Olympia Report: Endorsements, Child Care, and Electric Buses


This article first appeared in the authors’ Washington Observer, an independent newsletter on politics and government.

State Sen. Emily Randall is rolling out some prominent national PAC endorsements in her bid for the U.S. House seat soon to be vacated by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-6). The Bremerton Democrat’s campaign got nods from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and as of today, the Latino Victory Fund. 

Planned Parenthood’s blessing is particularly significant because both Randall and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz are running as champions of abortion rights. The Hispanic Caucus’ political arm, CHC BOLD PAC, played a hand in Democrat Marie Glusenkamp Perez’s surprise victory in the 3rd Congressional District in 2022. 

Photos courtesy of the Randall and Franz campaigns

Franz, meanwhile, is about to roll out the endorsement of the National Organization for Women. Franz started the endorsement game strong when she pivoted into the race out of a bid for governor, winning endorsements from Kilmer, former Rep. Norm Dicks, and a host of local officials. She’s also racked up a series of endorsements from labor unions, including the Washington Machinists Council, and Native American tribes, including the Tulalip Tribes.

The race for the 6th, which stretches from Tacoma up through the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas, is likely to be effectively decided in the August primary. Although State Sen. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, is in the race, Democrats have held the district for decades.¹ (By Paul Queary)

Tax and fee help for childcare providers

A bill that seeks to ease the financial burdens on childcare providers is likely headed to the House floor. Senate Bill 6038 from Senator Claire Wilson, D-Auburn, takes on the complex and expensive childcare challenge in two ways. The bill cleared the House Finance Committee earlier this week.

First, it would expand an existing business and occupation tax exemption for providers caring for younger children. Current law offers the B&O exemption to providers caring for children under age 8, with providers for older children paying a preferential B&O rate. The proposed bill would exempt childcare providers offering services to children 13 and under outright through 2035. 

The bill would also abolish annual child care licensing fees, which for child care centers are $125 for the first 12 children and $12 per additional child, and $30 per year for home-based child care providers. The fees were waived from 2021 to 2023 due to COVID-19. 

In her remarks to the House Finance Committee, Rep. Sharon Tomiko-Santos, D-Seattle, noted that it costs $2,100 more annually to send a toddler to child care in Washington than the cost of one year’s tuition at the University of Washington.²

More ambitious and expensive childcare proposals died this year. One such measure was House Bill 1716 from Rep. Alicia Rule, D-Blaine, which would have offered businesses that provide child care to their employees a credit of comparable value on their B&O taxes. This would have been a big win for businesses. HB 1716 would have allowed businesses to offer a tremendous benefit to their employees at no cost to their bottom line. The problem? The state would have lost out on an estimated $170 million annually. The bill died in the House Finance Committee without a vote in each of the last two years. 

Mercer Island Democrat Rep. Tana Senn proposed House Bill 2322, which would require businesses that receive a preferential B&O tax rate to provide child care to their employees. HB 2322 died in House Rules. 

Employee turnover related to lack of childcare cost Washington businesses $2 billion, Santos noted. In 2021, the legislature established a new capital gains tax in part to pay for a big expansion of state support for child care and other early learning programs. (by Sara Kassabian)

Electric school bus bill clears Ways & Means

A plan to speed the transition to electric school buses made it past the budget-conscious Senate Ways & Means Committee on Monday. House Bill 1368 from Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, tasks the state Department of Ecology to administer a grant program, paid for by the Climate Commitment Act, to fund the transition for school districts from diesel to zero-emission school buses. 

Money from the $14 million ecology grant program is divvied up based on school district need, as determined by the proportion of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch and rural school district status — both indicators of student poverty. 

The grant program would prioritize electrifying school buses in school districts that are disproportionately burdened by air pollution and those running school buses manufactured before 2007. Once the cost of operating diesel-engine school buses is equal to or more than the cost of running electrified buses, school districts will be required to transition to greener transportation. 

The first version of the bill required all public K-12 school districts to purchase zero-emission school buses by 2035. As negotiations continued, the mandates on school districts were dropped in favor of a gradual process.

This is a health equity issue as much as an environmental issue. Students in historically redlined neighborhoods are more likely than students elsewhere to have respiratory illness due to exposure to pollutants. Electrifying school buses is one way to reduce emissions and help schoolchildren breathe cleaner air, but the up-front cost will be steep for even the most affluent school districts. (by Sara Kassabian) 

Transit-oriented development derails (again)

Would-be homeowners dreaming of living in dense, transit-rich neighborhoods will have to wait at least another session to see legislation mandating that hit the books. Once again, a bid to build denser housing around mass transit died on Monday in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. 

House Bill 2160 from Rep. Julia Reed, D-Seattle, was an attempt to promote affordable housing around existing or future transit stops around Puget Sound. The bill hit a big wall like its predecessor last year.

The intricacies of HB 2160 are many. Many local governments are opposed to transit-oriented development (TOD) mandates, and there’s a debate about how much of the housing should be reserved for lower-income folks. Per a striking amendment from the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Monday from Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, at least a few of the finer details that more than likely killed the proposal included lowering the bill’s minimum affordability requirement from 10% to 5%—aimed at appeasing the market-rate housing people, but something progressives likely frowned on.

Relatedly, a simple follow-up bill to the Year of Housing got more complicated. House Bill 2321 from Rep. Jessica Bateman, D-Olympia, would have combining bus rapid transit stops under construction with existing stops, for purposes of housing density.


  1. The district isn’t blue enough that it’s likely to advance both Randall and Franz to the general, but whichever Democrat advances would have a structural advantage thanks to Democratic strongholds in Tacoma and Kitsap County.
  2. The Observer’s Sara Kassabian is in this market, and she reports it’s more like out-of-state tuition.
Paul Queary
Paul Queary
Paul Queary, a veteran AP reporter and editor, is founder of The Washington Observer, an independent newsletter on politics, government and the influence thereof in Washington State.


  1. With governments in the red, get ready for an era where politicians score points with constituencies by introducing pet projects, knowing they will die for lack of funding. “Funeral homes” will do a lot of business this way. It used to be that cities and school districts passed goodies, hoping the Democratic hold on Olympia would bail them out. No more: it’s a killing ground now, as the article makes clear.


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