BY SANJAY WALVEKAR
The 120-day 2023 legislative session—the first in-person session in two years—began on Jan. 9 and is scheduled to adjourn on April 23. Lawmakers in Olympia will consider a variety of issues this year. However, a primary focus of the 120-day “long” session is to pass a state budget for the next two years. Below are some of the WSBA Legislative Affairs team’s highlights from the first month of session.
Bar-request Bill Passes Senate
One of the WSBA’s main priorities during each legislative session is to support Bar-request legislative proposals initiated by WSBA Sections and approved by the Board of Governors. This year’s request legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 5004, passed the Senate unanimously on Jan. 25and is expected to receive a public hearing in the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee. Originating from the Corporate Act Revision Committee of the Business Law Section, SB 5004 aims to modernize and clarify portions of Washington’s Business Corporations Act (WBCA) by amending chapters of the WBCA regarding holding company reorganization transactions, stock splits, and other provisions.
WSBA Sections Weigh In
In addition to Bar-request legislation, the WSBA Legislative Affairs team monitors and takes appropriate action on legislative proposals significant to the practice of law and administration of justice. The WSBA Legislative Affairs team has been busy this year, referring and tracking nearly 500 bills for WSBA Sections so far this session. Key bills involving WSBA Section action and collaboration include:
Substitute Senate Bill 5318
Limiting estate recovery. This legislation exempts the Health Care Authority and the Department of Social and Health Services from filing liens against property or seeking adjustment and recovery prior to the death of certain individuals and removes the requirement for funds and accounting to be sent to the Department of Social and Health Services when a resident who received long-term care services paid for by the state dies. The bill is supported by the Elder Law Section and is in the Senate Ways & Means Committee as of this writing.
Substitute House Bill 1088
Concerning the Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act. This bill adopts the Uniform Law Commission’s Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act to create a statutory scheme for the arbitration of family law disputes. In the Senate Rules Committee as of this writing, this bill is supported by the Family Law Section and the Dispute Resolution Section.
Substitute Senate Bill 5077
Concerning the Uniform Commercial Code. This bill amends general provisions and definitions that apply throughout the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC); amends articles of the UCC governing sales, leases, negotiable instruments, fund transfers, letters of credit, documents of title, investment securities, and secured transactions; establishes a new article in the UCC governing controllable electronic records; and provides an adjustment date on or after which certain transactions must conform to the requirements of this act to remain valid, enforceable, or perfected. The bill is supported by the Business Law Section and is in the Senate Rules Committee as of this writing.
Substitute Senate Bill 5589
Concerning probate. This bill modifies provisions relating to family support and exemptions from creditor’s claims for probate and non-probate property; clarifies the exemptions from attachment, execution, and forced sale that apply after a decedent’s death; establishes a procedure for allocating the exempt property among claimants; and establishes a procedure by which the decedent’s surviving spouse, surviving registered domestic partner, or surviving dependent children may request basic financial support during the pendency of any court proceedings relating to the decedent’s probate or non-probate assets. The bill is supported by the Real Property, Probate and Trust Section and is in the Senate Law & Justice Committee as of this writing.
Second Substitute Senate Bill 5112
Updating processes related to voter registration. This bill requires that the Department of Licensing make voter registration, signing up to register, or voter registration updates automatic for enhanced driver’s license and enhanced Identicard applicants unless subsequently declined in writing; modifies procedures and timelines related to challenges of a voter’s eligibility; exempts date of birth, rather than year of birth, in voter registration files from public disclosure requirements; and sets penalties for failure to transmit voter registration information automatically and for intentional registration of ineligible persons. This legislation is supported by the Civil Rights Law Section and passed the Senate as of this writing.
Other Issues to Watch
The WSBA Legislative Affairs team also tracks bills of general interest to the legal community, including bills related to State v. Blake, 197 Wn.2d 170 (2021), and civil asset forfeiture:
Substitute Senate Bill 5536
Concerning controlled substances, counterfeit substances, and legend drug possession and treatment. In the Senate Ways & Means Committee as of this writing, this bill increases the penalty for knowing possession of a controlled substance or counterfeit substance to a gross misdemeanor, creates a pretrial diversion program for individuals charged with possession of prohibited substances, and provides for vacating possession convictions contingent on the individual completing substance use disorder treatment. This bill was referred to the Criminal Law and Health Law Sections and is being monitored by the Board of Governors Legislative Committee.
Substitute House Bill 1385
Concerning seizure and forfeiture procedures and reporting. Referred to the House Appropriations Committee as of this writing, this bill establishes a new chapter governing civil asset forfeiture under laws relating to specified criminal activity and establishes standard procedures and requirements for seizure and forfeiture proceedings, among other updates. This bill was referred to the Criminal Law and Civil Rights Law Sections and is being monitored by the Board of Governors Legislative Committee.
The next major legislative cutoff date is March 8, by which all bills advancing this session must pass their house of origin. We will continue to provide updates during the session on NWSidebar and other WSBA channels. (See also https://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/.) As the session progresses, the WSBA will continue to monitor and take action on legislation significant to the practice of law and administration of justice.