community Advocacy and Support


The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS) and Tacoma Urban League (TUL) empower Black people through economic parity and strive towards social equity. Our staff work directly with Black and vulnerable people to provide wraparound resources within the context of our current political environment. The Advocacy and Community Engagement department strives to challenge systems and decision-makers to prioritize co-governance with Black and other underserved communities. During the legislative session, we prioritize the opportunity to empower the collective community to join us in this effort. 

Washington’s Black community has been promised a return to “normalcy” as attention shifts away from the pandemic and towards a currently troubled economy. Where systemic racial disparities in health exist, we reject the notion that our risks from COVID-19 pandemic are over. We reject that normalcy was ever to our benefit. We fight to be better than before. 

We must focus on access to affordable housing, reduced health disparities, economic relief, criminal justice reform and other basic needs because that leads to the safety and stability of our community.  


Our collective power in the past few challenging years made powerful gains. There has been a 60% decline in police killings across the state since reform was enacted in 2021(1). Our power passed the Working Families Tax Credit to put direct cash in the pockets of families who need them the most. With legal reform around cannabis possession, fewer Washingtonians must seek housing or work with a criminal record. Your vote and your voice made these wins possible. 

But there is still work to do. There is no separating our identity from our economic and social conditions. Our community remains disproportionately targeted by unfair criminalization, excluded from generational wealth, and harmed by housing and work policies that aim to disadvantage those previously incarcerated. Our 2023 Legislative Framework intends to ground the policies our staff and partners identified as necessary towards systemic change into five core beliefs. 

Dive into our legislative agenda!

The best way to advocate with ULMS and get real time updates is to sign up for our Advocates Network: https://p2a.co/wcmscyi 


The Path Ahead for Bills to Become Law!

The fiscal cutoff was on Friday, February 24th. This means that all bills had to be voted on and passed through the House Appropriations or the Senate Ways and Means committee. These two committees analyze bills primarily for their cost and are made up of the lawmakers that are the primary drivers of the State Budget.

After the fiscal cutoff any bills stopped moving forward during this legislative session, and those that survived were strapped with amendments to reduce their costs. So far, 44 of the bills we are tracking are still moving, while 23 (many of which are beloved bills at ULMS) are out for this legislative session. The good news is that they can still easily come back next year during the shorter legislative session, and we can continue to educate lawmakers and urge their support on a bill.
  • Our next steps are for the surviving bills get a floor vote. That means putting bills in front of every lawmaker for a vote. All surviving bills are first referred to the Rules committee. Lawmakers in this committee have the power to pull bills onto the floor.
  • Bills need to be voted on by the House of Origin cutoff, on March 7th. The house of origin refers to the legislative body, either the Senate or the House, that a bill started in back in January. Remember, bills have to be passed through both the Senate and the House to go to the governor for final approval.
  • After passing through the House of Origin the bills flip to the opposite legislative body. So, a bill that was passed in the House now goes through the entire process in the Senate (the policy committee, fiscal committee, and a floor vote) and vice versa.
  • Sometimes when a bill fails to make it through the cutoffs, the sponsoring legislator will attempt to label their bill as NTIB, Necessary to Implement the Budget. Bills labeled as NTIB aren’t subject to cutoff or passing a floor vote because they are “necessary to implement the budget” and the budget will not be complete without them. For example, a bill like the wealth tax or estate tax did not make it through their first policy hearing but may come back as NTIB if they are needed to complete the budget. This is a wonky policy tool, because it is also used liberally to keep legislation from dying. The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House have most of the say on what gets labeled as NTIB.
  • Once a bill passes through both legislative bodies, it will go to Governor Jay Inslee to sign. The Governor has the power to simply not sign bills into law, or veto certain parts of the bill before signing it into the law. Clearly the governor has a LOT of power, and if a bill is not signed into law by Inslee, it requires a 2/3 vote, or supermajority, of both the House and the Senate to force it through. We will cross that bridge in April if need be!
2023 Policy Priorities
legislative goals we support
Focus Area ONE
Grounding Our Framework: Designing Our Democracy to Work for Us

While the 2023 legislative session officially begins on January 9th, it really starts with our elections. Those who were able to participate in the election and who we elected determine what bills will be up for debate and which bills pass or fail. It all goes back to whether we are empowered to elect decision makers who work for us. As you venture through this framework ask yourself, do you like the way you vote?  

