Washington Legislative Week in Review

Special Session & Budget. Legislators returned to Olympia on Tuesday, April 26, to start a 30-day special legislative session to pass a budget that cuts $5.1 billion in spending. During the 105-day regular session, the House passed a budget that cut $4.4 billion in spending, while the Senate passed a budget that cut $4.8 billion in spending. While both chambers are currently controlled by Democrats, there has been strong bipartisanship in the Senate among leaders trying to close the state’s budget deficit.

To further complicate matters, many House members lost their offices when the modular buildings they ha d been residing in for the regular session—and during House Office Building construction and remodeling—were taken down as part of an agreement with the adjacent neighborhood. As a result, the House will conduct its official business using a “rolling session,” which means that over the course of the budget deliberations, members of the House will operate out of their district offices until one of the many votes that will need to be taken to implement the budget is called. (Once that happens, they will most likely be working full-time from their desk on the House floor.)

Prize-Linked Savings Accounts. Senate Bill 5232 was delivered to Governor Chris Gregoire on Friday, April 22. Since the Legislature adjourned its regular session on that day, the Governor has 20 days to take action on the bill. If she neither signs nor vetoes the bill, it will become law on May 16.

The bill will allow financial institutions to participate in prize-linked savings promotions, which incent consumer savings by entering participants into drawings for cash prizes.

Collections. Governor Gregoire signed House Bill 1864 into law on Friday, April 22. The bill increases various amounts of personal property exemptions from the collection process; expands tuition and employee benefit exemptions from the collection process; and prohibits a licensed collection agency from sending a first notice to a debtor unless it includes the complete or redacted original account number assigned to the debt and the date of the last payment (if known). The bill also prohibits licensees from sending certain notices to a debtor without including the name of the original creditor to whom the debt is owed (if known).

The bill affects credit unions directly by increasing personal property exemptions, and may affect credit unions using outside collection agencies indirectly, by adding complexity to the collection process. The bill goes into effect on July 22, 2011, except for section six, which replaces an expiring section relating to disclosure, and takes effect January 1, 2018.

ATMs. SB 5921 passed the Senate on Wednesday, April 27, by a vote of 44-0 with five excused. The bill relates to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. One section of the bill requires certain businesses (taverns, beer/wine specialty stores, nightclubs, liquor stores, bail bond agencies, gambling establishments, body art shops, and adult entertainment venues) to disable the ability of the ATMs and point-of-sale machines located on their business premises to accept Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards on or before January 1, 2012. Fair warning to any Washington credit unions with ATMs in strip clubs…

Tax Preference Review. SB 5044 was delivered to the Governor on Friday, April 22, who now has 20 days to take action on the bill. The bill gives the Citizen Commission for Performance Measurement of Tax Preferences additional flexibility in scheduling tax preference reviews and allowing tax preferences to be scheduled for an expedited (light) review. The bill also requires tax preferences that were enacted for economic development purposes to demonstrate growth in full-time family wage jobs with health and retirement benefits.

Posted in Advocacy News, Compliance.