit Bias in Decision Making.

Nurturing Cultural Identity

Alex’s story echoes through the broader mission of home visitors, who actively support families in embracing and preserving their unique cultural identities.

In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, Alex Patricelli, Start Early Washington’s Training and Technical Assistance Specialist, reflects on the cultural journey she shared with her sons during the 2023 Paddle to Muckleshoot. 

Strengthening Family Engagement

Camille’s blog emphasizes the significance of taking small, intentional steps to achieve large goals.

Camille Carlson, Start Early Washington’s Quality Improvement and Innovation Manager is at the forefront of fostering Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) in home visiting services statewide. Guiding professionals through individual and group coaching, she draws on her personal experience as a parent supported by home visitors, and views family as central to her work. 

Successes & Lessons Learned

Explore our transformative work in Washington state.

In our ongoing efforts to strengthen family engagement and retention in home visiting programs, this blog uncovers valuable insights from our work with home visiting professionals. Such as prioritizing the quality of relationships and tailoring strategies to families’ preferences, home visiting programs can effectively nurture engagement and retention, ultimately contributing to positive lifelong outcomes for children and families.

Reaching Beyond Numbers

Anna’s blog shares how she navigates data to highlight subtle differences in home visiting experiences, ultimately strengthening programs and fostering inclusive co-creative learning opportunities.

Anna Contreras, Program Analyst for Start Early Washington, leverages her Latinx background and personal experiences as a second-generation immigrant to enhance home visiting programs. Her commitment to inclusivity is rooted in her mother’s positive experience with home visiting during Anna’s childhood. 

Start Early Washington is grateful to be building strong partnerships with organizations that share our values and goals.

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Heidi (left), and Brianna (right).

Start Early Washington had the opportunity recently to sit down with founder Heidi Stolte, and senior education program officer Brianna Jackson, and hear their thoughts on how efforts in the early learning education field are contributing to closing critical early learning and opportunity gaps.

Inspirational Beginnings

Thinking back to the beginning, what influenced your focus for the Foundation’s education goals on closing opportunity gaps by engaging families and communities in our region?

Heidi: When my husband Chris and I were deciding on the focus for the foundation and the inspiration for education, we had young children at the time, and I reflected on my experiences as a teacher and volunteer and the gaps that kids come to kindergarten with as far as being prepared to learn. Often unfortunately when they start out unprepared, they don’t catch up and they remain behind. Those early years and brain development between ages 0 to 5 are critical, so we recognized how critical the impacts of supporting early childhood learning are.

As I began to work with Social Venture Partners (SVP) on their early learning grant committee in 2011, we saw how much is either gained or lost in those earliest years and that starting early with healthy development is important. Seattle Foundation introduced us to local organizations doing early learning work, and specifically to ParentChild+ (PC+).

Having worked in education I just soaked up all of the little things I observed in PC+, like how early learning specialists provide coaching and role modeling, meeting the parents where they are at, supporting parents with learning how to enhance both the cognitive and social-emotional skills of their child, and also providing critical resources and supports.  There are so many components of PC+ that spoke to me.

Evolution of Focus

Going back to where things started in 2015, as you began the evolution of investing in early childhood and PC+, what’s changed the most for both of you?

Heidi: We focused on two areas: early learning and summer learning loss. The time when learning can be gained or lost, and we thought we could have some positive impact on that. In 2018 when we hired our first Education Program Officer, we realized that we needed to dive into this a little more and dedicate time to strategy and planning. We looked into a lot of areas and considered what spoke to us, what was needed, what gaps existed in funding, assessed education data both locally and nationally, and identified what geographic areas needed more resources and support. From there we decided to focus on parent-family engagement. Parents are such an important connection for children as their first teacher throughout their whole lives, and this is a critical time when they are with them before school begins.

Brianna: As you learn more, you become more intentional about your work. We have been able to be more on the ground and build the relationships with amazing community organizations, and be a bridge to increase visibility of those organizations with larger funders. We have been able to fund both systems-level as well as direct-service organizations, a great evolution for our investments.

Embracing Optimism

As a funder, and more important as someone entrenched in the work and watching the work change, what are you most optimistic about in the early childhood space going forward?

Brianna: There have been great wins in Washington state around early childhood and public funding, for example more of a focus on provider wages and ensuring that providers can make a livable wage. It’s exciting to see the direction things are moving with the Fair Start for Kids Act with the increase of access to child care benefits and consideration for the economic health of Washington’s families. In the 20+ years that I have been in this work, I am encouraged to see that we are finally understanding as a society that you can’t NOT invest in early childhood. And when we don’t invest in this critical period of development and growth for children and families there are real economic and social repercussions.

"So many of our goals are aligned with Start Early Washington around what it takes to build a comprehensive P-5 [prenatal to age 5] system in WA. Start Early Washington feels like our jam!" - Brianna

corner square square circle corner pie circle square

Brianna: When we look at our partnership, and what attracted us to the work of Start Early Washington, it really comes down to being excited about PC+ and what home visiting could look like in Washington state.

We love that Start Early Washington is thinking about how to strengthen a system by prioritizing those who are doing work within that system. Providing strong professional development, technical assistance support, and a framework for what core competencies look like across high-quality home visiting is key to their approach. We know that this is contributing to the overall strengthening of PC+ and therefore the home visiting system overall. We are also excited about the policy and advocacy work Start Early Washington is involved in; that they are not only focused on what it looks like on the ground but what it looks like at the systems level to build better policies for children and families. If we are not doing both then we are doing the field a disservice.


Learn more about the Stolte Family Foundation’s thoughtful commitment to improving the futures of Washington’s children and families.

An unexpectedly snowy morning at the Capitol
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)


Ranald MacDonald State Park, near the city of Curlew in Ferry County, is home to Washington’s smallest state park. What is the park’s size?

Week Highlights

Revenue report. On Feb. 14, the new State Economist Dave Reich presented his first Revenue Report to the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. This report provided updated revenue projections since the November forecast and the findings will be used to inform the budget proposals set for release in the next few days (see below for more information).

Despite revenue continuing to exceed projections, collection growth is slow. Revenue projections are adjusted as follows:

  • 2023-25 biennium: Increase of $122 million (0.2% increase)
  • 2025-27 biennium: Increase of $215 million (0.3% increase)

The Education Legacy Trust Account, which serves as an important fund source for early learning related programs, is projected to increase by $31 million for 2023-25 over November projections and by $6 million for 2025-27 over November projections.

It is also helpful to look at the overall projected budget levels as the operating budget is expected to grow as follows:

  • 2023-25 projected operating budget: $67 billion (Growth of 3.5% over the 2021-23 biennial budget)
  • 2025-27 projected operating budget: $71.7 billion (Growth of 7% over the 2023-25 biennial budget)

The next important data point that will influence budget writers is the caseload forecast, scheduled for Friday, Feb. 16 – right after the release of this newsletter. While the revenue forecast focuses on how much money budget writers can spend, the caseload forecast contains information on required expenditures (e.g., K-12 enrollment, Medicaid, prison populations, etc.). We will capture this information in next week’s update.

