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State Legislative Advocacy

We advocate for positive changes that improve Washington State’s response to domestic violence and increase survivors’ options for safety and independence. We do this through tracking bills, lobbying in Olympia, and informing and mobilizing our membership to take action on important policy and budget issues.

Stay up-to-date on our priorities and events by signing up for our action alerts!

2021 Legislative Session

This year has brought a pandemic, economic upheaval, and a racial reckoning. We are listening to domestic violence survivors and the organizations who serve them in preparation for the 2021 Washington State legislative session. Session will run from January 11 to April 25, 2021. We will update this page regularly with information on the bills we are prioritizing. This report is summary of the bills we worked on during the 2020 session.

Our 2021 policy priorities strive to expand options for survivors and their families through community economic resilience and housing security. The following is a list of the bills we are working on, beginning with our priorities, other bills we are supporting, and finally a list of the bills we are opposing.

  • “SB” denotes bills originally introduced in the Senate. “HB” denotes bills originally introduced in the House of Representatives.
  • Bills listed together (e.g., “HB 1234 / SB 5678”) are “companion bills” that, as introduced, are generally identical in substance, but are given different bill numbers because they are introduced in both chambers. Only one of the bills, either the House or Senate version, must advance in order for the legislation to become law.

Bills we support

Working Families Tax Credit / Recovery Rebate (HB 1297/SB 5387) * WSCADV Priority

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/2021.

One of the main reasons people stay with an abusive partner is that they don’t have the money to support themselves or their children. The Working Families Tax Credit/Recovery Rebate provides direct cash assistance to the households that need it most.

Biennial budget * WSCADV Priority

Throughout session, the House of Representatives and Senate will be negotiating an operating budget for all state spending over the next two years. We will be monitoring the proposals and advocating for increasing revenue to help fund programs that support survivors and their families.

Crime victim notification (SB 5245)

Failed to pass.

This bill expands the crimes eligible for the Department of Corrections (DOC) notification to victims and witnesses, adding domestic violence, among others. This notification would provide survivors with some additional time to plan for their safety prior to the release of the person who caused them harm.

Fair Start for Kids Act (SB 5237/HB 1213)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/2021.

This bill creates the Fair Start for Kids Act to provide an affordable and accessible system of high quality child care and early childhood education for the overall well-being of children and families in response to the COVID-19 crisis. It seeks to stabilize the child care industry and then expands access to a comprehensive continuum of early childhood development programs that ensure all children in Washington are supported in their social, emotional, and physical growth.

Ending debt-based driver’s license suspensions (SB 5226)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 1/1/2023.

People should not be punished for “driving while poor”. This bill stops the suspension of driver’s licenses for unpaid fines and fees for traffic infractions. These suspensions hurt families by hindering employment, forcing impossible choices on parents, trapping families in a cycle of poverty, and for some –incarceration. If survivors have debt leading to license suspensions, it can impact their ability to access resources for safety, or maintain stable income through work.

Nonfatal strangulation forensic exams (SB 5183)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/2021.

Domestic violence survivors who have been strangled by their partner are at an increased risk of being killed by that person. Despite the life-threatening nature of this type of assault, victims of strangulation may not show any physical signs of abuse. Increasing access to forensic nurse examiners trained to recognize and evaluate nonfatal strangulation would improve safety for survivors. Covering the cost of these examinations through the Crime Victims Compensation Program would reduce fears of economic hardship for survivors.

Farmworkers overtime (SSB 5172)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/2021.

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled last year that dairy farmworkers cannot be excluded from the state’s overtime laws. As originally proposed, this bill would have eliminated back pay for farmworkers, but thanks to advocacy efforts the substitute bill now provides prospective and full retroactive overtime for all agriculture workers. We join WSCADV member program, Community to Community, in supporting this substitute bill which now advocates for the economic resilience of our state’s farmworkers.

Landlord-tenant relations (SB 5160)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 4/22/21.

This bill provides additional protections to keep tenants in their homes during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Survivors and their families should not be evicted due to inability to pay rent during the eviction moratorium, nor should they be denied housing in the future due to inability to pay rent during the pandemic. This bill provides legal representation for tenants facing eviction, requires repayment plans for unpaid rent during the pandemic, and ensures that landlords and tenants can access state rental assistance programs. These measures would help survivors and their families stay in their homes.

Pregnancy and miscarriage related care (SB 5140)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/2021.

This bill seeks to address the issue of religiously affiliated hospitals denying care to people experiencing miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies. It ensures patients get the care they need while allowing providers to provide proper care without fear of retaliation from their employer. All pregnant people deserve access to safe care that respects their dignity.  

