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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Plastic silverware, capital gains tax and more: Here’s a look at Washington laws going into effect next year

The Washington state Capitol in Olympia. New laws governing school mascots, plastic silverware and voting rights for convicted felons are set to go into effect Saturday, the first day of the new year.   (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review)
The Washington state Capitol in Olympia. New laws governing school mascots, plastic silverware and voting rights for convicted felons are set to go into effect Saturday, the first day of the new year.  (JESSE TINSLEY/The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

OLYMPIA – A new year sometimes means new laws go into effect in Washington, and this one will include changes to taxes, school names and the way you order takeout.

Most laws go into effect as soon as they are signed or 90 days after the end of last session. Most bills from last session went into effect July 25.

But some begin implementation on Saturday. Here’s a look at what those are:

Single-use plastic silverware

Beginning in 2022, ordering food at a restaurant may mean having to ask for utensils.

Food service businesses can only provide single-use serviceware upon request. That includes plastic utensils, straws, condiment packaging or cup lids.

The change was part of a law signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in May. It’s the first of multiple changes being phased in over several years.

By 2023, the state will require minimum recycled content in trash bags and beverage bottles. In 2025, the state will require recycled content in plastic bottles used for household cleaners and personal care. In 2028, plastic milk bottles and small plastic wine bottles will be included.

In 2023 and 2024, the state will begin restricting the use of Styrofoam products, such as packing peanuts and food service containers.

After a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the plastic bag ban went into effect Oct. 1. Businesses must now charge 8 cents per bag for customers wishing to use one.

Voting rights for those convicted of felonies

Beginning Saturday, those who were convicted of a felony in Washington, another state or federal court will have their voting rights restored automatically, as long as they are not imprisoned.

Those currently on parole or under some community custody will be able to vote in all elections, beginning in 2022.

Once their right to vote is restored, residents still must register to vote. To do so, visit the Secretary of State’s website for more information. They can also vote in person at their county elections department or at

No certificate of discharge is required to have voting rights restored.

Capital gains tax

The long-controversial capital gains tax goes into effect Saturday, although there’s still some time before payments are due.

The tax on capital gains became law in May. It implements a 7% tax on the sale of stocks, bonds, some property, businesses and other investments, if the investments exceed $250,000 annually. Some exceptions include the sale of real estate, livestock and small, family-owned businesses.

The money is expected to go toward education and child care.

While the tax goes into effect in January, payments won’t actually be made until early 2023, and before they do, the tax has a long road in the courts.

Opponents call the tax an unconstitutional income tax and are asking the courts to say so, with multiple lawsuits currently filed in court.

The lawsuits have been consolidated into one being heard in Douglas County. A hearing is currently scheduled for February, and afterward a judge will rule on its constitutionality.

But the case will likely be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, which could give the final ruling on the manner. It could take much of 2022 before a decision is reached.

If the tax is deemed unconstitutional, lawmakers will have to find a new funding mechanism for the child care and education investments.

Long-term care tax

A new payroll tax for long-term care was set to go into effect Saturday, but after opposition and concerns, the Legislature has delayed the collection of the tax.

The program requires state workers to pay 0.58% of their wages into the fund. Those who qualify can access a state-run benefit up to $36,500 beginning in 2025. The benefit can be used for a number of long-term care benefits, such as professional in-home care, facility care, equipment, training or meals.

Employees can only opt out if they purchase a long-term care insurance plan to do so.

Inslee ordered the state Employment Security Department not to collect the tax from employers, who were set to begin withholding money from workers’ paychecks starting Saturday.

Employers may still begin collecting money from workers’ paychecks, but the state will not collect the money from employers. Legislators strongly encourage employers also to pause collecting the money until they can come into session and delay the bill. The state will not be punishing employers for not withholding the tax, Inslee said in a statement.

The Legislature reconvenes Jan. 10 and will likely vote to delay the program through the 2023 legislative session in an effort to give them time to fix the program.

If the Legislature fails to change the law, Inslee said the state will be required to then collect the money from employers as the law requires.

Native American names

Beginning Saturday, public schools are no longer allowed to use Native American names, symbols or images as mascots, logos or team names in most cases.

The bill, which was signed in April, gave schools time to phase out the use of any names or symbols, unless the district consults with the appropriate tribe on its use.

Spokane Public Schools started the process this spring. The board voted in May to retire the mascots at North Central and Garry Middle School. North Central’s mascot is now the Wolfpack, and Garry’s is now the Ravens.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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