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2020 Legislative Session Summary

The Washington State Legislature’s 2020 session ran from January 13 to March 12, 2020. The following is a summary of domestic violence-related legislation during this session, sorted by the position WSCADV took on these bills (support, monitor, oppose). For a presentation of this information, please see our 2020 Legislative Wrap Up Webinar.

Bills listed in strike-through text failed to advance past a cutoff deadline, received an unfavorable vote, and did not become law in 2020.

“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.

Legislation WSCADV supported

Assistance for immigrant victims of trafficking or abuseExpand access to critical services and support benefits for immigrants harmed by human trafficking & other serious crimes. (SB 5164/ HB 1971; HB 2573)*WSCADV Priority Legislation *Passed legislature 3/5/2020; Takes effect February 1, 2022

Immigrant victims of trafficking and abuse are frequently trapped in dangerous situations and vulnerable to further exploitation because they struggle to meet basic needs. Increasing access to food, medical, and economic supports while these survivors apply for federal assistance can improve lives, promote community safety, and reduce further victimization.

Comprehensive sexual & relationship health education: Support domestic violence prevention by expanding access to comprehensive sexual and relationship health education in schools. (HB 2184SB 5395/ HB 1407) *WSCADV Priority Legislation *Passed legislature 3/4/2020; Takes effect June 11, 2020

Domestic violence is preventable when young people are equipped with the knowledge and skills to create and maintain healthy relationships. Current state standards for sexual health education include strong provisions for information about healthy relationships and consent, but many young people across Washington are not able to access this education under the current inconsistent state law. As passed by the Legislature, all public schools in Washington must provide comprehensive sexual health education, including education about consent and healthy relationships, by the 2021-22 school year for grades 6-12 and by the 2022-23 school year for all students. Additional information is available from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). 

Courts Open to All Act: Prohibit warrantless civil arrests of immigrants at Washington State courts. (HB 2567/ SB 6522*WSCADV Priority Legislation *Passed legislature 3/4/2020; Takes effect June 11, 2020

There is strong evidence that many immigrant survivors have decided not to report crimes or seek help because of fears that immigration officials could arrest them if they access the courts for things like Protection Orders. When survivors are not able to reach out for help, it makes our communities less safe. Prohibiting these civil arrests at courthouses is necessary for immigrant survivors to be able to get help for the abuse they are experiencing.

Working Families Tax Credit: Increase economic stability for survivors and other low-income Washingtonians. (HB 1527/ SB 5810)*WSCADV Priority Legislation.

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—Washington’s version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit— would put cash in the hands of low-income Washingtonians. Access to an additional $350 has been shown to help survivors in our state find safety and stability by covering things like car repairs needed to keep a job, or changing the locks so they can safely stay in their own home. An additional bill, SB 6557, would make people who use individual tax ID numbers (ITIN) eligible for the Working Families Tax Credit.

Improving access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Review barriers to program participation prior to terminating assistance. (HB 2441) *Passed legislature 3/5/2020; Takes effect July 1, 2021

No one should have to stay in an abusive relationship because they don’t have access to economic safety nets. Instead of immediately terminating a person/their family from TANF if they are not engaging in work or work activities, this bill provides for a reduction in the grant after two continuous months of noncompliance, and termination after twelve continuous months of noncompliance.

Legal definitions of domestic violence: Clarify language in several parts of the Washington code to ensure intimate partner violence is included. (HB 2473) *Passed legislature 3/3/2020; Takes effect March 18, 2020

Last year, the Legislature passed HB 1517 to distinguish between violence committed by an “intimate partner” and violence by a “family or household member” in an effort to improve research and data collection. This had the unintended consequence of creating the need to also change language in a number of other statutes about domestic violence. Making these changes now will ensure that survivors of intimate partner violence are not inadvertently excluded from legal protections already in place.

Possession of firearms: Add two crimes to the list of charges that, if convicted, make it unlawful to possess a firearm. (HB 2623)

Current state law prohibits people from possessing firearms if they have been convicted of certain crimes, including domestic violence felonies and some misdemeanors. This bill would add Animal Cruelty in the Second Degree and Unlawful Aiming or Discharge of a Firearm to that list of crimes.

Clean Slate Act: Clear qualifying criminal records for people who remain crime free for a set period of time. (HB 2793*Passed legislature 3/6/2020; Vetoed by Governor 4/3/2020

One in three Americans, including many survivors, have some type of criminal record. Even a minor criminal record can present lifetime barriers to getting a job and/or housing. For survivors of abuse, this can significantly limit their ability to find safety and stability independent of an abusive partner. The Clean Slate Act would provide more options to people who remain crime free to successfully rebuild their lives. As passed by the Legislature, the bill requires the Administrative Office of the Courts to create and implement a pilot project in one county to automatically vacate criminal convictions of people who are eligible under current law to have their convictions vacated.

Child Support: Implementing child support pass through payments. (SB 5144/ HB1136) *Passed legislature 3/5/2020; Takes effect February 1, 2021

This bill allows the Division of Child support to directly give a family some child support money that is collected while they are on TANF. This money will not count against their cash grant eligibility. Access to money and resources helps make survivors safer, and reliable child support payments can make a considerable difference for families.

Rights of Immigrant Students: Restrict schools from improperly collecting or disclosing student’s immigration status. (SB 5834/ HB 1779)

Similar to the Courts Open to All Act described above, this bill seeks to ensure access to essential public services—in this case public schools—without fear of being arrested by immigration officials.

