The Washington State Legislature’s 2022 session kicks off next Monday, January 10. This year’s session is a short one, just 60 days, and will continue to be largely remote (see the House Covid-19 Operations and Senate Covid-19 Operations plans for more details). That means everyone will be able to watch committee meetings and floor hearings streaming online, and find committee agendas and more on the committee website pages.
Remote sessions have opened new doors for accessibility and participation. You can now testify remotely as well as sign in pro/con virtually. The legislature has more information about ways to participate in remote session. (And if you want to help make sure remote testimony stays part of the legislature’s process after the pandemic, voice your support for HB 1329.)
The legislature’s last session ended in April, but several things happened this fall that are important context for this year’s work. Here’s a quick recap of what happened during the fall.
In mid-November, legislators came together for committee days, a chance to meet with staff for interim briefings. Lawmakers got caught up on the issues likely to come up during session, and you can watch those recorded meetings. Legislators tried to pass a transportation package at the end of last session but failed. While they didn’t call a special session to revisit this important task, we heard from several legislators that completing this will be a priority for this session.
In early December Governor Inslee appointed Senator Steve Hobbs to replace Kim Wyman as Washington’s Secretary of State. This triggered a series of leadership changes, most notably that Senator Marko Liias was selected by the Senate Democratic Caucus as the new chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. Senator Liias has a track record of supporting transit, and we look forward to the Senator’s leadership on this committee at such a critical time. In addition to this change on the Transportation Committee, Senator Jamie Pedersen is now Floor Leader and Senator Manka Dhingra is now chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
- Transit service — The supplemental budget includes $10 million for a new transit access fund that would support establishing or expanding operating service hours during evening and/or weekend hours, as well as the purchase of vehicles required to provide that service, all prioritizing inclusion and correcting for historic inequality. We’ll be looking to increase the size of this investment and structure it in a way that helps all transit agencies provide service improvements in an ongoing way.
- Non-driver study — Our allies Disability Rights Washington advocated for and won $400,000 in the budget to study people who don’t drive in Washington state, including the circumstances, demographics, and transportation options available so that the state can build systems that better serve all of us.
- Car tab equity — The governor’s budget also includes funds for the ongoing study of how we can make it easier for lower-income households to pay car tab fees. The budget also reduces the excess amount that Sound Transit has to pay for the overhead of collecting car tabs, making it easier for the agency to focus on delivering great transit.
- Ongoing support for multimodal transportation — Overall this budget has broad support for existing bike, pedestrian, and transit programs, as well as additional funds to support vehicle electrification.
- Prefiled bills — Legislators are already starting to introduce bills, and you can see the full list of prefiled bills. Legislators will introduce many more bills in the first week of session. You can learn more about committee schedules, bill cutoff dates, and more on the legislative calendar.
Short session, big plans
TCC has a robust legislative agenda of priorities we want to see happen this session. Here are some of the most important parts:
- A transformative transportation package — Washington state legislators are long overdue to pass a transportation package — but we don’t need just any kind of investment. We need a transformative approach to transportation that meets people’s needs for health, safety, and affordability, and addresses climate, social, and economic justice. You can learn more about our campaign and join us in telling legislators that a better future #TakesTransportation.
- Transit service — The pandemic has laid bare that a baseline level of transit service is a critical lifeline for people, and is essential to keeping Washington’s economy running. For the good of the economy, for the ~20% of Washingtonians who do not or cannot drive, and the third of transit riders who are essential workers, the state has an obligation to ensure a baseline level of transit service by directly funding operations.
- Road Usage Charge — We urge the legislature to design and implement any new Road Usage Charge (RUC) policy not as a narrow replacement for the gas tax, but as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution while building an equitable transportation system that benefits health, safety, mobility, and access to opportunity for all.
- Jaywalking law changes — Policing in transportation leads to injury and death for Black and Brown community members, Black and Brown folks disproportionately receive transportation related tickets, and people of color are charged with more punitive fines, fees, and other consequences at a higher rate, causing lasting economic harm and mobility impacts for individuals and their households. We can increase racial equity by eliminating jaywalking laws statewide.
- Local options — Current transportation funding options for local jurisdictions are volatile, limited, time-bound, and regressive. We must give local leaders better options to provide and maintain safe and equitable transportation networks, in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, improves multimodal transportation choices, and ensures fair and equitable outcomes.
- Labor support — Driver, operator, and mechanic shortages in transportation affect everyone. We are working with labor allies to build and strengthen a resilient workforce.
Advocate for better transportation this session
There will be lots of voices calling for more roads during this session. We’re here to be the voice for more transit and better, safer infrastructure for biking, rolling, and walking. If you want to be part of the effort, here are four easy ways to get involved:
- Join our email list and we’ll send you weekly updates as well as opportunities for action
- Follow key bills as they progress through the legislature on our Bill Tracker
- Want even more details? Throughout session we hold a weekly Washington Transportation Advocates call, which includes detailed legislative updates every Friday. Email Matthew Sutherland at email@example.com to be added to the event.
- Support our work. As a 501c3 organization, grassroots donations power our fight for transit agencies and riders day in and day out.
The 2022 legislative session is going to be an unmissable opportunity for advancing a bold mobility agenda for Washington. Join us in following the transportation conversation, talking to your legislators, and taking action to make transportation in Washington work better for everyone.