Notes From Olympia: Feb. 16, Week 6 of the 2024 Legislative Session

This edition includes highlights from legislative week 6, budgets, trivia and much more.

Erica Hallock February 16, 2024
  • Policy and Systems
  • Blog

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 []
U.S. States Ranked by State and National Park Coverage []
Washington Smallest State Park Could Fit in Your Bedroom []

About the Author

Erica Hallock

Erica Hallock

Director, Policy & Advocacy, Start Early Washington

Erica Hallock serves as the Director of Policy and Advocacy for Start Early Washington. She has worked in early childhood, health and human services policy in both California and Washington state.

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