Youth who commit sexual offenses (SSB 5123)

Failed to pass.

This bill creates developmentally appropriate responses to youth who commit sexual offenses through amending the sex offender registration requirement for certain individuals under age 18. We join our sexual assault provider partners in supporting this effort because research shows youth sex offender registries do not prevent harm or keep communities safe. They are associated with an increase in likelihood of suicide, physical assault, and child sex abuse.

Expanding coverage of paid family and medical leave (SB 5097)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/2021.

This bill recognizes that not all families look the same by expanding the definition of family in Washington’s Paid Family & Medical Leave program. It also extends job protection and health insurance continuation to most workers accessing the program.  

Extending postpartum coverage (SB 5068)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/21.

Postpartum Medicaid coverage currently ends after sixty days, creating an unsafe gap in coverage. This bill extends coverage to twelve months. Continuity of care is critical during this vulnerable time, and uninterrupted health care coverage provides birthing parents with access to stable and consistent care. This is an important step for addressing maternal mortality rates, which disproportionately affect Black and American Indian and Alaska Native families in Washington.  

Peace officers’ duty to intervene (SB 5066)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/21.

This bill requires a peace officer to intervene when they witness a fellow peace officer engaging in excessive use of force. Law enforcement agencies would adopt written policies on the duty to intervene and ensure that all officers receive training on the policies. To create communities where all people can live and love without fear, we must end all forms of violence and abuses of power.

Unemployment insurance qualification (SB 5064)

Failed to pass.

This bill adjusts the list of “good cause quits” (reasons you can quit a job and still be eligible) in our unemployment insurance system for certain workers. This would make unemployment insurance somewhat more accessible for survivors who are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic. Being able to access unemployment could mean being able to continue to support themselves and their children without having to consider going back to an abusive partner to make ends meet.

Statewide COVID-19 relief (ESHB 1368/SB 5344)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 2/19/21.

This bill is the first effort toward statewide COVID-19 relief. Most of this money comes from federal stimulus funds that the state has received. Under the bill, $365 million will go toward rental assistance to help renters and landlords affected by the pandemic. This funding would also go toward schools ($668m), vaccine administration and testing ($618m), small businesses ($240m), child care facilities ($50m), food assistance ($26m), and undocumented workers who don’t qualify for state assistance ($70m).

Modernizing, harmonizing, and improving civil protection orders (2SHB 1320)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/1/22.

This bill consolidates and harmonizes civil protection orders in Washington State and makes these orders accessible virtually. As this bill has moved through the legislature, WSCADV has supported most aspects, but requested broader stakeholder involvement and advocated for the removal of a change to the legal definition of domestic violence to include coercive control. An amendment addressing these concerns passed the Senate Law & Justice Committee on March 25 and this bill now has our full support. We recognize coercive control is a devastating part of domestic violence, but have concerns about how this legal definition change would be used against survivors by an abusive partner. We are grateful our request for more statewide stakeholder engagement was heard and look forward to opportunities to add the voice and experiences of community-based domestic violence advocates to this conversation over the interim. 

Survivors Justice Act (HB 1293)

Failed to pass.

Survivors’ involvement with the criminal legal system is overwhelmingly the result of their trauma, acts of self-defense, lacking funds for legal representation, and not fitting the racist stereotype of the “perfect victim”. This bill provides sentencing alternatives for survivors of domestic violence and allows the court to reduce a survivor’s sentence under some circumstances. WSCADV’s Amber Barcel testified in support of this bill in front of the House Public Safety Committee on February 2, 2021.

Increasing document recording fees to help fund eviction prevention and housing stability (HB 1277)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/21.

Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children. Document recording fee dollars have been critical to our work assisting survivors, from providing emergency shelter to more stable housing options. With this additional money, at least 30 domestic violence agencies will be able to work within their county homelessness planning system, not only to support survivors with access to housing but also help them retain that housing through challenging economic times.

Just cause tenant protections (HB 1236)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 5/10/21.

After the state’s eviction moratorium ends, landlords will be allowed to evict tenants with a 20-day no cause notice. In the past, landlords have used no cause evictions to discriminate against survivors and their families because of the domestic violence they were experiencing. This bill would close a significant loophole in Washington’s tenant protections and fair housing laws by requiring landlords to have a legitimate reason to make someone move.

Keeping Families Together Act (HB 1227)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/21.