Senate Capital Budget released. On Thursday, the Senate released its proposed Supplemental Capital Budget. Notably, the budget documentation contains the names of both the Senate Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair (and lead on the Capital Budget) Senator Mark Mullet and the Republican Ranking Member Senator Mark Schoesler, signifying a bipartisan effort.

The budget summary document opens with two important notes:

  1. An error was discovered in the underlying capital gains revenue forecast from November 2023, necessitating a downward adjustment of more than $200 million for the 2023-25 biennium. This means there will be less funding available in the Supplemental Capital Budget.
  2. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the continuation of the Capital Gains tax and Climate Commitment Act given the November initiatives, the Senate Capital Budget does not assume revenue from either capital gains nor the Climate Commitment Act beyond 2024. If either (or both) of these initiatives do not pass, this revenue would be available for the 2025 Legislature.

Early Learning Facilities. The Senate Capital Budget includes a total of $8.8 million in new funding for early learning facilities, including:

  • $4.5M in competitive grants
  • $2.35M in minor renovation grants
  • $1.95M for designated projects
  • Note the proposed Supplemental Capital Budget bill also adds to existing prioritization for funds “facilities at risk of closure due to compliance with state licensure requirements.”

House of Origin Cutoff/Policy Committee return. Tuesday at 5 p.m. represented the House of Origin Floor cutoff; bills needed to pass out of their respective chamber by this deadline to be considered viable during this short session.

The contrast between the Senate and House of Representatives approaches to floor activity was striking. The Senate worked deliberatively and efficiently, making their way through their lists of bills, adjourning at reasonable hours every night and avoiding weekend work altogether. Conversely, the House put in two very late nights (working into the early morning hours). And while the House did end up passing 270 bills off their floor, I suspect many advocates lost sleep (and manicured fingernails) over whether the clock would run out before their bill came up for debate and a vote.

I do get a giggle when the House works past 10 p.m. and the Speaker announces the waiving of the rule requiring the wearing of jackets on the House Floor. That announcement always brings some murmurs of excitement, reminding me of my school days when indoor recess was called.

Despite the long hours, both the Senate and House were back at it Wednesday morning in policy committees as they considered bills passed out of the opposite chamber. With a short window before policy committee cutoff, there was little time to catch up on needed sleep!

What were the 5 p.m. bills? Last week, Notes From Olympia discussed the interest around the “5 p.m. bill,” which is often used as a strategy to run the more controversial bills that use up more clock time. As long as debate begins by 5 p.m. on cutoff day, it can go as long as it takes.

The House opted to go with ESHB 2114 related to rent stabilization as its 5 p.m. bill. Prime sponsored by Rep. Alvarado, ESHB 2114 is a top priority of House Democrats. In recognition that 35% of Washingtonians are renters, the bill aims to provide a number of protections for renters, including limiting rent increase to 7 % in any 12-month period.

The bill generated lengthy debate and ultimately passed on a 54-43 vote with four Democrats joining Republicans in voting no. It has an uncertain path in the Senate where a similar measure failed passage in the Senate Housing Committee earlier this session. For additional information on the rent stabilization effort, see this article in the Washington State Standard.

Over in the Senate, continuing with the deliberative and efficient approach I mentioned earlier, they wrapped up before 5 p.m. The Senate’s final bill related to … (drumroll please) establishment of the state nickname! By a 47-2 vote, the Senate approved SB 5595 which would adopt “the Evergreen State” as our state’s nickname. I thought it already was our nickname, but maybe this would make it official?

What’s on Deck for Next Week

Operating Budget and House Capital Budget releases. We’ve said multiple times that the last few weeks of the legislative session moves quickly – and we aren’t joking. We’ve also noted the Washington Legislature often works seven days a week – federal holidays included – also not a joke, as you will see below!

Week seven (the week of Feb. 19) is another big week as the Senate and House will unveil and receive public comment on their respective budget proposals. The proposed release dates are as follows:

Senate Operating Budget

  • Release: Sunday, Feb. 18 around 4 p.m.
  • Public Hearing: Monday, Feb. 19 at 4p.m. Public comment and testimony can be registered through the legislative website.
  • Executive Session (Vote): Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 3 p.m.

House Operating Budget

  • Release: Monday, Feb. 19 around 12 p.m.
  • Public Hearing: Monday, Feb. 19 at 4p.m. Public comment and testimony can be registered through the legislative website.
  • Executive Session (Vote): Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 4 p.m.

Senate Capital Budget

  • Release: Thursday, Feb. 15
  • Public Hearing: Thursday, Feb. 15
  • Executive Session (Vote): Monday, Feb. 19 at 4 p.m.

House Capital Budget

Once both bodies finalize their respective budgets, they will negotiate the differences between the two approaches and present a compromise budget for consideration before the Senate and House before adjourning March 7.

Be sure to check Notes from Olympia next week for a rundown of all the details in both the Senate and House proposals. We are maintaining a chart on our website to track and compare the details.

Yet another cutoff and the return of marathon fiscal committee hearings. We are quickly moving from one cutoff to another. Next Wednesday is the final policy committee cutoff and focus will once again shift to fiscal committees for review of bills from the opposite chamber. This is all happening at a fast pace, so it is fortunate that the list of bills under consideration is considerably smaller!

Bill Tracker

Bills are moving quickly, but we’re still updating our bill tracker on our policy resources page on a weekly basis.

For the most current information, we recommend referring to the Legislative website. You will notice the number of active bills continues to decline as the legislative session progresses.

Trivia Answer

Ranald MacDonald State Park measures in at a whopping 100 square feet!

According to the trusty Google, this state park is equal in size to:

  • 2 king size mattresses
  • 5 front doors
  • 2 ½ United States flags
  • ¾ of a parking space

Ranald MacDonald’s grave on-site at the park
(Photo Credit: Washington State Parks Foundation)

As the name indicates, the park honors the late Ranald MacDonald, the son of Koale’zoa (also known as Princess Raven or Princess Sunday) of the Chinook tribe and Archibald Macdonald, a chief trader at Hudson Bay Trading Company. Ranald Macdonald’s claim to fame is that he was the first native English speaker (and Pacific Northwesterner) to teach English in Japan.

MacDonald’s father’s business in the fur trading industry piqued his interest in exploring the East and led to him becoming a whaler. Allegedly, MacDonald wondered if there was any relationship or connection between Japanese and Indigenous people in the Americas (perhaps based on his mother’s roots?) and also has an interest in teaching the Japanese people about international trade. Up to that point, however, Japan’s borders had been closed. To gain access to Japan, Macdonald went so far as to sabotage his own boat by faking a shipwreck. After being rescued by local fishermen, he was imprisoned for illegal entry into Nagasaki.

MacDonald eventually returned to Canada, initially to sell mining supplies to those hoping to strike it rich in the Cariboo Gold Rush. Although he had enthusiasm to start this store from business owners in Victoria, he did not receive support from the British Columbian government and his business never took off. But that didn’t deter him from becoming a miner himself!

Eventually, MacDonald fell ill and his niece, Jenny Nelson, traveled from Curlew, Washington over Sherman Pass to the cabin MacDonald had built on the west side of the Columbia River to care for him and bring him home to Washington to rest—a long way to go in a covered wagon! His grave is preserved in the form of the small park we see today, and MacDonald is remembered for his desire to explore and teach (even if he did break some rules along the way).

