Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative leaders ended the legislative session last week after achieving many of the goals Inslee laid out including go-big proposals on housing, increased funding for education and policies to address behavioral health, public safety, reproductive freedom and more.
“It’s been an extraordinary session,” Inslee said at a press conference. “Lives are going to get better because of massive housing investments totaling over $1 billion, new gun safety laws, the clean energy jobs we’re creating, and our investments in education.”
Inslee noted that legislators left one important job undone, however. Legislators are up against a July 1 deadline to approve an urgently-needed “Blake fix” that ensures drug possession isn’t decriminalized and also provides options for substance use treatment.
“I hope the successes of this session aren’t overshadowed by the way tonight ended with the failure of the Blake bill in the House. But what happened tonight was unacceptable. Decriminalization is not an option for me and it is not an option for the state of Washington. I expect legislators to deliver a solution.”
Housing: Legislators approved more than $1 billion to support housing and homelessness efforts in the next two years, matching the scale of investment for 2023–25 that Inslee proposed last December. Additionally, legislators passed about a dozen bills that will increase housing density, speed up permitting, reduce construction backlogs, and address historical barriers to homeownership among people of color.
Behavioral health: Legislators approved a compromise version of the governor’s request legislation to reform the state’s competency restoration system. The state has experienced a surge in demand for competency services, and the legislation will allow the state to provide services in additional locations and increase diversion options for community-based treatment.
Education: The budget includes $2.9 billion in new state spending for K-12 education, the largest investment since the McCleary court decision. Lawmakers approved continued funding for additional nurses, counselors, and social workers in schools and boosted special education funding by more than $500 million. The budget also includes funding to expand access to free meals for thousands more students.
Public safety: A bill to update the state’s police pursuit laws will expand the instances police can engage in vehicle pursuits. Additional funding for criminal justice training will support recruitment of new police officers across the state.
Gun safety: Legislators accomplished a decade-long effort to ban assault-style weapons. Washington becomes the 10th state with such a ban. Legislators also approved the governor’s request legislation to require safety training and a 10-day waiting period prior to the purchase or transfer of a firearm, and the governor’s and attorney general’s request legislation to strengthen accountability for manufacturers and retailers.
Reproductive freedom: Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the governor and legislators have taken several actions to protect abortion care rights and access to reproductive care in Washington state. Legislators approved bills to strengthen data privacy for patients, shield providers and patients from legal action by out-of-state entities, and a bill to remove cost-sharing for abortion care services. Legislators also approved funding and legislation to support Inslee’s efforts to purchase and distribute mifepristone in case the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a ruling by a Trump-appointed judge in Texas to repeal FDA-approval of the medication.
Climate implementation and funding: In recent years, the governor and legislators have passed historic, nation-leading policies related to clean energy, clean transportation, clean buildings, and a cap on climate pollution. Legislators approved four Inslee proposed bills focused on implementation to improve coordination of clean energy project siting, improve transmission planning, incorporate climate change planning into the state’s Growth Management Act, and strengthen the state’s clean energy workforce development efforts and establish a Climate Corps.
The state’s new cap-and-invest program launched earlier this year, and the legislature’s 2023–25 budgets invest more than $2.1 billion in program revenues for a range of climate-related investments including charging infrastructure, electric ferries and trucks, community-driven grants to improve air quality in overburdened communities, and assistance for lower-income households to transition to heat pumps.