Numerous efforts to design our democracy will be moving through the legislature. 

With a jail system that targets Black and Brown communities, we hold County Election Officials accountable to ensure voting rights and equal access to the ballot in jails 

A democracy voucher is a method of public financing of political campaigns.

The program would provide Washington state residents four $25 vouchers that can be pledged to eligible candidates running for state legislative district offices. It allows eligible WA residents to participate in local government by supporting campaigns and/or running for office themselves.

Our democracy is at its best when every Washingtonian, regardless of race or income, has our voice heard and our vote counted. However, there are still almost one million eligible Washingtonians who are not registered to vote, and people of color and low-income people still face registration barriers.

We successfully fought for automatic voter registration in 2018, and now it’s time to improve our system and ensure that as many voters as possible are ready to make their voices heard in the years to come. If we upgrade our automatic voter registration system more voters would be registered automatically, including people left out by traditional methods. 

No matter which values our communities hold most dear, we all want to elect a president who shares those values. But because of our current primary election system, many are afraid to vote their conscience, thousands of votes are wasted on candidates who drop out, and the final candidates may not represent the values of the majority of their citizens. If a voter votes early for a candidate who drops out of the race before primary election day, their vote will not be wasted. 

Learn about Ranked Choice Voting through incredible student performers: https://www.facebook.com/seaurbanleague/videos/228347542762990 

Bill coming soon!

SB 5112 – Improving Automatic Voter Registration

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

SB 5208 – Increasing access to online voter registration

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

SB 5082 – Making ballots more meaningful by abolishing advisory votes

Status: Signed into law!

HB 1048 – Enhancing the Washington Voting Rights Act

Status: Signed into law!

HB 1174 – Removing barriers to jail-based voting 

Status: This bill was not heard in the House Appropriations committee.

Good News:  The House Budget extends the June 2023 deadline of a previous proviso that gave county auditors grant funding to work on expanding jail voting and hopes to implement a proviso to study best practices for implementing a jail voting plan.! The current barriers for those in jail , who are disproportionately Black and Brown, to exercise their constitutional right to vote is a major civil rights concern. Washington Voting Justice Coalition has send a letter in support to the House Appropriations Committee.

Learn more about jail voting access here.

HB 1592 – Ranked Choice Voting in the Presidential Primary

Status: This bill did not receive a single hearing, incredibly disappointing since 25% of Washington Voters mailed their ballot for a candidate who dropped out before primary election votes were counted, leaving them with no say.

HB 1755 – Expanding Democracy Vouchers statewide

Status: This bill will not receive a hearing and will not pass this session. However, a work group is being planned to educate lawmakers on this issue and prepare for next year!

Learn more about Democracy Vouchers here!

Focus Area two
Safety Looks Like Having Our Needs Met!

Everyone is talking about safety. Inflation and the economic ramifications of the pandemic have disproportionally destabilized our most vulnerable community members and anyone without the safety net of generational wealth.

As observed by Chanel Rhymes, Director of Advocacy for the Northwest Community Bail Fund, “Poverty is more visible, and people are associating that with more crime”, inciting a reversion to police and punitive justice to address safety. However, we know that the safest communities are those where the basic needs of everyone are met and where everyone is treated with dignity. 

Washington made history in 2021 when the legislature passed and funded the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), a first-of-its-kind policy for the state that will put millions of dollars back into the pockets of families. Eligible households can receive up to $1,200 per year starting February 2023.

In 2023 we are advocating to expand the Working Families Tax Credit. From young college students to seniors still in the workforce, people with low incomes are all trying to make ends meet. However, the current age range for childless workers limits the lifesaving WFTC cash to those who are 25-65 years old.

