2020 Library-Related Legislation

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Governor Inslee signing SB 6362

WLA actively pursues a legislative agenda that presents the interests of its members through a legislative planning committee and a contract government relationship representative who works with the Washington State Legislature. WLA's lobbyist is Carolyn Logue.

Washington Library Association Legislative Wrap-Up 2020

The Operating Budget that finally passed the Legislature increased spending by 961 million for a total budget of $53.5 billion in 2019-21.  This included increased spending for special education, homelessness and various programs for Children, Youth and Family Services.  The final budget also included $100 million to cover costs associated with the coronavirus outbreak. The budget left a fairly high level in reserve – nearly $3.5 billion which will hopefully help our state better weather the coming budget crisis.

When the final budget was signed by Governor Inslee on April 3, he was forced to do some significant vetoes to ensure more money was available for the battle against COVID-19.  The $445 million vetoed included projects that were directed at Department of Health – because the Governor felt that Department of Health needed to focus on the coronavirus fight instead.  In addition, Inslee vetoed $100 million that was dedicated to additional K-12 school counselors.

The Capital and Transportation budgets did not suffer the same veto fate as the operating budget because the projects funded will provide jobs and revenue as we move out of the crisis.  The Capital budget appropriated $89.5 million total, increased bonding capacity and authorized $75.6 million in expenditures from dedicated accounts.  The focus for the Capital budget included Housing and Homelessness programs, early learning, behavioral health, education construction projects, environmental clean-up projects and habitat conservation. 

The Transportation budget had a $453 million loss of revenue this biennium.  It made up for this loss by delaying funding for projects that were not ready to start yet, reducing rail capital projects until the next budget cycle and delaying WSDOT Public Transportation program grants until the 21-23 biennium.

WLA Session Mostly Positive With Some Disappointments

WLA had a short but busy session, fortunately mostly positive but sadly we lost our major ask for school libraries. Below is a quick summary of our key activities this session:


SB 6305 – Library Districts: This bill was a key priority for both the Public Library Districts and WLA so we worked together to get this passed. The bill extends the maximum term of nonvoter approved general obligation bonds for a library district from six to 20 years. It also allows a county legislative authority to submit a single ballot proposition for establishing a library capital facility area and authorizing financing of library capital facilities. This bill allows public library districts to do more with low- interest bonds and will reduce confusion for voters by allowing one vote rather than two.
Thanks to the hard work of Senator Marko Liias, hiccups surrounding wording in the bill to ensure constitutionality and timing for libraries going out for bonds close to the implementation dates of the bill were addressed. The bill passed the Senate 41-7 then passed the House 73-23. The Senate concurred with the House amendments and the Governor signed the bill. It takes effect June 11, 2020. Any elections already in the works before that date are not impacted.

SB 6312 – Nonprofit Fundraising Tax: This was a simple bill sponsored by Senator Hans Zeiger that makes the currently library fundraising tax exemption permanent. This what is known as a “good little bill.” It passed both the Senate and the House almost unanimously (1 NO vote in each house) and was signed by the Governor.

SSB 6670 – Discover Passes in Libraries: The final bill that WLA was instrumental in helping to pass was a bill to provide money so that State Parks can provide at least two library discover passes, once each calendar year, to any library that submits a request. State Parks is not required to replace any library discover pass that is lost or not returned. State Parks should prioritize the distribution of any additional library discover passes to libraries that also check out outdoor equipment, such as backpacks, binoculars, field guides, and other equipment that will enhance the patron's outdoor experience. The bill passed both houses unanimously and was signed by the Governor. It takes effect on June 11, 2020. Fortunately, the funding for this bill survived the Governor’s vetoes.


SHB 2637/SSB 6371 – Expanding School Library and Information Technology Programs: WLA’s School Library jumped into session with both feet to pass a bill that would remove language in the current law allowing school district to avoid spending resources on school libraries. Washington is a forward-thinking state with a law that clearly states school boards should provide resources for school library information technology programs – and with FTE money and the $20 per student for library materials coming from the state, the resources certainly exist. The problem is the law requiring school boards to provide the resources includes the language “as they deem necessary” – which many districts are using to avoid having important school library services that benefit teaching and student success. WLA’s bill would have removed this language and also added provisions to help determine what is happening with school libraries now and how to help districts that do not have libraries get them set up. The original bill also included additional funding for school librarians but the cost of this provision ($245 million) was too large for legislators to support.

