2021 Washington State Legislative Advocacy

The 2021 state legislative session is in full swing, and fully virtual. The Coalition on Homelessness joins in with our statewide partners to advocate for bills and budget items that prevent homelessness, preserve and strengthen public benefits, and support our Washington neighbors.

Click here to view a list of our legislative priorities for the 2021 state legislative session. NOTE: due to the swift pace of the legislative session, priorities and bill numbers are subject to change. Budget priorities will become clearer as the legislature begins budgeting process. (Last updated: 03/03/2021)

Join Us In Speaking Up!

Sign up for Coalition Action Alerts and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for timely notifications about when your voice is needed. You can also use our State Advocacy Toolkit down below to get started on your own.

Register for our Speak Up Pop Ups! Each Tuesday evening during the session, the Coalition on Homelessness is hosting virtual Speak Up Pop Up workshops, where participants help us build a community of housing justice advocates, receive timely information about key proposals, and practice their advocacy skills alongside others. These workshops run throughout the entirety of the legislative session to help sustain momentum for housing justice.

Speak Up Pop Up Round Up

If you missed a workshop, we’ll send out a brief email recap of each workshop to all registrants, and update this page with key proposals we’re highlighted, actions you can take, and skills you can practice. Use the State Advocacy Toolkit below for tips.

Please note that things move very quickly in the legislative session, and things may shift faster than this page is updated. If you would like to see the most up-to-date information about where certain bills are in the journey to become law, we recommend you navigate to the WA State Legislature’s Bill Tracker.

Last updated: 2/19/2021

2/23/2021 Pop Up – Week 7 of the Legislative Session
Click here to view the slides from this workshop.

Where are we in this legislative session? We’re approaching the 3/9 cutoff for when bills must be passed by the chamber that they were originally introduced in. This means we’re thinking about how we can get the majority of our lawmakers to be aware of and vote YES on bills we like, and vote NO on bills we don’t.

Key bills covered this week

  • HB 1078 – Voting Rights Restoration: This bill will restore voting rights to people once they leave the Department of Corrections and are back in their communities. There are a number of proposed amendments for this bill, but currently the only one we support is the one proposed by our Primary Sponsor, Representative Tarra Simmons.
  • HB 1151 – Bolstering economic recovery. Many people rely on cash and food assistance programs to have their basic needs met. This bill helps bolster these programs in a few ways. 1151 updates the “standard of need” used to calculate benefit amounts for cash and food assistance programs; it is currently way outdated (for example, a family of three, with no income, would receive a monthly TANF grant of $569). It also allows families to access the Disaster Cash Assistance Program (DCAP) more than once in a 12-month period and allows a 5-month period of transitional food assistance for families not receiving other benefits.
  • HB 1220 – Supporting emergency shelters and housing through local planning and development regulations. HB 1220 will help individuals experiencing homelessness stay in their own communities to receive services, and not travel far away to find the services they need. HB 1220 will make it clear that cities cannot discriminate against one kind of short term housing, while allowing other kinds of short term rentals. Emergency shelters, supportive housing, or emergency housing are all critical services for individuals experiencing homelessness.

2/16/2021 Pop Up – Week 6 of the Legislative Session
Click here to view the slides from this workshop

We just passed the policy committee cutoff. This means very few new bills will be considered during this session. Unfortunately, this means some bills have died for the session. We need to ensure that the remaining bills that made it past this hurdle continue to go through the legislative process. We’ll also be heading into some talks about the budgets in the coming weeks.

Key homelessness + housing justice bills that need your attention
We know that thousands of Washingtonians are behind on rent. Due to the intersecting crises of racism and the COVID-19 pandemic, among them are disproportionately households from Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other communities of color. We need lawmakers to act and ensure that people stay in their homes or can find future housing if evicted.