We want the legislature to increase equity by permanently allowing time limit exemptions for families experiencing hardship and eliminating time limits for child-only cases and removing the requirement for adults with disabilities to repay the state for cash assistance.

We want to improve TANF for all families by increasing access to the program and helping ensure families can earn and keep more of their grant. We also want to shift funding away from invasive and intimidating OFA investigations into increased access to DSHS benefits. 

We need a $75 million investments into the Housing Trust Fund to prioritize opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color by directing funding to the Black Home Initiative.  

We want to generate opportunities for Black Homeowners by reversing the legacies of redlining and segregation of Black communities to create more middle housing options; this must go hand in hand with requirements for cities to enact anti-displacement measures.  

Our legislature must also mitigate the risk to renters in a tumultuous economy by enforcing the obligations and protections for renters, and pass legislation to cap extreme, unfair, or abusive rent increases.  

Washington has the opportunity to take proactive steps to lift people out of poverty. We advocate to create and fund a statewide GBI pilot to ensure a baseline of financial stability for people who would benefit most from direct cash assistance. Lawmakers should go further with initiatives to build generational wealth, such as creating and investing in the Washington Futures Fund, a baby bonds program to create savings for children in low-income families. 

We will resist any efforts to criminalize our unhoused neighbors or increase punitive and inhumane drug policies that perpetuate cycles of violence for our community members dealing with substance use addiction. Our lawmakers must listen to those with lived experience and experts from the Substance Use Recovery Services Advisory Committee (SURSAC) by adopting the recommendations to decriminalize drug possession and increase investment in public health alternatives for people with substance use disorder.

HB 1140 – State Operating Budget – Homeless Services

Status: Budgets follow a different process in the legislature. Did you know that you can comment on this bill to advocate for fully funding the Housing Trust Fund and increasing homeless service provider pay.

HB 1447 – Improving access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

HB 1260 – Remove burden to repay Aged Blind and Disabled payments

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

HB 1110 – Increasing middle housing 

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

Check out this Op-Ed from Crosscut

HB 1477  – Technical fixes to the Working Families Tax Credit*

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

Anyone eligible for the working families tax credit now has THREE YEARS to collect the tax credit!  

Applications to file for the Working Families Tax Credit are open RIGHT NOW!


SB 5197 –  Providing protection for renters in eviction processes

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

HB 1474 – Creating the covenant Homeownership Account

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

Read the Seattle Times Article on the passage of this bill.

HB 1124 – Require 6 month notice for rent increases and limiting late fees

Status: This bill will not be moving forward in 2023.*

HB 1389– Prohibiting predatory residential rent practices

Status: This bill will not be moving forward in 2023.*

SB 5624 – SURSAC Recommendations to Decriminalize drug possession

Status: This bill did not pass out of the policy committee.

Bad News: Instead, the Senate chose to move forward Senate Bill 5536 which is a full return to the War on Drugs and criminalizes those with substance use disorder.

HB 1045 – Guaranteed basic income

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.

HB 1094 and SB 5125 – Creating the Washington Future Fund program (Baby Bonds)

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.

HB 1075 and SB 5249 – Expanding the working families’ tax credit 

Status: This bill was not heard in the Appropriations committee because of the high cost, which is disappointing for our youth and elders who are not included in the current tax credit and would benefit from this.

Focus Area three
How We Address Harm Can Transform Our Community

Police and the criminal legal system continue to favor harsh punishment over creating opportunities for reentry, stability, and community-based restorative justice. Abolition is a practice, and there are steps we can take to better address harm in our community within the realities of our current system that work towards this ultimate vision. 

Our communities have fought for our civil liberties and protection from punitive systems and as a result, successfully reduced the number of police killings across Washington State. We want to strengthen the ability to provide justice for victims of police misconduct and bring systemic change to departments.

One bill creates a private right of action against law enforcement for violating the Washington constitution or state law, without the shield of qualified immunity. We also want to strengthen the Attorney General’s authority to investigate and hold police departments and jails accountable where there are systemic violations of the Washington constitution or laws. 