Although WLA provided great testimony, resources and grassroots support, in the end legislators did not move the bill forward for a vote. The reason we were given was that they wanted to focus on putting more effort into school counselors. They did pass a bill requiring school counselor programs but in the end the Governor vetoed the money appropriated for additional school counselors.

SHB 2414 – Digital Equity: WLA testified and worked with Rep. Mia Gregerson on this bill that focused additional money and efforts to create grants to help increase access to broadband and digital services for people of color and disenfranchised persons around the state. This bill also had a large price tag and did not pass out of the House Appropriations Committee. Fortunately, we were able to get $50,000 into the budget to help the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Washington State Office of Equity develop a plan for a program that would promote skills, knowledge and awareness around issues of digital equity for families with school age children. That money survived the Governor’s veto and is extremely needed now that we know the difficulties families are having with access to digital learning.

SHB 2661 – Child Care and Early Development: This bill would have expanded accessible, affordable child care and early childhood development programs across the state. WLA higly supported this approach to expanding early learning but opposed a change to the make up of the state Early Learning Council. In the bill, they changed the current WLA representative position to be a position for an organization “supporting literacy.” WLA testified in the committee about the importance for libraries in early learning beyond simply literacy. After our testimony the bill was quickly amended to reinstate the WLA position on the Council. Unfortunately, this bill too was considered “too expensive” and did not survive the House Appropriations Committee. Early Learning was a significant recipient of funds in the operating budget but did suffer under the Governor’s COVID-19 vetoes.

ESSB 5504 – Peer Reviewed Journal Access: WLA thought this would be the year to finally pass the Peer Reviewed Journal Access bill, particularly with the extra dollars in the initial budget forecast. We testified in the Senate and then again in the House. We worked with the sponsor, higher ed institutions, and the Secretary of State’s office to try and pass this bill but, in the end, it too died in the House Appropriations Committee and was not resurrected in the budget.

Media Literacy Budget Proviso: WLA worked with Senator Marko Liias to draft and get put in the budget $70,000 in grant dollars to help with media literacy projects in library programs. This proviso and the dollars were vetoed as part of the Governor’s COVID-19 vetoes.

Moving Ahead to 2021

WLA remains ready to fight again for school libraries, peer reviewed journal access, expanded broadband, digital equity, media literacy and all the other battles we have not won yet. However, next year will need to be a time of clear focus and recognition of the budget challenge that will be faced after we get through the shut-downs that have occurred this year. Businesses that provide tax revenue to the state are not selling goods. People who are unemployed will continue to need assistance. It will behoove WLA to focus the 2021 Legislative Agenda on things that we know benefit our communities. School library information technology programs provide the resources and infrastructure for a quicker move to digital learning for students, academic libraries assist with the same in the higher education environment, and public libraries provide broadband, workforce, business assistance, and other connections for the state’s citizens. All of these put libraries at the forefront of our state’s economic recovery. Working with legislators and ensure that our legislative asks reflect this bigger picture will be very important. Ensuring that libraries are able to get the resources they need to provide these important services will be very important. Grassroots will be the key.

WLA Bill Status & Upcoming Events Report

Click here to view a weekly report of bills being tracked by the Legislative Committee.

WLA Library Legislative Day

On February 5, 2020, librarians, trustees and library supporters will gather in Olympia to visit with legislators and share their stories about how libraries support the educational attainment levels of Washingtonians and contribute to the health of local economies.

Past Legislative Days

2018 Library Legislative Day | 2017 Library Legislative Day | 2016 Library Legislative Day | 2015 Library Legislative Day | 2014 Library Legislative Day | 2013 End of Session Report | 2012 Legislative Session Final Bills

Fact Sheets and Issue Briefs

WLA Legislative Planning Committees

2018 Legislative Committee | 2016 Legislative Planning Committee | 2015 Legislative Planning Committee | 2011 Legislative Session Report | 2010 Legislative Session Report | 2009 Legislative Session Report | 2008 Legislative Session Report | 2007 Legislative Session Report

Resources & Links

Washington State Legislature

Washington State Legislature
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Member Rosters & Information
Bill Information (includes links to the text of Initiatives)
Legislative District Map
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How a Bill Becomes a Law

Federal Library Legislation Links

ALA Washington Office
District Dispatch (ALA Washington Office Blog)
Subscribe to ALA Washington Office Newsline (ALAWON)
Legislative Action Center
Children’s Internet Protection Act from ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and Washington Office.

Library Advocacy Resources

Legislators and Libraries A Guide for Improving and Maintaining Communications
Building Legislative Support – Winning Library Champions
Advocating in a Tough Economy Toolkit