Ranald MacDonald, 1824-1984
(Photo Credit: Ferry County Historical Society)

Ranald MacDonald State Park is one of our state’s 200+ State Parks (212, to be exact). Washington has the third most state parks of all the states (with only California and New York ahead of us). And while we’re talking about parks … did you know that you can rent a yurt, a cabin, or even a vacation home through the Washington State Department of Parks and Recreation? If you want to get in touch with your inner Leslie Knope (or just get into the great outdoors), here are the 2023 rates. Hopefully 2024 rates will be available soon.

A yurt at Grayland Beach State Park
(Photo Credit: Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, WA and its representatives)

Here’s a full list of our beautiful state parks, The Washington State Park Foundation also has an interactive map.

In our research for this week’s trivia, we found some interesting factoids about other state parks that we will tuck away for future trivia questions. As a teaser, we can share one state park ranger became the inspiration for an infamous character on a beloved 1960s sitcom. Cliffhanger!

A shoutout to TVW for the prompt for this week’s trivia question. TVW ran 24/7 during the period of Floor activity and when the Senate and House are in caucus, TVW content fills the time, including their overview of state parks!

Ranald MacDonald Gravesite [Ferry County Historical Society]
Ranald MacDonalds Grave [Washington State Parks Foundation]
SMALLEST – State Park in Washington [waymarking.com]
U.S. States Ranked by State and National Park Coverage [playgroundequipment.com]
Washington Smallest State Park Could Fit in Your Bedroom [keyw.com]

More Like This

A calm evening at the Capitol (on the outside, at least!)
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)


How many Black legislators have served, and are currently serving, in the Washington State Legislature?

Highlights of Week

We’ve passed another cutoff! After a marathon four days of public hearings and executive sessions, the Legislature hit the House of Origin fiscal committee cutoff this past Monday. Bills that did not pass out of fiscal committees are considered “dormant” and not eligible for further consideration, unless deemed “Necessary to Implement the Budget” by legislative leadership.

For advocates, it was a rollercoaster weekend as email inboxes pinged with updates of bills getting scheduled (exhilaration) and, sometimes, bills removed from calendars (despair). In a small number of cases, bills were scheduled for a vote in time for the Monday deadline only to have the Chair announce at the hearing that they were withdrawn from consideration (the depths of heartbreak).

As one example of the volume of work, the Senate Ways and Means Committee agenda had 82 bills on its executive session calendar this past Monday and the House Appropriations Committee had 52.

Attention turns to Floor action. There is little to no downtime in a short session of a part-time Legislature. Starting Tuesday morning, attention shifted to the Senate and House chambers where lawmakers began the process of debating and voting on bills in advance of the Feb. 13 House of Origin cutoff.

I have mentioned the “filter” process built into our legislative system and a very important step in this process happens prior to Floor debate and consideration. The Senate and House Rules Committees consider the bills passed by the policy and fiscal committees and decide which bills advance to their respective Floors. Unlike other committees, these meetings are not scheduled at regular times. One Rules Committee notice this week stated that the meeting would commence “20 minutes after going at ease for lunch.” Prior to the pandemic, these Rules committee meetings were not covered by TVW, but now they are available.

To get to the Floor for debate and vote, a bill must first be “pulled” from the Rules Committee. There are various ways this occurs, and the Senate and the House have variations in their processes. In most Rules Committee meetings, there are “leadership” or “package” pulls where a list of bills is presented for consideration for an up or down vote. There are also “consent” pulls where bills with minimal opposition are listed together and voted on at once. Finally, there are “individual” pulls where each Rules Committee member is assigned a certain number of “pulls” per meeting (e.g., each Rules Committee member is allowed to suggest one bill to advance to the Floor and the Rules members vote to approve that recommendation). Despite the various opportunities for bills to be “pulled” from Rules, not all bills will advance from Rules to the Floor and advocates get more nervous as the week goes on and their bills remain in Rules.

Valentine heart candiesHere’s to hoping for only affirming and positive messages during the stressful period of Floor activity.
(Photo Credit: Molly Champion, image modified by Jess Galvez)

Stayin Alive, Stayin Alive …

The list of active early learning related legislation is much smaller at this stage in the process—post the initial policy and fiscal cutoffs. Be sure to check out our bill tracker on our policy resources page for more detail, but below is a quick look at the bills still moving their way through:

House Bills

  • SHB 1945 (Alvarado) Makes children eligible for ECEAP and Early ECEAP if they receive Basic Food benefits and simplifies income eligibility for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC)
  • HB 2111 (Nance) Makes technical changes to the WCCC statute
  • SHB 2124 (Eslick) Changes WCCC work requirements to allow for family participation in Early ECEAP or Early Head Start and allows WCCC eligibility for ECEAP/Early ECEAP employees if their household income is below 85% of the state median income
  • SHB 2195 (Callan) Modifies eligible uses of the Ruth LeCocq Kagi early learning facilities development account (ELF)
  • SHB 2322 (Senn) Directs the Office of Financial Management to study existing employer-provided child care programs and provide recommendations for how to expand child care options through businesses
  • 2SHB 2447 (Senn) Changes the removal standard for children regarding out-of-home placement due to the use or possession of a high potency synthetic opioid and provides targeted, voluntary home visiting and child care slots and other supports for families

Senate Bills

  • SSB 5774 (Billig) Requires the Department of Children, Youth and Families to have the ability to conduct timely fingerprint background checks in its early learning and child care offices
  • SB 5941 (Wilson, C.) Makes technical changes to the WCCC statutes
  • SSB 6038 (Wilson, C.) Waives child care licensing fees and expands the child care business and occupations tax child care exemption
  • 2SSB 6109 (Wilson, C.) Changes the removal standard for children regarding out-of-home placement due to the use or possession of a high potency synthetic opioid and provides targeted, voluntary home visiting and child care slots and other supports for families

What’s on Deck for Next Week?

It’s all about the money, money, money. On Valentine’s Day, the new State Economist Dave Reich is set to present his first Revenue Forecast to the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. This revenue projection will be used to finalize the 2024-25 Supplemental Budget. It is important to remember that Washington state requires a balanced four-year budget, so budget writers will also be considering out-year impacts of their investments and out-year revenue outlooks.

We expect to see the Senate and House operating, capital and transportation (remember our state adopts THREE budgets) shortly after the revenue report. In fact, the Senate Ways and Means Committee has a Feb. 15 public hearing scheduled to receive comments on its proposed Supplemental Capital Budget, so we can presume their proposed Capital budget will be released sometime that day.

The last few weeks of the legislative session move very fast.

Late nights and weekend work ahead. While most Washingtonians will be preparing their favorite appetizers for Sunday’s Usher concert and viewing of expensive commercials, those involved with the legislative process could be engaged in Sunday Floor activity in advance of the Tuesday, Feb. 13 House of Origin cutoff (the House of Representatives does have a 1 p.m. hold for possible caucus and session). Most likely, though, after a lot of late nights, there may be a break on Sunday so folks can find out if a certain someone was able to arrive from Japan in time for the big game.