We can refocus police efforts away from pulling drivers over for low-risk violations such as expired car tabs. The Traffic Safety For All Bill provides funding for jurisdictions to shift focus away from fees, fines and punitive enforcement and towards helping people fix their vehicles to increase compliance and road safety. The bill also restricts police from pulling people over for low-risk violations and protects people from irrelevant questioning and unnecessary searches. 

We are supporting Legal Fines and Obligations Reform that would allow thousands of Washingtonians who are struggling to pay fines and fees tied to a court case. Unpaid fines and fees keep Black, Brown, and Indigenous people from achieving financial stability, especially for youth who often enter adulthood bearing an oversized debt.

We must reduce fines and fees for people who do not have the ability to pay down their debt and ensure people are free of old debt after 10 years. 

Learn more about abolishing legal system fines and fees from the WA Possible podcast.

We are advocating end the use of long-term Solitary Confinement. As it may go by many different names, the practice of isolating a person for any amount of time without access to fresh air, comfortable quarters, and other people is inhumane.

Prolonged solitary confinement is recognized by the United Nations as torture. We support reform to limit the use of solitary confinement and establish requirements for the conditions while in confinement. This will bring the state one step closer to eliminating the practice all together. 

We also push to reform sentencing laws for both juveniles and adults to give those incarcerated more opportunities to seek an earlier release and reduce their time removed from their family and community.  

HB 1025 – Creating a private right of action for victims of police misconduct

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.*

HB 1513 and SB 5572 – Traffic Safety for All

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.*

HB 1169 – Relieving legal financial obligations

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

HB 1324 and SB 5475 – Removing prior juvenile offenses in sentencing range calculations

Status: Passed by the Legislature without retroactivity and Delivered to the Governor!

No retroactivity means that it does not allow the removal of past juvenile offenses for sentencing determinations for people who are currently incarcerated. The legislature has now fully acknowledged that punishing people twice for crimes they committed as children is wrong. But they refuse to acknowledge or redress the 25 years of harm and devastation this bad policy has caused. The prime sponsors have committed to running a bill to add retroactivity back in next year.

You can hear the story of Mylissa, her dad, and her family who are impacted by retroactivity being taken out of HB 1324.

HB 1024 – Ensuring incarcerated persons make state minimum wage and keep earned funds

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.*

HB 1325  and SB 5451– Resentencing for Juveniles and Adults

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.

HB 1087 and SB 5135 – Ending long term solitary confinement

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session. Department of Corrections requested inflated funding to simply reduce solitary confinement, lawmakers need pressure to end this inhumane practice!

HB 1432 and SB 5474 – Removing legal financial obligations for juveniles

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session. Despite the apparent smooth sailing of this bill, there were last minute concerns that came up about the community compensation fund and restitution in caucus – which is when lawmakers separate into parties to privately discuss whether to support a bill outside of the public’s eye.

You can continue to fight for this policy by joining the Debt Free Youth WA Coalition. 

Focus Area four
Our Environment is Our Health

We said it before, and we’ll say it again: Your zip code is the greatest predictor of your life expectancy. Where we are and our environment is a key deciding factor of our social determinants of health – the context of our lives in which we live, learn, work, and play. Thus, disparities in our environment often mirror those in our health. With the pandemic, protecting our health became a top priority.

At the same time, we began to closely examine how environmental justice is an intersectional issue, where social hierarchies—racism, capitalism, other –isms- drastically impact our health outcomes. 

While climate change contributes to extreme weather patterns, access to electricity is an essential basic need to the survival of people across Washington. Therefore, we support Energy for All, a policy to ensure a universal right to energy access and affordability, no matter our utility district, and supported by a statewide Energy Assistance Trust. This trust would be a permanent, independent organization that collects and analyzes critical energy consumer and provider data to gauge needs relative to services, offers technical assistance and capacity to support providers in meeting their obligations, and provides program participation assistance for eligible households. 

Bill coming soon! 

Economic disparities serve as another barrier to environmental justice. For example, while healthy full meals are essential to the development of our youth, they are not accessible to all students. Thus, we support legislation to ensure free school lunch for all public-school students. 