This bill protects the rights of families responding to allegations of abuse or neglect of a child. It requires hospitals, law enforcement, and courts to find removal necessary through investigation instead of authorizing it immediately. This bill seeks to begin addressing the racial disparities in the child welfare system, which impacts families of color and survivors who disproportionately receive allegations and have the hardest time getting their children back from the system.

Bolstering economic recovery (HB 1151)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/21.

This bill helps families regain stability during the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergencies by supporting the state’s economic relief response during natural disasters and pandemics. It seeks to prevent food insecurity by mitigating the “cliff effect” that occurs when a family no longer qualifies for assistance, and modernizes the standards last updated in 1991 for cash assistance programs in order to better reflect what people actually require to meet their basic needs.

Private, for-profit detention facilities (HB 1090)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 4/14/21.

This bill would prohibit private, for-profit detention in Washington. For-profit prisons and detention centers often cut corners to save money. They also lack transparency and oversight, which can lead to inadequate medical care, poor nutrition, and mistreatment. We support this as a step toward addressing mass incarceration and investing in rebuilding BIPOC communities.

Continuity of paid family and medical leave rights (HB 1087)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 4/16/21.

This bill makes a technical correction to the 2017 Paid Family & Medical Leave law to ensure that people whose rights to unpaid leave were violated prior to 2020 can continue any claims. Paid leave can offer financial stability and security to survivors, allowing them time to take care of themselves and their kids without worrying about how they will continue to afford the things that are keeping them safe, like a stable home and food for their families.

Restoring voter eligibility (HB 1078)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 1/1/22.

This bill restores the voting rights of people – including survivors who have been incarcerated – who have been convicted of a felony but are not serving a sentence of total confinement. Barring people from their right to vote and participate in our democracy does not increase public safety or victim safety. We believe that when people are civically engaged and feel like they are a part of a community, they become more invested in keeping that community safe.

Critical adjustments to paid family and medical leave (SHB 1073)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 4/21/21.

This bill makes critical adjustments to Washington’s Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) program. It would help workers impacted by COVID shutdowns receive PFML benefits if they need them in 2021 and early 2022 by providing temporary, alternate eligibility.

Increasing access to civil legal aid funds (HB 1072)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/21.

This bill would ensure that undocumented people would also benefit from the civil legal aid services that are available to eligible low-income people in Washington. This means undocumented survivors and their family members could access state-funded representation for domestic relations and family law matters, government assistance, healthcare, housing and utilities, employment, disability rights, education, and more.

Requirements for law enforcement tactics and equipment (HB 1054)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/25/21.

This bill establishes some restrictions on the tactics and equipment that officers can use, including prohibiting the use of chokeholds, neck restraints, and certain types of military equipment. As a coalition dedicated to ending domestic violence, we seek to end all violence in our homes and communities, including institutional abuses of power that systematically take away people’s freedom and safety.

Revising the international application of uniform child custody (HB 1042)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 4/14/21.

This bill allows Washington courts to refrain from applying the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act standards in order to protect families from facing the death penalty in certain foreign jurisdictions on the basis of religious or political beliefs or sexual orientation.  

Bills we oppose

Making coercive control a crime (HB 1449)

Failed to pass.

No one should have to endure coercive control in their relationship. We’re so glad that more people are recognizing that domestic violence is about power and control, but we are concerned that making coercive control a crime will have negative consequences for many survivors. Many laws designed with the best of intentions to support survivors can be the very same laws that an abusive and controlling person can use against them. WSCADV’s Heather Wehr testified in opposition at the House Public Safety Committee on February 9, 2021.

Cancelling eviction moratorium (HB 1228)

Failed to pass.

This bill cancels the eviction moratorium currently in place, allowing landlords to immediately evict tenants with no safety net in place. We join the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance in opposing this bill. Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for survivors and their children. We need long-term solutions to our state’s housing crisis so survivors can keep safe and stable housing, now and after this pandemic.

Bills we are monitoring

Economic assistance programs (2SSB 5214)

Passed. Signed by Governor Inslee, effective 7/1/2023.

Originally, this bill expanded access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by adding time limit extensions and undoing harmful cuts made during the 2008 budget shortfall. We supported and prioritized this bill. It has, however, changed significantly throughout the legislative process. The substitute bill now being considered would accomplish significantly less and fails to address racial inequities. Expanding access to TANF remains a priority because of the critical role it plays in providing a safety net for survivors. We are no longer supporting this bill and are directing our efforts toward a TANF grant increase in the Operating Budget.

Previous Legislative Sessions

To view summaries of previous sessions of the Washington State Legislature, please see the “Public Policy” section of our Resource Library.

Wondering how laws are made in Washington State? Watch our short video, Ms. RCW: