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2020 Legislative Session Review: Addressing Environmental Inequities

The recently concluded 2020 Washington Legislative Session resulted in some victories, some losses, but all around continued our progress in shifting state government to directly address environmental inequities and centering impact communities in decision-making.

Make Transportation Investments Equitable (HB 2688/SB 6399)

This bill would have required that all transportation packages be  evaluated through community-centered criteria that embraces equity, environmental justice, accessibility, safety, health, economic vitality, and other key values. Unfortunately, our top priority this year did not pass out of either the House or Senate Transportation Committees.

However, by working with the Climate Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, we were able to make an impact and raise awareness about the need for the Legislature to utilize these metrics in determining the future of our transportation system. While the bill did not pass, our advocacy resulted in a budget proviso that will create a pilot version of this proposal that will show the benefits of this analysis. Front & Centered and our allies will be working with the Governor’s office and the WA State Department of Transportation to develop this pilot project to be completed by December 2020.

ENACTED – Set Strong, Comprehensive Climate Pollution Limits (HB 2311) 

This bill aligns Washington’s greenhouse gas (GHG) limits with stronger global goals, ensuring our natural lands contribute, but do not compromise pollution source reduction.

Front and Centered Community Priorities

Our member organizations had vital priorities that we endorsed, lobbied, and signed-in to show our collective support, including:

  • ENACTED – Expanding aircraft noise abatement area in majority community of color neighborhoods (HB 1847). This bill was a priority for El Centro de la Raza and allows for neighborhoods such as Beacon Hill to qualify for mitigation funds and services to address noise pollution caused by the airplanes landing at SeaTac Airport.
  • ENACTED – Strengthening protections for farm workers (SB 6261) — A priority for Community to Community this bill removes the exemptions for non-profit farm contractors had from laws applying to for-profit contractors. One such protection now in place due to this law is a prohibition from non-profit farm contractors from retaliating against farm workers protesting or reporting unsafe working conditions.
  • Language Access (SB 6207) —  A priority for OneAmerica this bill would have expanded the scope of bargaining for language access providers to include health and welfare benefits and other economic matters.  While this bill did not pass this session, One America was successful in winning additional funds for language access services in schools.
  • Working Family Tax Rebate: This effort to fund a state level match to the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit was unsuccessful this year.
  • Ban all private detention facilities (SB 6442):  While changed during session, this bill prohibits the Secretary of WA State Department of Corrections from using a contract with a private correctional entity to transfer or place offenders in WA state custody. One America, Latino Civic Alliance and others were supporters of this bill.

Climate and Environmental Justice Watch List

Here are important policies that we tracked and helped shape or opposed this legislative session.

  • Buy Clean, Buy Fair (HB 2744): Encourage state procurement of materials that are lower carbon content with labor standards. This bill did not advance this session.

    Daisy Ceniceros of Community to Community testifies on a transportation funding proposal during the 2020 Legislative Session.

  • Cap and Trade (SB 5981): Directs the Department of Ecology to implement a market based GHG emissions cap and trade program designed to be linked to California’s trading system, invest pollution auction revenue in climate mitigation and resiliency projects, and achieve statewide GHG emissions reduction targets. Front and Centered opposes this effort as this market mechanism does not reduce pollution in impacted communities. This bill did not pass this session but it is expected to return in 2021.
  • VETOED – Community Solar (HB 2248): This bill would have directed a $20 million dollar fund to be used exclusively for the development of solar energy for low income households in WA. Governor Inslee vetoed this bill due to financial restraints arising from the Covid crisis.
  • Clean Fuels Standard (SB 5412): Creates a declining limit of the intensity of carbon pollution in transportation fuels on distributors and allows those distributors to purchase credits from clean fuels distributors. This bill passed the House but failed to pass the Senate.
  • Forest Health and Wildfire (HB 2413): Funds forest health and wildfire protection through a surcharge or tax paid by insurance companies based upon their home and casualty insurance policies and ensures urban forestry invests in highly impacted communities. This bill failed to pass out of the policy committee.
  • Modernizing the Evergreen Communities Act (HB 2768/SB 6529): Updates the 2008 Evergreen Communities Act to help communities develop urban forestry plans to align with key goals including salmon recovery and environmental justice, and require a minimum 50% of program investments to be in highly impacted communities as identified by data driven tools and analyses. This bill passed out of the House, made it to the Rules Committee in the Senate but did not get pulled for a floor vote before the end of session.
  • ENACTED – Zero Emission Vehicle (SB 5811): This bill requires automakers to make a certain percentage of low and no emission vehicles available for sale in Washington with targets increasing each year.