In all seriousness, the periods of Floor activity are incredibly intense, with a lot of late nights. Sometimes when I am on my early morning walks, the lights in the Legislative Building are still on, indicating one chamber has pulled an all-nighter and is still deliberating. Tempers get short and bills that had been on a smooth glide could get held up for no apparent reason.

One of the traditions during floor cutoff is identification of the “5 p.m. bill.” Often the 5 p.m. bill is a controversial or consequential bill because if debate starts before the 5 p.m. deadline, it can go on as long as it takes. Occasionally, the final bill can be a “nothing burger,” but more often than not, it is one of greater consequence and there will be murmuring about what the 5 p.m. bill will be in both chambers. We will report back next week.

Groundhog Day? Immediately after the Feb. 13 House of Origin cutoff, we will dive right back into policy committee work. This time, policy committees in the opposite chamber will review the bills still alive in the process passed by the opposing chamber. This is a very compressed timeline with only six days of policy committee hearings and a Feb. 21 opposite house policy committee cutoff. I mentioned last week one of the benefits of introducing companion bills is socializing a concept in the opposite chamber. This benefit becomes clear in these tight time periods.

Bill Tracker

Our bill tracker is updated each Thursday and linked on our policy resources page. Because bills move quickly, the tracker may not have the most recent updates, but this information can be found on the legislative website.

Trivia Answer

To date, Washington voters have elected a total of 29 Black legislators, including 11 Black legislators serving today:

  • Senate: Senators John Lovick and T’wina Nobles
  • House: Representatives April Berg, Brandy Donaghy, Debra Entenman, David Hackney, Melanie Morgan, Julia Reed, Kristine Reeves, Chipalo Street and Jamila Taylor

Last year, the Washington State Legislative Black Caucus filmed this message in honor of Black History Month.

Washington’s first Black legislator was William Owen Bush of Thurston County, elected to the first State Legislature in 1889. He was also the first of four Black Republicans who served in the Legislature. One of the bills he sponsored—HB 90—laid the foundation for a college emphasizing the study of agriculture that would later become Washington State University. To learn more about Representative Bush and his father George Bush, the first Black pioneer in the Washington Territory, visit our trivia in this throwback edition of Notes From Olympia.

While each of the 29 Black legislators who served in the Washington state Legislature has unique stories, for this week’s trivia, we wanted to focus on the first Black woman elected to the State Senate, Senator Rosa Franklin.

Senator Rosa Franklin, 2009
(Photo Credit: Washington State Legislature)

Born in 1927 to a “homemaker mother and a corn farmer father” in rural South Carolina, Senator Franklin was the fifth of 11 children. Franklin attended Good Samaritan Waverly Nursing School in Columbia, South Carolina, a school built “by African Americans, for African Americans, to meet the healthcare needs of the community.” Following graduation, Senator Franklin began what would become a 42-year career in nursing.

During her time in nursing school, Senator Franklin and her friends would go to the United States Organization (USO) club to sing and dance when they were not in school or studying. There she met James Franklin who would become her husband for 70 years until his death in 2021. She considered her 70-year marriage one of her greatest achievements!

The Franklins moved to Tacoma in 1954 when her husband was stationed at Fort Lewis. During this time, Senator Franklin pursued her bachelor’s degree at what would become the University of Puget Sound. She had intended to obtain a degree in nursing, but she found the coursework duplicative of what she had already taken at Good Samaritan in South Carolina. She ended up earning a double major in English and Biology.

Senator Franklin ultimately spent more than 40 years in health care, focusing on women’s health and the health needs of the Black community. She also worked with disabled children and seniors in addition to extensive community involvement, which led her to politics.

She began her foray into politics with runs for the Tacoma City Council in 1973 and 1987, both of which were unsuccessful. In 1990, the Chair of the Pierce County Democratic Party convinced Franklin to run for the House of Representatives, and, using her rec room as the campaign headquarters, she leveraged her community relationships and connections to prevail over the person viewed as the natural successor to the seat. Realizing she could not continue her nursing career and serve in the Legislature, Franklin retired from nursing (with many, many well-deserved accolades).

After serving one term in the House, Franklin was appointed to the State Senate after the unexpected death of Senator A. L. “Slim” Rasmussen. Franklin was the top choice to fill the seat, but she only agreed to serve if she could sit on the Senate Health Care Committee – her top legislative priority.

During her time in the Senate, Senator Franklin is credited with sponsoring the Washington Housing Policy Act in 1993 which established the Affordable Housing Advisory Board. One has to assume Senator Franklin recognized the important connection between housing and health. She is also credited with groundbreaking policy work to address the intersections of health, race and environmental issues.

Her fellow Senators selected her to serve as the Senate Pro Tempore which meant she presided over the Senate when the Lieutenant Governor was absent for whatever reason. Notably, Senator Franklin was the first African American woman in the United States to serve in this position in her state Senate. Senator Franklin was known by her peers in the Senate as “the second fastest gavel.” Clearly a woman of efficiency!

Senator Franklin retired from the Legislature in 2010 and, in her retirement message, she wrote she planned to “… continue working to make our communities, state and nation live up to the principles on which they were founded, and that the constitution represents all of us and not just a select few.”

Bush, William Owen (1832-1907) [HistoryLink.org]
Black Legislators of Washington State: Firsts & Statistics [Washington State Library]
Franklin, Rosa Gourdine (b. 1927) [HistoryLink.org]
New Data Indicates That Washington’s Legislature Became More Representative [South Seattle Emerald]
State Legislator Demographics [National Conference of State Legislators – 2020]
The State of Black Representation in the US Today [Public Wise]

More Like This

The Tivoli Fountain Replica is showing off on a sunny Tuesday (the original Tivoli Fountain is in Copenhagen!)
(Photo Credit: Zoë Erb)


The Winged Victory Monument on the Northeast side of the Capitol campus pays tribute to what group of individuals?

Week 4 Highlights

Dairy Day!

In years past, I have written about the joy brought to the Capitol campus on the “food days” sponsored by various food associations. Not only has January been a long and rainy month, but it has also been devoid of any free food days.

Thankfully, our dark days ended Feb. 1 when the Washington State Dairy Federation sponsored “Dairy Day.” The kind folks at the Dairy Federation shared a variety of offerings ranging from yogurt to cheeses to numerous ice cream options. I cannot think of a better way to turn a post-policy committee cutoff frown upside down than free ice cream!

Policy Committee Cutoff

Wednesday marked the first milestone of the 2024 short session with the House of Origin policy committee cutoff. Bills that did not pass out of policy committee by this deadline are considered “dormant” (a more strength-based term than “dead” that I’ve picked up to describe bills that are not advancing). Many policy committees held jam-packed hearings this week to hear, amend and vote upon the many bills before the Legislature this short session.

