Gov. Jay Inslee last week signed Senate Bill 5061 into law to limit pandemic-related unemployment tax increases for Washington’s businesses.
The Senate also passed a package of House bills to distribute $2.2 billion in federal COVID relief funds (HB 1368), to waive state business taxes on federal aid to businesses (HB 1095), and to help pay for Medicaid programs with money from the state’s “rainy day” fund to free up federal COVID funding for other needs (HB 1367.) These bills passed by unanimous or near-unanimous votes and, having now passed both chambers, they are headed to the governor for his signature.
In the House, members debated and passed measures to change regulations relating to long-term care facilities in the event of a pandemic, natural disaster, or other declared state of emergency (HB 1120); changing disclosure requirements concerning dismissal of law enforcement officers for misconduct (HB 1088); and authorizing audits of law enforcement use of deadly force investigations (HB 1089.)
House Bill 1120 — Concerning state of emergency operations impacting long-term services and supports
Passed the House on Feb. 5 by a vote of 58-38 (two members excused)
This bill would change regulatory requirements relating to background checks and training for long-term care workers in the event of a pandemic, natural disaster, or other declared state of emergency.
It would permit a long-term care worker who has not been disqualified by the state background check to continue to work and have unsupervised access to vulnerable adults, pending completion of the FBI fingerprint check.
The current requirement that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) check a long-term care worker against the National Sex Offender Registry would be eliminated.
If a pandemic, natural disaster or other declared state of emergency impacts the ability of long-term care workers to complete required training, the bill would enable the DSHS to adopt rules allowing the workers additional time to complete the training.
Proponents of the bills said that long-term care facilities were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The facilities, therefore, could not operate as usual. This caused challenges relating to training, staff retention, inspections, and background checks. They said this bill would provide long-term care facilities with the flexibility they need to meet the needs of residents.
Opponents of the bill said that a large proportion of COVID-19 infections and deaths are linked to nursing homes. They said that this exposes deficiencies in the staffing and design of these facilities, and that there is need for reform across the system. This bill is not the solution, they said.
Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes
Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) Yes
House Bill 1088 — Concerning potential impeachment disclosures relating to law enforcement officers
Passed the House on Feb. 10 by a vote of 61-37
This bill would require law enforcement agencies to report to prosecuting authorities an officer’s misconduct affecting credibility or any act of an officer that may potentially support a defendant’s not-guilty plea.
It would also require law enforcement agencies, prior to hiring an officer with previous law enforcement experience, to inquire whether the officer has ever been subject to removal procedures.
Supporters of the bill said it is about whether you can rely on an officer for the truth. The bill would create best standards and online training opportunities, and would require law enforcement agencies to inquire about this issue before hiring.
Opponents said the bill does not go far enough. They said a better approach would be to create a working group to report back, so that the legislature could put these standards in statute. They pointed out that there is a lack of uniformity on how potential impeachment disclosure is handled in counties across the state.
Rep. Chapman Yes
Rep. Steve Tharinger Yes
House Bill 1089 — Concerning compliance audits of requirements relating to peace officers and law enforcement agencies
Passed the House on Feb. 10 by a vote of 80-18
This bill would authorize the State Auditor to review a deadly force investigation to determine whether those involved complied with all applicable rules and procedures.
It would also authorize the State Auditor, upon request by the Criminal Justice Training Commission, to review a law enforcement agency to ensure compliance with all applicable rules and procedures governing the training and certification of the agency’s peace officers.
Proponents of the bill said that audits of deadly force investigations would ensure quality, objective, non-biased investigations. The purpose of auditing deadly force investigations would be to review whether the relevant statutory and administrative rules are being followed. Audits would not be used to judge the decisions made at the end of investigations, they said.
Opponents of the bill said that the intent of the bill is good, but the scope of the proposed audits should be clarified and narrowed. They said a deadly force investigation audit should only review whether the investigation was conducted in compliance with the relevant statutory and administrative rules, not all rules and procedures generally.
Rep. Chapman Yes
Rep. Steve Tharinger Yes.