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As it adjourns, Democratic leaders hail ‘historic’ legislative session

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WSLC Legislative Report will outline progress on 2021 Workers’ Recovery Agenda

 

OLYMPIA (April 26, 2021) — When the 2021 “virtual session” of the Washington State Legislature began in January, Republican state legislative leaders were urging for a session amid COVID-19 that was limited in scope and action, and focused only addressing the state’s response to the COVID-19. Meanwhile, members of the Democratic majority were not only seeking immediate relief for people suffering most during the pandemic, they also wanted to lay the groundwork for a more robust long-term economic recovery and make progress on long-term goals like tax reform and transportation investment.

The 2021 session adjourned on Sunday and Democratic leaders are hailing it as a “historic” one in which they approved a 2021-23 operating budget that uses a combination of ongoing state revenue and federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to provide rent relief, small business support and strengthen the state’s safety net, but they also took bold steps in key policy areas.

“It has been the most innovative (session) having produced unprecedented and legacy-making advances as all-encompassing as any legislative session in the past 25 years,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in a video statement.

 

“The 2021 legislative session saw the end of incremental change and the beginning of a fundamental transformation to institutions that were always intended to work for people but too often fell short,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane).

“We have never had a session that has done this much on equity and police accountability,” said House Spekaer Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma). “I’m not saying the work we’ve done this year will fix everything. It will advance us.”

State lawmakers took steps to advance a number of priority issues for Washington’s union movement, including rebalancing the state’s upside-down tax code by approving a tax on extraordinary capital gains while also passing a Working Families Tax Credit; taking bold steps to expand access to affordable childcare and support our K-12 schools; and beginning to reform policing by strengthening oversights, banning certain tactics, establishing standards for use of force and making other changes. Legislators also approved historic legislation to end the exclusion of farm workers from the 40-hour work week and overtime pay, to address racial equity and economic justice at our state’s community and technical colleges, among other pro-worker bills.

However, lawmakers did fail to advance some key labor priorities, notably including the Worker Protection Act that would allow workers to seek justice in court if their employer violates existing wage, work safety and discrimination laws.

In the coming weeks, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO will be compiling its 2021 Legislative Report and Voting Record that summarizes what happened during the 105-day session, highlights how each legislator voted on key working families issues, and what work remains to ensure an economic recovery for all in Washington that focuses on good jobs and equitable shared prosperity. That WSLC report will be available here when it is completed.

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