  • HB 1277: Sponsored by Representative Ormsby, 1277 will increase our state’s document recording fee by a mere $100 and use this revenue to create a rental assistance program to help keep people in their homes. 
  • HB 1465: Sponsored by Representative Tina Orwall, this bill will help will make changes to Washington’s estate tax and establish the Equity in Housing Fund. The Equity in Housing Fund would help finance behavioral health and homelessness services for those without homes, as well as rental assistance and foreclosure prevention to help prevent a rise in homelessness. 
  • SB 5160Sponsored by Senator Patty Kuderer, this bill will help prevent evictions and homelessness by requiring landlords to establish payment plans for unpaid rent with tenants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, help both landlords and tenants access rental assistance programs, and provide legal representation for people who face eviction.
  • HB 1441Sponsored by Representative Melanie Morgan, this bill will help reduce future barriers to housing for renters affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring landlords cannot discriminate against prospective tenants for nonpayment of rent or eviction during this public health emergency. 

2/9/2021 Pop Up – Week 5 of the Legislative Session
Click here to view the slides from this workshop

Key Proposals Highlighted

  • HB 1441: Sponsored by Representative Melanie Morgan, this bill will help reduce future barriers to housing for renters affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring landlords cannot discriminate against prospective tenants for nonpayment of rent or eviction during this public health emergency.
    • Next Steps: This bill is scheduled for executive session in the House Housing, Human Services, & Veterans committee. We want committee members to vote YES on this bill to get it out of committee.
    • What you can do today: Send your lawmakers a message urging them to vote YES on this bill and mobilize support from their colleagues.If you have a lawmaker on this committee (our most recent Action Alert will let you know if you do), send them an email urging them to pass it out of committee.
  • HB 1465: Sponsored by Representative Tina Orwall, this bill will help will make changes to Washington’s estate tax and establish the Equity in Housing Fund to help finance behavioral health and homelessness services for those without homes, as well as rental assistance and foreclosure prevention to help prevent a rise in homelessness.
    • Next Steps: This bill had a public hearing in the Finance Committee on February 9th. We want it passed out of committee.
    • What you can do today: Send your lawmakers a message urging them to vote YES on this bill and mobilize support from their colleagues. IF you have a lawmaker on the Finance committee (or most recent action alert will let you know if you do) send them an email urging them to pass it out of committee.
  • SB 5142: Sponsored by Senator Frockt, this bill would help boost access to affordable, accessible, culturally-appropriate dental care by establishing the care of a dental therapist.
    • Next steps: This bill has not yet been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Health & Wellness Committee
    • What you can do today: Call or e-mail Senator Cleveland, Chair of the Health & Long Term Care Committee, and urge her to schedule a hearing for SB 5142: (360) 786-7696, annette.cleveland@leg.wa.gov
      .
  • HB 1151: Sponsored by Representative Leavitt, this bill would update the standard of need (or the income and other qualifications) for cash assistance programs. They are currently out of date and have not been updated for inflation or cost of living in 30 years. This would allow for many people living in poverty to be qualified for cash assistance programs.
    • Next Steps: It is in the rules committee, and we want to make sure it makes it to the House floor for a vote (Where all representatives vote on whether to pass it)
    • What you can do today: Email your lawmakers and urge them to vote YES to pass this bill.

2/2/2021 Pop Up – Week 4 of the Legislative Session
Click here to view the slides from this workshop.

Key proposals highlighted

Support: We touched on two excellent bills aimed at preventing homelessness and keeping people in their homes once the eviction moratorium expires at the end of next month. These two bills need a boost from you all to get passed out of committee.

  • HB 1236, sponsored by Rep. Nicole Macri, Good Cause Bill. As of 2/4/2021, this bill is scheduled for executive session in the House Housing, Human Services, & Veterans Committee.
  • SB 5160, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer, COVID-19 Eviction Prevention/Rental Assistance Bill. As of 2/4/2021 – this bill passed out of the Senate Housing & Local Government Committee.

Oppose: We highlighted a problematic bill—SB 5107, sponsored by Senator Phil Fortunato—that would take money from the Housing Trust Fund (which provides affordable housing) to create significant barriers to accessing shelter for people who are unhoused, and mandate a police presence during operating hours at homeless shelters. We have grave concerns about this bill and don’t want it to pass out of committee. Many of you have stepped up already to let your lawmakers know this is not a good idea; at the public hearing for this bill at the Senate Housing & Local Government Committee today at 2/3 at 10:30 a.m., 439 advocates signed in as CON. If you have a lawmaker on this committee, you can still send them an email letting them know why this bill needs to be stopped in its tracks. (Our Action Alert will let you know if you do have a lawmaker on this committee and give you a template email to send).