Affordable and reliable transportation is one of the biggest indicators for social mobility. It is essential that we prioritize state funding for the expansion of frequent and accessible public transit and set targets to build back the public transportation network, while ensuring that vulnerable communities are prioritized in the process rather than displaced.   

While energy, food, and transportation justice are some hot topics, environmental injustice appears in many different forms—the devil is in the details. Did you know that a pair of jeans requires about 10 years’ worth of drinking water? Studies have found that the fast fashion industry emits more carbon emissions than aviation and shipping combined. This year, we are supporting a bill to address the extensive use of fast fashion which would require fashion retail sellers and manufacturers to disclose environmental and social due diligence policies. 

Bill coming soon!

The recent Roe v. Wade case was an illustration of how sexism threatens the lives of women in our country and their trust in our healthcare system. Anti-abortion advocates have threatened to abuse health data to advance policies that harm pregnant individuals. This session, we are supporting a bill that advocates for strengthening health data privacy. It is imperative that we build trust in our healthcare system and allow our community members to access all forms of health information to make informed decisions about their well-being. 

SB 5101 – Concerning extraordinary medical placement for incarcerated individuals at the department of corrections

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

HB 1238 and SB 5339 – Providing free school meals for all

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

HB 1155 – Strengthen Health data privacy

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

HB 1348 and SB 5189 – Establishing behavioral support specialists

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

SB 5095 – Creating parks Rx pilot program

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.*

HB 1745 – Improving Diversity in Clinical Trials

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

SB 5120 – Establishing 23 hour crisis relief centers in Washington State

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

SB 5365 – Preventing use of vapor and tobacco products by minors.

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

HB 1469 – Ensuring access to reproductive health care services and gender-affirming treatment in Washington state.

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

HB 1181 – Environmental justice in state climate planning

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

SB 5607 – Fast Fashion

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.

Focus Area five
Follow the Lead of Our Youth

Youth voice is essential to the future leadership of our communities. Yet they are often excluded from decision making and policy conversations. We commit to following the lead of youth advocates in this legislative session and growing our network’s support for the initiatives they put forward.  

On November 14th, thousands of Seattle students held a demonstration in protest of gun violence after the fatal shooting of a student at Ingraham High School. We honor the lives of youth lost to gun violence and hear the cacophony of student voices calling for the adults and decision makers to act. We hear the call from youth loud and clear – we need gun reform now. We advocate to ban the sale of military style assault rifles and support additional efforts to hold gun buy backs to reduce the number of weapons in the community and ensure access to justice for those harmed by illegal firearms industry conduct. 

Black and indigenous youth disproportionately experience homelessness, criminalization, and are overrepresented in the foster care system. We support the roster of legislation proposed by the Mockingbird Society, including legislation to expand Extended Foster Care eligibility up to age 26 and increase the monthly payments. We must learn from their lived experience to pass legislation that protects self-determination and addresses the real needs of foster youth. 

Youth are our future and the laws passed in the legislature often lack youth perspectives and inclusion in the decision making process. Creating student advisory boards would put the onus on the government to ensure that youth from every legislative district can directly influence policy.

Students deserve to see themselves represented across all subjects at school. Public school instruction should include the contributions of ethnic and cultural groups to ensure a complete and well-rounded understanding of our history and society.

HB 1144 – Enhancing requirements for the purchase or transfer of firearms

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.

HB 1143 – permit requirements for the purchase or transfer of firearms

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor! 

Read this news article by the Seattle Medium

SB 5078 – Duties of Firearm Industry Members

Status: Passed by the Legislature and Delivered to the Governor!

HB 1479 – Concerning restraint or isolation of students in public schools and educational programs

Status: Public hearing in the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education on 3/20, no executive session scheduled and likely not to continue this legislative session.*

HB 1692 – Creating student advisory groups

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.*

SB 5441 – Diversifying public school curricula

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.

SB 5230 – Extended foster care payments expansion

Status: This bill will not be moving forward this legislative session.


Recap Our 2022 Legislative Framework