Some other items of note:

  • This is a particularly important time to keep an eye on adopted amendments or substitutes as the focus of bills can change on a dime. It is not unusual to see the scope of legislation shift to keep a bill moving, or scaled back to minimize cost, for example. I will note a couple of examples below where amendments significantly shifted the focus of a bill.
  • “This bill’s a mover!” It is not uncommon for “companion” bills to be introduced (identical bills in the Senate and the House) on a specific issue. These companions provide an opportunity for an idea to be socialized in both chambers with the intention of increasing the likelihood of its passage. As time becomes scarcer as the session progresses, it is typical for one of the vehicles to be identified as the “mover,” and the other bill to go dormant. An example of companion bills where a mover has been identified is HB 2111 (Nance), a technical clean-up bill related to Working Connections Child Care statute. In this case, HB 2111 is the mover, and its companion, SB 5941 is dormant. If you are advocating or speaking to certain bills, it is helpful to double check you have the “mover” identified.

We have adjusted our bill tracker on our state policy resources page to reflect the bills advancing at this point of session. We moved the “dormant” bills to a separate chart to make it easier to identify the smaller group of active bills.

A Recap of Bill Activity

Fentanyl/Opioid Crisis and Family Supports

A primary focus this legislative session has been the impacts of the national fentanyl/opioid crisis on families. Two pieces of legislation – SB 6109 (Sen. C. Wilson and Boehnke) and HB 2447 (Rep. Senn) are the primary vehicles for conversations around fentanyl and child removal standards as well as the need for additional services and supports for families experiencing substance use disorder.

The first sections of both bills look to address what level of consideration should be given to the risks of fentanyl in decisions about whether a child should remain in the home of a parent. These are weighty and critical decisions as lawmakers aim to balance keeping children safe while avoiding unnecessary family separation. Expect these discussions to continue as lawmakers continue to grapple with this important decision.

Both bills contain “services and supports” for families in the second sections. Although these services and supports are not in complete alignment, they are very similar. For example, both bills:

  1. Expand inpatient substance use disorder treatment beds to include family-centered treatment where children can remain with their parent(s).
  2. Provide contracted child care slots for infants engaged in child protective services.
  3. Launch contracted, targeted home visiting slots for families experiencing substance use disorder.

Additionally, both bills look to leverage the skills and expertise of public health nurses by connecting them with families to provide education on the risks of high-potency synthetic opioids and child health and safety practices. Further, the House bill contains a provision to fund a pilot project in two communities for Promotoras to provide culturally sensitive, lay health education for the Latinx community and act as liaisons between their community, health professionals and human and social service organizations.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard SB 6109 Jan. 29 and, of this writing, it has not been scheduled for an Executive Session. The House Human Services, Youth and Early Learning Committee passed HB 2447 Jan. 30 and it has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

Non-Standard Hour Child Care

The Senate Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to hear SB 6171 (Sen. L. Wilson) Feb. 3. I highlight this bill as an example of one that underwent a significant change in its policy committee.

As introduced, the bill would have called for a study on child care for criminal justice personnel. The Senate Human Services Committee did not consider the original bill, but instead heard and passed a substitute bill which calls for DCYF to conduct a feasibility study and provide cost estimates for a pilot program to award start-up grants in jurisdictions with over 100,000 people to assist with establishing and operating child care programs and services with nonstandard hours for the minor children of individuals in high demand professions including, but not limited to, peace officers and criminal justice personnel, firefighters, medical professionals in rural areas, and construction workers during shift work and abnormal work hours.

Department of Children, Youth and Families Oversight Board

HB 2185 (Reps. Dent and Senn) is scheduled to be heard in the House Appropriations Committee Feb. 2, with an Executive Session (or vote) scheduled for Feb. 5.

This bill is designed to make changes to the make-up and charge of the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) Oversight Board. This is another bill that experienced changes from its introduction after review in the House Human Services, Youth and Early Learning Committee.

Among other provisions, the substitute maintains the transfer of authority for the Oversight Board from the Governor’s Office to the Legislature, makes further modifications to the Oversight Board’s membership and removes the authority of the Oversight Board to overturn, change, or uphold decisions made by (DCYF) licensors regarding adverse child care licensing decisions not involving a violation of health and safety standards.

What’s On Deck Next Week

As the great philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I’m not sure if there’s an apt analogy there, but the legislative session does move darn fast. Especially in a short session.

Fiscal Committee Cutoff and then Floor Session!

By the time you receive the next Notes from Olympia, we will have already made it through the fiscal committee cutoff of Feb. 5 and will be knee deep in legislative Floor activity. To prepare for this fiscal cutoff, legislative fiscal committees (primarily the Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations Committees) will have considered all bills with a fiscal impact. Expect many of the bills that do make it out of these fiscal committees to be amended to include language conditioning their implementation on funding being provided in the supplemental budget, or “subject to appropriation.”

The next big cutoff is the House of Origin Floor cutoff Feb. 13 and that is when all bills must pass out of their house of origin. This is a particularly stressful time for advocates because, unlike policy and fiscal committees, no calendars announcing meeting times or agendas are available. This requires a lot of waiting around on the third floor of the Legislative Building, trying to track down any tidbits of information.

During Floor activity, “clock time” is a strategy often deployed by the minority party who may not want to see bills passed, so they might offer up voluminous amendments or designate a number of their caucus members to speak to bills, all to eat up time. This influences the majority party’s strategy of scheduling bills for a Floor vote. If they schedule too many controversial bills, that will limit the time available for other important bills.

We will see how it plays out this year, but I’m confident in saying that folks in all corners of the Legislative Building will be tired and grumpy during the period of Floor activity!

What is NTIB?

The initials NTIB look like they are part of a National Transportation agency, but it is a very important term to the Washington state legislative process that means “Necessary to Implement the Budget.”

Like the English language, the legislative process has exceptions to its rules. Bills deemed Necessary to Implement the Budget (or NTIB) are exempt from the cutoff deadlines due to budgetary impacts. These bills still must go through each of the steps – they must, for example, receive a Floor vote (no skipping steps!). NTIB status is granted by legislative leadership and is not broadly given. Typically, bills that are NTIB are ones that are more controversial and/or under negotiation.

Bill Tracker

Our bill tracker is updated each Thursday and linked on our policy resources page. Because bills move quickly, the tracker may not have the most recent updates, but this information can be found on the legislative website.

Trivia Answer

The sun shines on Nike and her entourage
(Photo Credit: Zoë Erb)

Winged Victory, or Nike (νίκη being the official Greek name), pays homage to the 67,106 Washingtonians who served during World War I, including the more than 1,600 soldiers who died during the war.

The figures surrounding Nike represent members of the Navy, the Army, the Marines and a Red Cross nurse. Governor Ernest Lister proposed the statue’s creation in 1919 and the Legislature allocated $50,000 for its construction (equivalent to about $900,000 today). It turned out this was not enough funding and the total cost ended up closer to $100,000, funded by federal grants and through the sale of state lands.

Winged Victory has been standing on the northeast side of the legislative building at the Capitol since its dedication May 30, 1938. Sculpted in bronze, the 12-foot statue sits on top of a 10-foot granite base. Its sculptor, Alonzo Victor Lewis, was subsequently named Washington Sculptor Laureate by the State Legislature.

Notably, Nike holds an olive branch in her right hand, usually symbolizing peace. The ancient Greeks and Romans also associated it with supplication—praying for something from the gods (whether it be peace, prosperity, etc.).