Extending Medicaid to 12 months postpartum: Improve access to care for new parents, particularly critical for survivors who are more likely to experience postpartum depression. (SB 6128/ HB 2381) *Passed legislature 3/4/2020; Vetoed by Governor 4/3/2020

Postpartum Medicaid coverage currently ends sixty days after pregnancy, creating an unsafe gap in care during a vulnerable time. Continuity of care is critical, especially for people experiencing abuse, as it provides opportunities to connect with services and support. Improving Medicaid coverage also helps increase survivors’ options to access healthcare independent of an abusive partner. As passed by the Legislature, this bill requires the Washington Health Care Authority to submit a waiver to the federal government to receive federal matching funds to extend Medicaid coverage. If federal matching funds are provided, Washington Medicaid coverage for such care will be implemented.

Model sexual assault protocols: Ensure hospitals and clinics provide victims of sexual assault with a coordinated community response to care. (SB 6158) *Passed legislature 3/5/2020; Reports due December 1st of each year through 2022

Sexual assault survivors deserve access to support services, information, and advocacy. This bill would create a task force to research best practices for a coordinated community response, and develop model protocols for hospitals and clinics.

Forensic examinations for victims of nonfatal strangulation: Increase access to forensic nurse examiners in instances of nonfatal strangulation. (SB 6162

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 of abuse.

Preventing abusive litigation between intimate partners: Minimize the misuse of court proceedings to control or harass survivors of abuse. (SB 6268) *Passed legislature 3/3/2020; Takes effect January 1, 2021

Some people who abuse their partners also use the courts to continue exerting power and control, even after the relationship has ended. Filing multiple cases, scheduling repeated hearings, requesting access to information, and other court proceedings can have devastating psychological, emotional, and financial impacts on a survivor. This bill creates a streamlined process for survivors to restrain an abusive intimate partner from filing merit-less litigation against them.

Revising economic assistance programs: Reduce sanctions for noncompliance with work requirements. (SB 6478*Passed legislature 3/6/2020; Takes effect July 1, 2021 (homelessness provision) & June 11, 2020 (requirement to identify race provision)

When survivors of abuse have financial options, it improves their safety and ability to live independently from an abusive partner. Finding safety and stability, however, can take much time and effort. This bill recognizes that reality and reduces sanctions for survivors under WorkFirst for noncompliance with work requirements. As passed by the Legislature, the bill clarifies and improves the exemption from TANF’s 5-year time limit for families who are experiencing homelessness. It also requires DSHS to identify the race of people who had TANF benefits reduced or terminated. If the data shows racial disparities, DSHS must describe steps it is taking to address and remedy the disproportionality.

Housing Justice Act: Prohibit rental housing discrimination against people who have criminal records. (SB 6490/ HB 2878)

All survivors of abuse deserve to be safe. Access to housing is an important part of being able to live a life independent of an abusive partner. This bill would benefit survivors of abuse who face housing discrimination because they have arrest records or criminal convictions. Because of racial disparities in the criminal legal system, the bill also helps to address systemic racism and housing discrimination towards survivors of color.

Legislation WSCADV monitored

Workplace domestic violence task force: Create a joint legislative task force on domestic violence and workplace resources. (HB 1056*Passed legislature 3/3/2020; Vetoed by Governor 4/3/2020

Domestic violence is incredibly prevalent and also incredibly isolating. Many people experiencing abuse feel alone and do not know where to turn for help. Coworkers may know that abuse is occurring, but don’t know what to say or do. This bill creates a joint legislative task force on domestic violence and workplace resources to identify the role of the workplace in helping to curb domestic violence. WSCADV is named in the bill as a member of the task force.

Just cause eviction: Limit the reasons for eviction, termination of a lease, or refusal to renew. (HB 2453/ SB 6379)

This bill provides protections to residential tenants, creating a specific and exclusive list of reasons for landlords to evict or refuse to renew a lease. It also gives people living in a unit but not on the lease a chance to stay there and get on the lease if the tenant has left. This could help survivors keep their housing if their partner is the one on the lease but is in jail, had to leave because of a protective order, or left by choice.

Expanding the landlord mitigation program: Increase access to reimbursement for landlords for property damage caused by a tenant’s abusive partner. (HB 2732)

Under current law, survivors are afforded specific protections and an ability to terminate their lease in order to maintain their safety. This bill would increase access to the Washington State Landlord Mitigation Fund to reimburse landlords and assist survivors from being held liable for property damage caused by an abusive partner.

Firearm surrender orders: Allow orders to be served in open court. (HB 2820)

If a firearm surrender order is issued in connection with a domestic violence protective order, this bill would make it so that the order does not need to be served by law enforcement if the respondent is present in the courtroom when the order is entered.

Monitoring in domestic violence cases (Tiffany Hill Act): Add electronic monitoring with victim notification technology to the sentencing reform act. (SB 5149*Passed legislature 3/4/2020; Takes effect June 11, 2020

This bill seeks to increase survivor safety with technology that would notify the protected party in a court order if the person being monitored is at or near a location they are required to stay away from. It also requires the Administrative Office of the Courts to develop a list of Electronic Monitoring with Victim Notification Technology (EMVNT) vendors and to create an informational handout on the opportunity to request EMVNT for people seeking protective orders.

Legislation WSCADV Opposed

Mandatory mediation: Require mediation prior to a court hearing in family law cases involving children, with some exceptions. (HB 2806)

Currently, state law authorizes courts to set family law cases for mediation. This bill would require mediation for issues related to parenting plans within ninety days after service unless excused for good cause shown. Exceptions include if a domestic violence protective order is in place or if the courts find that domestic violence has occurred and that the abuse would interfere with mediation.