OLYMPIA – With the 2021 mostly remote legislative session now entering the second half, Sen. Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline) has sponsored five bills that have earned Senate approval and will continue on in the legislative process.
More information on Salomon’s bills that are now in the House of Representatives is available below and at senatedemocrats.wa.gov/salomon.
SB 5226 – Decriminalizing Poverty
SB 5226 would take another step toward decriminalizing poverty by removing non-payment of moving violation-based traffic infractions from a list of actions that can lead to license suspensions and criminal charges for driving.
Under current law, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor if they drive while their driver’s license is suspended or revoked in the third degree. The penalty can be up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. There are a number of ways one can fall into this license suspension status under current law. SB 5226 removes failure to pay an infraction from this list and instead makes any financial collections a civil matter.
“I’m proud to say that we now are on the verge of passing a historic policy that is a better way to enforce traffic safety. A way that stops criminalizing poverty, yet strengthens the connection between our traffic infraction policy and public safety.
“Now especially more than ever, we have to be sensitive to people’s need to drive to get back on their feet to go to work, but maybe right now they can’t pay. So as long as they follow the rules, respond to the traffic infraction if they get one, talk to the judge about getting on a payment plan, they will no longer and never be suspended for being poor.”
SB 5273 – Shoreline Seawalls
SB 5273 would require residential property owners to use an alternative that has the least amount of negative impact on marine life when replacing existing shoreline seawalls. Many seawalls in place now are harmful to fish habitats in the area, which then severely limits the food supply for our treasured Orca population. This bill would ensure less harmful structures are installed when existing seawalls need to be replaced while still preventing damage to people’s property.
“Nearly one-third of Puget Sound’s shorelines are armored with structures like bulkheads and seawalls. These structures can be incredibly destructive to marine habitats in the area. There are several alternatives that can achieve comparable results for property owners while also having less impact on the natural environment.”
SB 5026 – Protecting Family-Wage Jobs
SB 5026 would prohibit marine ports that receive public funds from fully automating their operations for the next ten years. This will go a long way toward protecting family wage jobs at Washington’s marine ports.
“Unfortunately many of these jobs – good family-wage jobs – are threatened by automation, including jobs at our marine ports. This bill says that port dollars will not be used to fully automate their systems so that we can keep these jobs. We cannot forget about our longshorewomen and our longshoremen, our ironworkers, and others who stand to lose from automation.”
Protecting Employees During a Public Health Crisis
SB 5254 would bar employers from prohibiting employees from wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when a public health state of emergency is declared because of an infectious disease. In the early days of the pandemic, Salomon heard reports from his constituents that some employers were denying the opportunity for employees to wear personal protective equipment because they were concerned that it would scare customers.
“I thought that was a very poor approach to public health that endangered all of us. It is reasonable to expect employers to allow employees to protect themselves and the public during this public health crisis.”
Housing for School Employees
SB 5043 would give public school districts the ability to invest local levy dollars on affordable housing solutions for teachers and other school employees in their community. Second-class school districts (those with fewer than 2,000 students) already have the option of using local levy funds for school employee housing. This bill will give more school districts additional tools to recruit and retain top quality teachers.
“One of the challenges that schools face in attracting teachers and other school employees in this area is the high cost of housing. Many of our teachers are required to commute very far and aren’t able to live in the districts that the work and serve in.
“This bill would allow school districts to put to a vote of the people whether we should use tax dollars and raise money to subsidize and help build affordable housing for our school employees.”
These bills are now in the House of Representatives for consideration. They have until April 11 to be approved by the House to be eligible to become law this year.
The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on April 25.