Morning Wire: Three key housing issues, Q&A with Senator Mark Mullet on insurance rates, budget requests
It’s a common saying around our office that we are writing slow news, not fast news. Just like slow food that takes time to prepare is better for the body, taking the time to think through the smallest details and build a quality story is better for our cover and our readers. Take for example this week’s deep dive into housing policy. It is the product of conversations dating back over a month and 26,000 words of interview notes and transcripts.
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1. Three agency budget requests that we follow
The deadline for Washington state agencies to submit their budget requests was this month, and there is no shortage of interesting requests. Politics aside, the precise numbers in these documents give you a glimpse of what’s going on inside Olympia. We focused on three requests in one story this week.
Regarding COVID, the Department of Health has requested an additional $ 212 million through 2023 to adequately fund testing, contract research and outbreak response, among other activities. They also expect to commit millions of dollars to vaccination efforts until at least 2024, so don’t expect this pandemic to end soon. The Commerce Department has asked for an additional $ 4.1 million to be spent on dispute resolution centers, which are expected to see increased demand as the moratorium on evictions ends. Finally, the Department of Corrections is requesting $ 27.6 million over the next two years to implement patient-centered health care for inmates.
2. Three key housing issues to watch in 2022
There is no shortage of lawmakers thinking about housing policy in the state legislature, so we’ve digged into some policy questions we’ll likely see raised in the 2022 session. Our story on what we found worth reading, and more than we can cover here. In short, don’t be surprised to see challenges or proposed changes to tenant protections that were passed in the last session, zoning bylaws and GMA, and an interest in increasing “missing” housing. .
A key issue that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will face is how to get hundreds of millions of dollars in rent assistance to tenants. An incredibly low percentage of the funding has been distributed. One suggestion from Representative Michelle Caldier is to let the state Department of Commerce handle the distribution of the funding, instead of relying on the counties to do it.
3. Questions and Answers with Senator Mark Mullet on Credit Scoring
Senator Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) opposed an emergency rule by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler that prohibits insurance companies from factoring credit scores into their premiums. Mullet, who chairs the Senate Committee on Business, Financial Services, and Commerce, said up to 2 million Washingtonians could see their insurance premiums rise dramatically as a result of the rule. The committee will discuss the credit rating at its 10 am meeting this morning.
Mullet said the emergency rule frustrates him because he worked on SB 5010, a credit scoring bill that Kreidler requested last session, which ultimately was not approved by the committee. . This would probably have included protections for people with good credit. Mullet wants the Legislature to take over credit scoring in the next session and Kreidler to repeal the emergency rule. “We focused on how you allow people who are currently on the rebates to keep their rebates?” And then, what do we do to make sure the people whose credit is impacted by COVID don’t back down and have to pay more?
4. Senate Republicans publish prison recommendations
Last week, Senate Republicans released a report on changes they would like to see in the state’s prison system. It included a number of recommendations, but at the top of the list is a request to designate public safety as the highest priority for the Department of Corrections, over rehabilitation and other services.
In some ways, the report reads like a wish list, with recommendations to reinstate drug possession crimes that were reduced to misdemeanors following the Blake decision, or end efforts to reduce prison capacity. . It seems unlikely that many of these recommendations will be taken up by a Democratic-majority legislature. As always with the looming redistribution, it’s good to remember that while Republicans are no longer in power in all three branches now, that might not be the case in 2022.
5. Public meetings of the working group on tax structure begin on September 22
The bipartisan task force on tax structure is preparing to tour again this fall to solicit comments on how to adjust the tax code. There are seven town halls, each with an afternoon and evening session, which run from September through November. The sessions are designed to give people a chance to comment on six potential tax scenarios that will be released on Wednesday.
Six potential tax scenarios were originally released at a task force meeting in May, but Representative Noel Frame (D-36th) who co-chairs the group with Sen. Keith Waggoner (R-39th LD) said the scenarios that will be presented. during the next town halls are finalized versions. Five of the scenarios are tax neutral, Frame said, and they range from adjusting property taxes to taxes on profits and income.
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