1/26/2021 Pop Up – Week 3 of Legislative Session
Click here to view slides from this workshop.

Key Proposals Highlighted
Click on each bill for the most up-to-date information about where it is in the legislative process.

  • HB 1078 / SB 5086 – Voting rights restoration. This bill would restore voting rights to people who were formerly incarcerated once they are no longer under total confinement by the Department of Corrections.
  • SB 5214 – Expanding direct assistance for families in poverty. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is an assistance program that provides cash assistance, childcare stipends, and more to families living in poverty. It helps families living in poverty meet their basic needs, including housing. Sponsored by Senator Joe Nguyen, this bill would undo harsh policies that prevent those who need assistance the most from accessing TANF.
  • HB 1236 – Good Cause Bill – Sponsored by Nicole Macri, this bill requires landlords to provide a legitimate business reason to evict and provides tenants with longer notice times than the current 20-day no cause notice allowed by law. It also requires that if a tenant has accrued unpaid rent due to COVID-19 hardship, the landlord first provide the tenant with a reasonable and individually tailored payment plan before attempting to evict the tenant for nonpayment of rent.

Actions YOU can take: Write a direct message to your lawmakers about one or more of these bills. Let your lawmakers know that you are a constituent, what these bills would mean to you or your community, and ask them to vote YES and ask their colleagues to vote YES. Scroll down to the advocacy toolkit below for tips on writing a letter.

1/19/2021 Pop Up – Week 2 of Legislative Session
Click here to view slides from this workshop.

Key Proposals Highlighted
Click on each bill for the most up-to-date information about where it is in the legislative process.

  • SB 5160 Sponsored by Senator Patty Kuderer, this bill provides legal representation for tenants facing eviction, requires landlords to accept repayment plans for unpaid rent during the pandemic, and ensures that landlords and tenants can access programs for rental assistance.
  • SB 5139Sponsored by Senator Das, this bill would help ensure people can stay in their homes by limiting increases to rent costs after the Washington state eviction moratorium expires.

Actions YOU can take:

  • Use the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance’s template email to send a message to your lawmakers. Remember, always customize the first sentence of your email!
  • Sign in PRO at the committee hearings on 1/20 and 1/21. Detailed instructions can be found below.

Coalition on Homelessness
State Advocacy Toolkit

We believe that everyone can be effective advocates for themselves and their communities. We’re here to help empower you to speak up, keep you informed, and provide tips on how best to let lawmakers know what policies and budget priorities would benefit you and your community.

We are currently in the process of compiling a state advocacy toolkit– a hub of resources to help you get started with state legislative advocacy and tips for communicating to your lawmakers. We cover these items in depth and can answer your questions each week at our Speak Up Pop Ups. This toolkit will be updated frequently throughout the 2021 legislative session.

Last updated: 1/29/2021

START HERE

FIND YOUR LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT AND STATE LAWMAKERS

The best place to start is by understanding which lawmakers represent you at the state legislature. Click here for detailed instructions on how to look up your state lawmakers, including tips for looking this up if you do not have a residential address. Use the WA state Find My District tool to find out your legislative district number, what lawmakers represents you, and your lawmakers’ contact information. 

GET ON A GOOD EMAIL LIST

Sign up for Coalition Action Alerts and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll send you periodic alerts when your voice is needed.

Statewide partners:

WRITE MESSAGES TO LAWMAKERS USING A TEMPLATE

The Coalition on Homelessness, as well as key statewide partners such as the WA Low Income Housing Alliance and the Statewide Poverty Action Network, will sometimes help you to contact your lawmakers by sending you template letters. These are very easy ways to get involved with state advocacy. Typically, you will enter your home address to determine which lawmakers the message will go to, then be taken to a sample email where you can customize the template. ALWAYS, ALWAYS personalize or customize the first sentence of your email to your lawmaker!

TELL YOUR STORY
Data can be an important tool to help inform lawmakers, but it is personal stories that humanize issues and get lawmakers to do something about problems in their communities. Incorporate stories into your advocacy efforts, back it up with data, and ask lawmakers to vote YES on bills that allow them to be part of the policy solution. Maybe that story is an experience you had with a client, a concern you have about a friend, or your own direct experience with housing instability or homelessness—your personal experience is a form of knowledge. You can add your stories to email templates; tell them to lawmakers and assistants in a phone calls before presenting data and asking them to vote YES on a bill; or record a video to tag your lawmaker in on Facebook & Twitter.

