2021 legislative session comes to an end - what you need to know

floor mask Randall

Dear friends and neighbors,

This year’s 105-day legislative session came to an end on Sunday and to say it was a wild ride is an immense understatement. This session was record breaking in so many ways. We had more people testifying in committee from all across the state than any other session. We passed more legislation on party-line votes than any other session, and we ended with record breaking spending. 


State v. Blake – legislature punts on drug possession

I recently shared background on the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision regarding State v. Blake and what the legislature was doing to address it.  Unfortunately, much changed after this legislation left the Senate.

The bill was amended in three ways in the House. First, the House reduced the penalty from a Gross Misdemeanor to a simple Misdemeanor. Second, it took out the Senate provision requiring diversion for the first two charges and made it only an option for the offender. Finally, it put a two-year sunset on the law. This means that after two years, we would be required to revisit this law or return to the exact place we started when the Supreme Court ruling basically legalized drug possession via the Blake decision.

As we could not further amend the bill at that point in the process, we could only vote to accept the House amendments or not.

This was not an easy decision as neither option was particularly great. A vote for the bill really had no teeth as diversion would be optional. However, we would have a statewide standard which would eliminate confusion amongst counties. A vote against the bill would allow counties to enact their own ordinances regarding this action.

I chose to vote against this bill, which I previously supported, and allow counties to develop their own solutions. While this bill did pass, I believe we will see it again in the near future and that lawmakers must reexamine this issue to make sure we’re truly helping those who suffer from drug addiction.


2021-23 Operating budget – it’s raining money in Olympia

The end of the legislative session is always hectic and lawmakers normally spend the last few days in final negotiations. This year was no exception and the 2021-23 operating budget was introduced 24 hours before the legislative session adjourned. At over 1,100 pages, it was nearly impossible for lawmakers to know everything it included before we voted on its passage.

With more than $59.2 billion in spending, practically anyone could find some aspect of the spending plan they support. I appreciated the inclusion of funding for forest health to help prevent wildfires, working families tax credit to offset our regressive tax system, unemployment insurance relief to assist businesses whose rates have gone up dramatically due to no fault of their own, and additional spending to increase capacity in drug rehabilitation and behavioral health programs.

I did not, however, approve of the massive tax and fee increases the budget relies upon. As I mentioned in a previous update, the legislature had plenty of dollars to fully fund government without a single tax increase, without cutting any services, and still had funds remaining to eliminate the B&O tax on manufacturing and provide homeowners with much needed property tax relief. For those reasons, I did not support this budget.

The chart below shows some of the high level items in this year’s spending package.




Capital gains tax – referendum clause stripped before final passage

One of the last pieces of legislation voted on during the 2021 legislative session was the capital gains income tax (Senate Bill 5096). I previously spoke about this legislation in a recent video update, click here to watch.

Before we adjourned, this bill came back to the Senate one more time after the House of Representatives added amendments. Most importantly, they included new language that now prevents this tax from coming before you in the form of a referendum this year.

Instead, if voters wish to overturn this bill, they must do it via the initiative process which wouldn’t appear on your ballot until 2022. Proponents hope that by then, the Supreme Court will have weighed in and overturned constitutional precedent, setting the state for a full-blown progressive income tax.


Transportation budget – shaking the couch cushions to find funding



As I previously mentioned, the transportation budget is a barebones budget that has been hit hard by the COVID shutdowns and isn’t nearly as robust as the operating and capital budgets. Fortunately, we have been able to keep the Puget Sound Gateway project on track. As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, the Gateway project will extend SR 167 from where it dead ends in Puyallup all the way to the Port of Tacoma.


Capital budget investments – good news for our community

Earlier this month, the Legislature passed a bipartisan capital budget that includes many projects in our region. Here are some of the local community projects funded in the two-year capital budget:

Amara is a nonprofit located in the Tacoma/Midland area. They provide wraparound services to foster kids and families. They will receive $246,000 to assist in developing their 29-acre property and expanding services to meet the needs of our community.

The Sheffield Trail in Fife will receive $1,030,000 that will be used to widen the trail as well as fund needed repairs.  

The Meeker Mansion is a historical cultural center in Puyallup and beloved by many. This year, it will receive $335,000 to assist with preserving the historical archives, conducting structural improvements to the building and installing a fence around the property.

The City of Puyallup will receive $330,000 to demolish parts of an old building in downtown Puyallup as well as $1,030,000 to renovate the Puyallup recreation center on Valley Avenue.

The Franklin-Pierce School District will receive $3,900,000 to construct dual use classrooms and community center building at their agricultural farm on Waller and 96th.


I do hope you have enjoyed learning more about issues the legislature addressed this year. If there are topics of concern to you, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office by phone at (253) 840-4523 or by email at Chris.Gildon@leg.wa.gov.


It is an honor serving you!


Chris Gildon

Senator, 25 LD

Deputy Floor Leader