The inscriptions on the modern, Washington State Nike are as follows:

  • East face: the WA State Seal, “To the memory of the citizens of the State of Washington who lost their lives in the service of the United States during the World War 1917 – 1918.”
  • North face: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.”
  • West face: “Their sacrifice was to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world.”
  • South face: “They fought to safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy.”

In addition to the statue of Nike, Washington State’s Capitol Campus includes memorials for those who served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, as well as those who received Prisoner of War/Missing in Action and Congressional Medals of Honor.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, at least 12 other states also have statues dedicated to war veterans on their capital campus, including: Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. If you’re curious to learn more about these statues, each state has its own veteran’s affairs page with more information.

Postcard of “Winged Victory” Unveiling: 1938
(Photo Courtesy: Washington State Archives)

Winged Victory Monument [WA State Department of Enterprise Services]
Winged Victory [olympiahistory.com]
Winged Victory Monument (WWI) [The Clio]
At the state Capitol, a longstanding tribute to lives lost in WWI [WA State Standard]
Veteran’s Memorials on Capitol Campus [WA State Legislature]
Popular State Veteran Monuments [US Department of Veteran Affairs]

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Washington state capitol building A foggy and misty start to week three
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)


State Symbols. Representative Peter Abbarno’s HB 1977 would designate what type of stone as Washington’s official state rock?

Week 3 Highlights

And Then There Were Five

This week, Secretary of State Steve Hobbs notified the Legislature that signature verification and certification had been completed for two additional Initiatives to the Legislature, bringing the total number of certified Initiatives to the Legislature to five. Last week’s Notes From Olympia shares a deeper dive on Initiatives to the Legislature.

The two added Initiatives to the Legislature relate to repealing the state’s capital gains tax and prohibiting the state, counties, cities or other local governments from instituting an income tax.

The remaining potential Initiative to the Legislature still in the process of signature verification (as of this writing) relates to the repeal of the state’s long-term care insurance program.

On to Bills

With the first cutoff date rapidly approaching Jan. 31, dreams are being made – or broken – by the policy committee hearing schedules. We are at the point of session where bills are constantly being added to (and removed from) committee schedules. Schedules are very fluid, and it is not uncommon for policy committee agendas to simply read “bills referred to committee” with the actual agenda items filled in throughout the week. This can make it challenging for planners like me as well as for those who are anxious to see if their bills are going to receive a hearing. It is also important to know that not every bill receives a public hearing and not every bill that receives a public hearing will advance to executive session – or a vote.

The legislative process is designed to narrow down the number of issues under consideration via these cutoff deadlines. There is not enough time – or funding – to allow for all the great ideas to make it through the process each year. While this is frustrating, this reality also provides opportunities to fine tune ideas and build support and awareness when groups return in future years. (I’m trying to put a positive spin on the disappointment we all feel when our passion projects do not advance).

Tax Policy and Child Care. This week, fiscal committees heard three bills related to child care and tax policy:

  • On Jan. 23, the House Finance Committee heard HB 1716 by Representative Rule which would establish a Business & Occupations (B&O) Tax Credit for businesses that provide child care assistance to employees.
  • The House Finance Committee also heard HB 2322 by Representative Senn which would require employers that receive a (B&O) tax preferences from the state provide child care for their employees.
  • Finally, the Senate Ways and Means Committee is slated to hear SB 6038 by Senator C. Wilson Jan. 25. SB 6038 would both eliminate child care licensing fees and provide a tax exemption for businesses that receive income from child care.

At the hearings, proponents spoke to the importance of affordable, accessible child care, emphasizing the state’s child care crisis is a significant workforce issue. According to the Washington State Child Care Collaborative Task Force, in 2020, 71% of parents cited difficulty in finding child care that impacted their ability to work. These proposals reflect differing approaches to tackling this crisis from the tax policy standpoint. As of this writing, none of the bills have been scheduled for an Executive Session.

Late Week Two Activity

Early Learning Facilities

On Jan. 18, the House Capital Budget Committee heard HB 2195 by Representative Callan which would make changes to the Ruth LeCocq Kagi Early Learning Facilities Fund (ELF). The bill would take a number of actions, including changing the distribution of any capital gains tax revenue received above $500 million so that 25% of the overage would be directed to the Early Learning Facilities Fund and 75% to the Common School Construction Fund; removing ELF award limits; adding translation services as an eligible administrative cost; prioritizing applications that are ready for construction, renovation, purchase, or repair; and eliminating the match requirement for ELF facilities collocated with housing developments, allowing them to receive state funding for 90% of the project cost.

The bill received widespread support at the hearing from the child care community, with testimony leading off from former Representative Ruth Kagi who spoke about the genesis of the ELF and the critical need for early learning facilities. Two early learning providers who had previously received ELF funding spoke to the importance of the fund, particularly in a field with narrow profit margins. One provider noted her construction costs had jumped substantially from the start of her project to now, highlighting the need to adjust the caps on grant award levels.

Those who testified “other” or “con” expressed concerns about the sustainability of the funding source and those affiliated with the K-12 system were concerned about diverting capital funding from the Common School Construction Fund.

As of this writing, HB 2195 has not been scheduled for Executive Session.

What’s on Deck for Next Week?

As noted above, policy committee cutoff is scheduled for Jan. 31. The Legislature will then swiftly shift into fiscal committee work – with weekend hearings scheduled – to meet the quick turnaround of a Feb 5 fiscal committee cutoff. This fast turnaround requires us all to be on our “A” games, making sure bills with a fiscal impact not only get scheduled for a public hearing in a fiscal committee, but are also scheduled for executive session (or vote).

Fiscal committees are another place where great ideas get squashed or receive a “haircut.” It is not unusual to see amendments added to bills scaling back proposals, and nearly every bill passed out of a fiscal committee will include a caveat “subject to the appropriation of funding…” This condition means implementation of the policy is dependent upon the item being included in the adopted budget. This gives lawmakers the ability to keep a bill moving while making its implementation dependent upon funding.

SSB 5774 by Senators Billig and C. Wilson is slated to be heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee Jan. 29. SSB 5774 aims to utilize DCYF local offices for fingerprint background checks as a way to ease the backlog and ease access, particularly in rural areas. It was amended in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee to lower its fiscal impact by limiting the number of DCYF staff and offices impacted.

Child Care Licensing, Educational Requirements and Siting

On Jan. 30, the House Human Services, Youth and Early Learning Committee will hear two bills related to child care licensing and educational requirements.

  • The first bill, HB 2046, with Rep. Dent as the prime sponsor, would make changes to educational requirements and licensing for providers in child care deserts in rural communities (as defined by DCYF).
    • Specifically, DCYF would be required to contract with a nonprofit focused on child care to develop a handbook for child care providers that focuses on the health, safety and nutritional needs of children; how to establish a nurturing relationship with children; and the fundamentals of instruction. Child care providers in these rural counties identified as child care deserts would be exempt from educational requirements and instead would be required to read this handbook and attest it was read.
    • The bill would further make changes to class sizes and ratios in these rural counties designated as child care deserts, changing the class size for preschoolers to 21 and the provider to student ratio to 1:11. For school-age, the class size would change to 31 and the provider to student ratio to 1:16. Finally, the requirement for licensed indoor program space would change to 34 square feet per child in attendance.
  • The second bill being heard in this House committee Jan. 30 is HB 2179 by Rep. Couture. This measure would allow counties with a population of less than 100,000 to license and regulate child care centers and family child care homes from July 1, 2025 through June 30, 2032. The bill outlines the components the local licensing and regulation must cover. Further, the bill would require a third-party assessment of any local licensing and regulation.

