Governor’s tax proposal, use of force by police are among top issues for committee action in early days of legislative session

  • Wednesday, January 23, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

Following the Jan. 14 opening of the 2019 legislative session and Gov. Jay Inslee’s State of the State speech on Jan. 15, state lawmakers are settling into the daily routine of early session days — bill introductions and committee hearings.

More than 750 bills have been introduced, with dozens more added every day in each chamber. More than 2,000 measures will likely be introduced by the time of the first legislative cut-off deadline set for Feb. 22. This is the last day to pass bills out of policy committees in their originating house.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee began hearings this week on SB 5129, the governor’s proposal to impose a nine percent tax on the sale or exchange of long-term capital assets, and to increase the business and occupation tax rate on service-related activities from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent (a 67 percent increase in the tax).

The analysis (Bill Report) of this legislation, prepared by non-partisan Senate committee staff, describes the proposed capital gains tax as an income tax, stating: “Under the federal tax code, individuals and corporations pay income tax on the net total of all their capital gains just as they do on other sorts of income.“

The Bill Report also points out that, “In addition to the federal tax, capital gains are often subject to state income taxes. Most states tax capital gains as ordinary income subject to the state’s income tax rates.”

Supporters of the plan, including the state teachers’ union, said the proposed changes are needed to bring fairness to the tax system and support needed state programs.

Business groups objected to the state capital gains tax, because it would hit owners if they sell a business to retire. Under the bill, proceeds from retirement savings accounts would be exempt from the tax, but the sale of a business would not. That would hurt small retailers who devote years to building up a business in preparation for retirement, according to the Washington Retail Association.

The House Public Safety Committee passed HB 1064 to modify Initiative 940, which was approved by state voters last November. The bill includes provisions relating to training, the criminal liability standard for use of force by police, independent investigations of deadly force incidents, and rendering of first aid.

It would also require the state to reimburse a peace officer for reasonable defense costs when he or she is found not guilty or charges are dismissed in certain circumstances.

These modifications to Initiative 940 were included in a bill last session after agreement among law enforcement and community leaders, but the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional and ordered that the original measure be placed before voters.

The state Senate has launched a remote testimony pilot project to expand opportunities for citizens across the state to participate actively in the legislative process from locations outside of Olympia. Without options for remote testimony, citizens seeking to testify before legislative committees often endure hours of travel to Olympia and a missed day at work.

People on the east side of the state also frequently brave mountain passes in dangerous winter conditions. Remote testimony enables them to testify from local locations via video conferencing technology.

Washington Policy Center (WPC) has long been an advocate of remote testimony and recently launched a statewide public service ad campaign to encourage the legislature to embrace and expand remote testimony options for citizens.

“We are encouraged to hear the Senate plans to continue offering remote testimony options,” said Jason Mercier, WPC’s Government Reform Director.

“Now is the time for the House to follow the Senate’s lead and embrace remote testimony for those that wish to testify. In a high-tech state like ours, offering remote testimony is just common sense.”

For more information on the Senate’s pilot project go to

Stay tuned to legislative happenings as the session gets under way by visiting

More in Opinion

Think About It: The sound of silence

At first, I thought the greyness I felt was January, the dead… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Student debt draining retired income

Lots is written about students exiting college saddled with hefty student loans;… Continue reading

Guest column: Controversial 2018 election mailers were audacious — and legal

Misleading postcards didn’t violate election laws because they touted non-candidates, the PDC found.

Being Frank: Proposed state budget underfunds culvert replacement

Treaty tribes in western Washington are concerned that Gov. Jay Inslee’s two-year… Continue reading

On civility and power: Part III

In exploring the relationship between civility and power, this series has sought… Continue reading

Water Matters: Circles and cycles, part II

Last month the topic of this column wasn’t water, but recycling. I… Continue reading

From the Back Nine: Yes, I am afraid of ghosts

If you use social media or trend-speak, you are probably familiar with… Continue reading

New law on police use of deadly force was three years in the making

Legislators about to pass a bill that will permit officers to kill only in ‘good faith’

House passes law enforcement, legislative conduct measures in first floor votes of session

By Franz Wiechers-Gregory Washington Votes State lawmakers took their first recorded votes… Continue reading

Clallam Democrats kick off 2019 membership drive

On Jan. 16, Clallam County Democrats kicked off their 2019 membership drive… Continue reading

Think About It: Lucy has the football

Most of us remember the comic “Peanuts” created by Charles M. Schultz… Continue reading

How our lawmakers voted

State lawmakers took their first recorded votes of this year’s session in… Continue reading