The Washington Legislature’s 60-day 2020 regular session began on Jan. 13 and adjourned Sine Die on March 12. Legislators passed a number of policy measures, as well as a $10.4 billion state transportation budget intended to mitigate Initiative 976’s potential effects on transportation spending and a $53.4 billion supplemental state budget that directs $200 million to Washington’s COVID-19 response.
One of the WSBA’s main priorities during each legislative session is to support Bar-request legislative proposals initiated by WSBA Sections and approved by the Board of Governors. This year’s request legislation,Senate Bill (SB) 6037, passed the Legislature and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee. Originating from the Corporate Act Revision Committee of the Business Law Section, SB 6037 addresses optional provisions in articles of incorporation, shareholder consent requirements for corporate action, and board gender diversity requirements under the Washington Business Corporation Act to better align with the Model Business Corporation Act and other leading corporate law jurisdictions.
In addition to Bar-request legislation, the WSBA Legislative Affairs team monitors and takes appropriate action on legislative proposals significant to the practice of law and administration of justice.
The WSBA Legislative Affairs team was busy this year, referring nearly 900 bills to WSBA Sections and tracking hundreds of bills through the end of session, including:
- SB 6028: Adopting the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) and aligning statutory provisions relating to signatures, declarations, and documents. This legislation would make Washington the 48th state to adopt the UETA. The bill was supported by the Solo & Small Practice and Family Law Sections and passed the Legislature this session.
- SB 6287: Concerning guardianships and conservatorships. This bill amends the Uniform Guardianship, Conservatorship, and other Protective Arrangements Act adopted by the Legislature in 2019 to delay the effective date of certain provisions, among other substantive changes. The Family Law Section expressed concerns in the House and Senate. This bill passed the Legislature this session.
- House Bill (HB) 2793: Vacating criminal records. This bill requires the Administrative Office of the Courts to conduct a pilot program for developing a court-driven process to review and vacate criminal convictions based on current statutory eligibility requirements. The bill was supported by the Civil Rights Law Section and passed the Legislature this session.
- HB 2576: Concerning private detention facilities. This bill requires the Department of Health to conduct a study evaluating state and local authority and practices for inspecting private detention facilities and enforcing statutes, codes, rules, and policies on the health, safety, and welfare of detainees. The bill was supported by the Civil Rights Law Section and passed the Legislature this session.
- HB 2567: Concerning open courts. This bill prohibits civil arrests inside or near state court facilities, with certain exceptions, and prohibits judges, court staff, court security personnel, and prosecutor’s office staff from (1) inquiring into or collecting immigration or citizenship status information, except in certain circumstances, and (2) disclosing nonpublic personal information about an individual to immigration authorities, except as provided by law. The bill was supported by the Civil Rights Law Section and passed the Legislature this session.
- HB 2806: Concerning mediation in family law cases involving children. This bill revises standards for mediation in dissolution and legal separation proceedings and requires mediation to be scheduled within 90 days in any matter regarding issues in a parenting plan (except dissolution and relocation), subject to exceptions and the ability to opt out. Versions of this bill were supported by the Family Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution Sections. This legislation did not pass committee.
- HB 2544: Concerning the definition of a veteran. This bill expands certain definitions for veterans’ benefits in state pension systems, legal assistance, scoring criteria on civil service exams, and other programs. The bill was supported by the Legal Assistance to Military Personnel Section and passed the Legislature this session.
HB 1788 Does Not Advance
A bill of particular interest to the WSBA this session was House Bill 1788, which would have repealed the majority of the State Bar Act. The WSBA Board of Governors opposed this legislation during the 2019 legislative session and the Board of Governors Legislative Committee closely monitored this bill throughout this session. The bill did not pass out of the House and no bill related to the State Bar Act moved forward this year.
Bills to Watch Next Year
For bills that did not achieve final passage this year, legislators have already expressed an interest in studying issues for potential reintroduction in 2021, including:
- Senate Bill 6053: Establishing wage liens. This bill creates a statutory wage lien for claims on unpaid wages and creates procedures for establishing, foreclosing, extinguishing, and prioritizing wage liens. The bill was monitored by the Uniform Commercial Code Committee of the Business Law Section and did not pass the Senate this session.
- Senate Bill 5339: Reducing criminal justice expenses by eliminating the death penalty and instead requiring life imprisonment without possibility of release or parole as the sentence for aggravated first-degree murder. This bill would repeal statutes pertaining to the death penalty. The bill did not pass the House this session.
- Senate Bill 6281: Concerning the management and oversight of personal data. This bill aims to give consumers more power over their personal digital data by implementing European-style data-privacy laws. The bill did not pass the Legislature this session.
The next legislative session will begin in January 2021 and is scheduled to last 105 days, marking the first half of the 2021-2022 biennium.