DIVE DEEPER

If you know your stance on a key proposal and want to learn how to take action on your own, here are some simple ways to communicate your views to your lawmakers.

REMOTELY SIGN IN TO A COMMITTEE HEARING WITH YOUR STANCE ON A BILL

Committees are groups of lawmakers with certain expertise that decide whether a bill is a good idea. Committee hearings are a chance for the public to tell lawmakers their perspective on the bill. At committee hearings, some advocates provide live testimony, others provide written testimony. This year, WA residents have the option to remotely sign in to a committee hearing with their stance (PRO = support; CON = oppose; OTHER = neither support nor oppose). You don’t have to attend the hearing or testify to provide your stance.

Click here for a pdf with detailed instructions on how to remotely sign into a committee hearing and note your stance on a bill. NOTE: The information you enter on this electronic form (name, address, email) becomes part of the public record, and as such is subject to public disclosure requests. You may write “decline” in the address line or use another address in your district instead. You can also choose simply to include your city and zip code.

PARTICIPATE IN A COMMITTEE HEARING

One of our statewide partner advocacy organizations, the Statewide Poverty Action Network, has compiled a wonderful document explaining the different ways you can participate in a committee hearing. Click here to learn about the ways you can participate (remotely) in a bill hearing.

WRITING EFFECTIVE EMAILS TO YOUR LAWMAKERS

Sending a direct email to your lawmakers (without a template) is a powerful way to communicate about certain proposals. Providing your insights or stories can be a powerful tool to help sway lawmakers or inform their decisions about certain items that might not be covered by broader coalitions or statewide advocacy action alerts.

Here are some tips to help you craft an effective email message to your lawmaker.

  1. Put bill number in subject line. You can have words in the subject line, but make sure to include the bill number to make it easier for legislative assistants to sort the information.
  2. State that you are their constituent. Lawmakers prioritize messages from the people they represent. State that you live in their district to ensure your message gets heard.
  3. Be authentic. In a few sentences, write about why the item is important to you or your community. Storytelling not only helps lawmakers gain perspective on certain things, it also can help move them by humanizing issues.
  4. Make sure to have a clear, specific call to action. Be as specific as possible when you include a call to action. For example, don’t just ask for their support for a bill if what you really need their YES vote on an item, or for them to try to talk to their colleagues to vote YES alongside them. Example sentences: “Can I count on you to vote yes on HB 1078?” or “Can I count on you to encourage your colleagues to vote yes on SB 5214?”

CALLING YOUR LAWMAKERS ON THE PHONE
There are a few ways you can call your lawmakers’ offices and let them know what your stance on a bill is:

  1. Direct: find lawmaker contact information at the WA Legislature’s Member Roster List. If you don’t know who your lawmakers are, take a look at this handy guide.  
  2. Legislative Hotline: 1-800-562-6000; Hours 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. It’s always a person answering, so it takes away the awkwardness of leaving a voicemail.

Here’s a helpful script that you can use for phone calls: “Hello, my name is [NAME] and I am a [OCCUPATION/RELEVANT IDENTITY] that lives in [NEIGHBORHOOD/CITY], Washington. I am calling to ask my lawmakers to vote YES on [BILL] because…Then, sum up and restate your call to action (ex. “Please ask my lawmakers to restore the right to vote in Washington by voting YES on HB 1078.”)

SOCIAL MEDIA ADVOCACY
Social media can be an interesting tool for advocacy, although we highly recommend 1) making sure to ALWAYS have a clear call to action and 2) being strategic about what you share on social media.

Twitter is a good way to share multimedia with your lawmakers. For example, you can share a video telling your story, selfies of you holding up a sign stating your stance on a bill, etc. If your lawmaker doesn’t have a Twitter, you can use the hashtag #waleg to share with the WA Legislature. Make sure you always include a call to action. For example: “Please vote YES on HB 1078.”

Facebook is a good way to share with friends, family members, coworkers, congregants. If you’re sharing with a general audience on social media on certain bills, make sure you include an action that someone can take – be it an action alert link, instructions on how to contact their lawmakers, etc.