Michele Thomas, Director of Policy and Advocacy
This was the week that all policy bills had to be moved out of committee by executive action if they're to continue on the path to become law. Friday was technically the cutoff, but if your committee didn’t meet Friday, your cutoff date was earlier in the week.
Both versions of the Fair Tenant Screening Act moved out of committee on Thursday, although both were amended. They each now head to their chamber’s Rules Committee where they must be “pulled” by a committee member in order to be considered on the floor.
Here is an overview of how they look now:
Both the Senate and House versions of Part 2 of the Fair Tenant Screening Act made it out of their respective committees on Thursday, February 21. Please send a thank you message to each of the bill's sponsors for their support of fair and accurate screening reports.
Simply click each of the links below and send from your personal email address. If you have time, please personalize the emails. Legislators really appreciate messages written in your own voice.
The bill passed the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee by a vote of 6 to 1. SSB 5568, which prevents tenant screening companies from reporting a tenant’s status as a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking was amended in the following manner:
1) The “cause of action” section was removed. This would have allowed for a tenant to sue for actual damages if the law was violated.
2) The bill now reads that a tenant screening company cannot "knowingly" disclose the information.
3) The tenant can self-disclose their status as a survivor.
4) The bill does not take effect until January 2014.
The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee by a voice vote of 8 to 5 (see video below). Representative Roger Goodman (45th) introduced an amendment that removed all language addressing how evictions are reported by tenant screening companies. However, SHB 1529 will still prohibit tenant screening companies from reporting that a tenant is a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
The actual vote starts at 00:19:00.
A Thank You Can Go a Long Way
Although it's disappointing that the two bills were so significantly amended, they both still represent real and significant progress. We'll be working hard to ensure that we end this session with a real victory for tenants who are survivors of domestic violence. One important thing for you to do now is send a thank you message to each of the bill's sponsors for their support of fair and accurate screening reports.
Simply click each of the links below and send from your personal email address. If you have time, please personalize the email. Legislators really appreciate emails written in your own voice.
Unless a bill is considered “necessary to implement the budget” it will have to be voted out of its committee of origin by next Friday. Housing and Essential Needs/Disability Lifeline will be considered necessary to implement the budget and the Housing Trust Fund and Washington Families Fund will be dealt with in the budget bills. We expect to see the first budget bills in late March, after the next official state economic and revenue forecast, which is due on March 20.
If you are interested in a more thorough update on Housing and Essential Needs/Disability Lifeline, we hosted a webinar this past Tuesday featuring Robin Zukoski from Columbia Legal Services. Email me (Michele Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like the link to the webinar and if you’d like to help with advocacy efforts to protect the program. One big need is for more stories that illustrate how the program has helped people across the state. If you can help collect stories or if you can work with clients who may be willing to share their own, please do contact me.
Regarding our other lead priority that we refer to as Equitable Value Capture, much work and good faith was put into the discussions that resulted in a loose framework for an equitable infrastructure tool. When session started, there were still a lot of critical details to work out, including how much would be dedicated to affordable housing to ensure that there were adequate protections against gentrification and displacement. Unfortunately, a lot of these important details remain to be agreed upon and worked out, and we do not expect legislation that we support to move forward this session.
Lastly, stay tuned as soon we'll be unveiling our online 2013 Bill Tracker. It'll be one place where you can easily follow the progress of our legislative priorities as developments occur. And we also have updates at our Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for your dedicated advocacy!