Neither bill has an Executive Session scheduled as of this writing.

Over in House Local Government

  • HB 2468 by Representative Jacobsen is scheduled for a Public Hearing Jan. 30 and Executive Session Jan. 31. This bill aims to streamline local permitting and zoning requirements in order to allow for siting of child care centers near elementary schools.

Bill Tracker

Our bill tracker is updated each Thursday and linked on our policy resources page. Because bills move quickly, the tracker may not have the most recent updates, but this information can be found on the legislative website.

Trivia Answer

HB 1977, sponsored by Representative Peter Abbarno, would make Tenino sandstone the official state stone. This bill rocks! (Come on, that’s some low hanging fruit!).

Many of the buildings around the Capitol (including the Insurance Building pictured above) are built using Tenino sandstone, our potential future state rock!
(Photo Credit: Zoë Erb)

I will admit that when I saw the title of this bill, it did give me pause. I am familiar with state flowers, state flags, even state songs. But, apparently, 29 states have a designated state rock and, if HB 1977 is enacted, Washington would become state #30. As Zoë and I looked into the background on this bill, we learned there’s more to the story – as there often is – with historic, economic and geographic significance.

Tenino sandstone hails from the city of Tenino in Southern Thurston County, part of Representative Abbarno’s district. Incorporated in 1906, the City of Tenino has a current population of just under 2,000 residents today.

Sandstone is prevalent in many areas of southwestern Washington. In our research, we learned sandstone is easy to cut but, after being exposed to air, it becomes hard, making it ideal to use as a building material. Due to its availability and suitability for constructing buildings, sandstone became a key part of the Tenino economy with the establishment of sandstone quarries. (Honestly, I now want to try to cut some Tenino sandstone. Is it like butter? I must find out).

In the late 1880s/early 1900s, Tenino sandstone was commonly used in building construction, but its popularity increased after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and fires in Seattle and other major cities. This is because as earthquakes and fires ravaged cities, buildings constructed with Tenino sandstone persevered. That’s PR you just cannot buy!

Bringing it back to a tie to Olympia, Tenino sandstone was used in the construction of the Washington state Legislative Building, and when the building was damaged after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, members of the Tenino Stone Carvers Guild assisted in the Capitol repair. Zoë and I chatted with a kind Capitol docent Richard who shared with us that you can view the sandstone on the external portions of the Legislative and other campus buildings. While the inside of the Legislative building is clearly marble, the outside has a sandstone look to it.

Notably, Tenino sandstone is present in the “other Washington” as it was used to carve the stone that represents Washington state at the Washington Monument.

In a press release, the bill sponsor Representative Peter Abbarno expressed the rationale behind his bill as: “There are so many buildings and monuments in the state of Washington that were built and designed with Tenino sandstone. You can’t visit the Capitol without seeing Tenino sandstone or the craftsmanship of the Tenino Stone Carvers Guild. It is fitting to designate Tenino sandstone as our ‘state stone.’”

HB 1977 was referred to the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee. It has not had any movement, so it is unlikely to advance in 2024, but the readers of this newsletter are more knowledgeable about Tenino sandstone! Thank you, Representative Abbarno.

Three more fun facts about the City of Tenino:

  • One of the largest explosive detonations in state history occurred here. In 1912, two trains filled with black powder and dynamite were used to create the “big blast,” producing approximately 500,000 tons of rockfall. The sandstone boulders were apparently needed for a jetty in Grays Harbor.
  • Tenino’s other claim to fame is its creation of its own local currency (in the form of wooden money), to help locals get through the Great Depression. (Now there’s a future trivia item).
  • Today, you can swim in the old quarry in the city park, the site of the old Tenino Stone Company. ROAD TRIP!

Former Tenino Stone Company Quarry
Current Site of Tenino Quarry Pool
(Photo Credit: City of Tenino)

Resources: The Department Of Natural Resources: “Tenino”; Representative Abbarno’s Newsletter: “Tenino sandstone built Washington, and should be the state rock says Rep. Peter Abbarno”

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A frozen Du Pen fountain on the Capitol Campus

A frozen Du Pen fountain on the Capitol Campus
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)


Initiatives to the Legislature

Back in 1915, the Washington State Legislature failed to act on an initiative to the Legislature, “the Brewers’ Hotel Bill,” sending the issue to the voters as Initiative Measure 24 for their consideration in the November 1916 general election. The voters soundly defeated Initiative Measure 24 with 48,354 voting yes and 263,390 voting no.

What subject did the “Brewers’ Hotel Bill” cover?

Week Two is Almost in the Books!

This short legislative session is setting into a rhythm, with the first cutoff (policy committee cutoff) a mere 12 days away. The winnowing of bills (and dreams) has already begun, and lobbyists have the benefit of fewer bill numbers to recall off the top of their heads!

While week one’s theme was food and parking, week two’s theme was weather. Like the rest of the state, it has been COLD in Olympia (as evidenced by the picture of the frozen Du Pen fountain above). With pass closures, slippery roads and the availability of virtual participation in legislative activity, the number of people on-campus is notably lighter than in previous years.

Yet, even with the cold, we see people participating in organizational lobby days on the Capitol campus. This week, I saw students from higher education institutions calling for more affordable college as well as a number of people wearing badges from the Wheat Association. I got very excited thinking there might be free cinnamon rolls from the Wheat Association, but I was unsuccessful in finding any. Perhaps another day.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance Day, both the Senate and the House held celebrations honoring the late Dr. King and his legacy. Dr. King strongly believed in the power of civic engagement; what a way to celebrate him by seeing it all in action.

This is a reminder that Washington’s legislative session “clock” counts all seven days a week (meaning even weekends count toward this year’s 60-day session). It is not unusual for weekend legislative activity to be scheduled, and we already expect two Saturday fiscal committee meetings and additional weekend floor activity. The Washington Legislature moves at a fast pace! In addition, as evidenced by Monday’s activity, our Legislature works on the two federal holidays during our sessions – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day. This provides opportunities for the public to engage more fully on what are typically days off from work for many Washingtonians.

Bill Activity Highlights

A number of early learning related bills had public hearings throughout this second week of the legislative session. Due to our publication schedule, we will include a summary of hearings related to HB 2195 (Representative Callan) Early Learning Facilities, SB 5870 (Senator C. Wilson) Expanding and Streamlining Eligibility for Early Learning Programs, and SB 6018 (Senator C. Wilson) Designating Early Learning Coordinators at Educational Service Districts in next week’s newsletter.

On Jan. 17, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee passed Substitute Senate Bill 5774 by Senators Billig and C. Wilson. This bill requires the Department of Children, Youth and Families to maintain the ability to perform fingerprint background checks in at least ten of its child welfare and early learning field offices. The substitute bill prioritizes geographic locations and limits the staff support to .25 FTE to each office location. The measure now moves to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

What’s on Deck for Next Week?

This short session started off with a bang and a flurry of bill hearings and executive sessions right out of the gate. As noted above, the first cutoff for policy committees is quickly approaching on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

As noted in last week’s Notes From Olympia, a huge volume of legislation was pre-filed and introduced during the first week of the legislative session. With that said, the bill introductions have slowed down considerably and if bills have not yet been scheduled for a policy committee hearing, the likelihood they will move forward in this short 60-day session is becoming less and less. We will focus on our state’s fiscal outlook in later newsletters as we transition into the fiscal committee timeframe. Still, the state’s budget outlook is not as flush as previous years, which also impacts decisions about scheduling bill hearings.

The committee schedule for week three has been released and – at least for the time being – it is notably lighter as it relates to early learning bills. We are at the stage of the legislative session, though, where bills are constantly added and removed from committee schedules. This is all to say it can change on a dime, so if you are tracking a particular bill, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on its status via leg.wa.gov.

On to next week …

Child Care and Tax Relief

Three bills have been scheduled related to leveraging our state’s tax system to support child care:

  • HB 1716. The House Finance Committee will hear HB 1716 by Representative Rule Jan. 23. This bill would establish a Business & Occupations Tax Credit for businesses that provide child care assistance to employees. Now you might be wondering, wasn’t that bill heard last year? If you are thinking that, you would be correct. HB 1716 was introduced by Rep. Rule in 2023 and received a hearing in the House Finance Committee March 23, 2023. During the second year of a two-year legislative session, bills that did not pass in the first year are reintroduced and retained in their current status, so HB 1716 was eligible for another public hearing in the House Finance Committee.
  • HB 2322. The House Finance Committee will also hear HB 2322 by Representative Senn Jan. 23. This bill would require entities receiving tax preferences from the State of Washington to provide child care assistance to their employees.
  • SB 6038. Finally, the Senate Ways and Means Committee will hear SB 6038 by Senator Claire Wilson Jan. 25. This bill contains two primary provisions: 1) it would eliminate child care licensing fees and 2) provide for a tax preference to expand the business and occupation tax exemption to include income derived from child care.

A Good Little Bill for Families

  • HB 2052. By Rep. Callan would provide that any construction or renovation in which public restrooms are required, baby diaper changing stations must be included. The bill has been scheduled for a public hearing in the House Local Government Committee Jan. 23 and an Executive Session Jan. 26.

Executive Sessions Scheduled

Two bills of note (in addition to HB 2052 noted above) are scheduled for Executive Session next week:

  • SB 6109. Primarily related to child welfare, the bill also includes a provision related to home visiting. This bill is scheduled for Executive Session (vote) in Senate Human Services Jan. 22.
  • HB 2243. By Representatives Reeves and Waters would create the children’s social equity land trust wherein funding for child care deserts would be generated by revenue from working forests statewide. Its public hearing is scheduled after the publication of this newsletter (Jan. 19 at 10:30 a.m.) in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Next week’s committee schedule shows an Executive Session Jan. 26.

Bill Tracker

As the legislative session progresses, our resource page will update with a weekly bill tracker. Please note that legislation changes quickly, so the version on our website may not represent a bill’s latest version as it is published the Thursday of each week.

Trivia Answer

What subject did the “Brewers’ Hotel Bill” cover?

Beer! Initiative 24, also known as the “Breweries Measure” or “The Brewer’s Hotel Bill,” was proposed to authorize the manufacturing and regulation of beer between 1 and 4% alcohol. While the motivation for voters rejecting this measure in 1916 is unclear, I do wonder if it had something to do with the Prohibition era – something to research for another day.

image of Initiative Measure No. 24Source: Washington Secretary of State

Before we dive into the real subject of our trivia (which is not actually beer), my first observation is about the growth in our state’s population in the past 100 or so years. According to the Washington State Secretary of State, as of the November 2023 general election, our state had 4.8 million eligible voters, nearly 1.8 million of whom voted. Quite a jump from the roughly 300,000 people who voted back in 1916.

The real purpose of this week’s trivia is to talk about Initiatives to the Legislature. Over the past few weeks, much of the press throughout the state has been dominated by coverage of the proposed six initiatives to the Legislature that are in varying stages of signature verification by the Secretary of State. Given that this is not a typical occurrence (at least from my perspective), we thought it would be helpful to provide an overview of the process and the options before the Legislature should any/all of the six initiatives to the Legislature be certified.

Of the six, the Secretary of State has verified sufficient signatures for the following three (as of this writing) and notified the Legislature they have been certified as Initiatives to the Legislature:

There are three remaining initiatives to the Legislature that have been granted provisional certification while the signatures are being verified:

What does this mean and what comes next?

In 1912, Washington became one of the first states to adopt an initiative and referendum process, giving its voters an opportunity to make and remake laws. Any registered voter can propose an initiative to create, amend or repeal a law (although they cannot change the state constitution).

Generally speaking, the initiative process allows the voters to enact new laws or change existing ones. Washington state provides two initiative opportunities:

1. Initiatives to the Legislature. An Initiative to the Legislature is submitted to the Legislature during the legislative session should it garner sufficient certified voter signatures (currently at least 324,516 Washington registered voters).

After an Initiative to the Legislature’s is certified, the Legislature has three potential actions:

  • Adopt the initiative as proposed by the public. If this happens, the initiative becomes law without a vote by the people.
  • Reject the proposed initiative or take no action. In this case, the initiative would be placed on the ballot in the state’s next general election for voter consideration.
  • Approve an amended version of the proposed initiative. In this case, both the amended and the original versions of the bill would appear on the state’s next general election ballot.

There is a lot of chatter and speculation over what option the Legislature will take with the potential six Initiatives to the Legislature before them. These Initiatives to the Legislature are certainly “taking up a lot of oxygen” and also have significant budget implications, particularly given the potential for the repeal of the Climate Commitment Act and capital gains tax (which the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up just this week).

2. Initiatives to the People. Initiated by voters, allows voters to put proposed legislation to the ballot at the next general election if sufficient signatures are gathered.

For a real-time tracking of the signature verification process for the 2024 Initiatives to the Legislature, refer to the Secretary of State webpage.

A Couple of Examples of Previous Initiatives Submitted to the Washington State Legislature:

  • 2014: Initiative Measure No. 658 sought legislative approval for a King County tax to fund scarecrows as public art projects and a method to discourage crows from nesting in areas where they bother citizens.
  • 2017: And, finally, given that it’s NFL playoff season, I would be remiss if I did not note the proposed 2017 Initiative to the Legislature that did not garner enough valid signatures related to playing fantasy football for money. (And a personal note, who didn’t well up watching Jason Kelce leave the field for the last time?).

For an inclusive list of all the state’s past initiatives (dating back to 1996), visit the Secretary of State website.

Source: Initiatives & Referenda Handbook (Office of the Secretary of the State)

A beautiful Monday night outside the Senate John A. Cherberg buildingA beautiful Monday night outside the Senate John A. Cherberg building
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)

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