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Attorney General Takes Aim at Small Business

Date: January 31, 2014

NFIB Reports From Olympia

In his first update from the 2014 Regular Session, NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor thanks an NFIB-member state legislator for his help in protecting small-business owners against the state’s chief law enforcement officer’s attempt to deny their ability to recover attorney fees. 

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced just before session that one of his four legislative priorities is taking up Rob McKenna’s quixotic quest to strip small businesses of their ability to recover attorney fees when successfully defending themselves against litigation brought by the state under its consumer protection act.  

As we did in 2011, NFIB has again led the charge to quell the attorney general’s misguided attempt to tip the scales of justice against small business. The House version, House Bill 2055, was the first bill heard by that chamber’s Judiciary Committee. It was scheduled for executive action January 30, but no action was taken.  

The Senate companion, Senate Bill 5985, has not been scheduled for a hearing. Senate Law & Justice Committee Chairman Mike Padden is not expected to hear either bill, even if HB 2055 somehow manages to pass the House. We appreciate the work of NFIB-member Rep. Terry Nealey and fellow Rep. Matt Shea who have offered amendments in the House committee to protect small businesses and uphold their constitutional rights in consumer protection act cases.

In other issues of concern to small business.

Health Care

NFIB has engaged on several health care bills, supporting:
  • SB 6233 to provide certain self-employed small business owners limited Business & Occupations (B&O) tax relief if their health insurance premiums have increased 25 percent or more over last year’s rates
  • SB 6228 to require insurers to offer a web or app-based service that gives consumers price and quality data, deductible and co-pay information for medical procedures, as well as customer ratings from fellow policyholders about doctors and other health care providers in the insurer’s network
  • NFIB is also working with a large group of stakeholders to improve HB 2572, Gov. Jay Inslee’s health innovation grant program. Our primary interest is in the proposed all payer claims database, which would eventually allow thorough analyses and comparison of health care costs and quality measures, providing consumers and policymakers with crucial information to make better health care purchasing and policy decisions. However, we have found ourselves also engaged in efforts to better define the community collaboration grant process and eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy building in this bill.  NFIB appreciates the governor’s invitation to participate in this process.
Labor

As is generally the case, labor and employment law is the most contentious issue area in the Legislature, particularly in an election year like this. Both chambers are considering bills that will be dead on arrival in the opposite body. Nonetheless, NFIB and its members have testified on several pieces of legislation that would impact small business should they be enacted.

NFIB supports:
  • Expanding access to structured settlement agreements for all qualifying injured workers who would rather use those funds for retraining, education, starting a business or other efforts to return to gainful employment instead of accepting a workers’ compensation pension and being barred from working again. The Senate has again passed SB 5127 to give injured workers this option
  • SB 6307, preempting local wage and employment ordinances, or order to prevent a patchwork of varying minimum wages and leave mandates like those approved in Seattle, Seatac and Bellingham
  • Adopting a teen training wage including SB 6471, applying to summer work, and SB 6495, establishing a temporary training wage for teens.
NFIB opposes:
  • Mandatory paid sick and safe leave as required by HB 1313, which has again passed the House of Representatives
  • HB 2238 to require employers with more than 25 workers to provide up to three weeks of paid vacation leave
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $12 per hour, with an automatic annual inflationary increase as envisioned in HB 2672, which is scheduled for public hearing February 5 in the House Labor & Workforce Development Committee. NFIB and other business groups met with the governor to discuss our objections to this ill-advised scheme.
Taxes

Despite speculation the state Senate may not adopt a supplemental budget this year, several tax-related issues are under active consideration in both chambers. Thus far, NFIB has been able to support many of these proposals:
  • HB 2201 to simplify tax preference reporting and provide better information to evaluate the impact of these preferences on job creation and economic development.
  • Reestablishing the rural counties’ sales and use tax exemption program to encourage economic development and job creation for businesses of all sizes in at least 30 counties as proposed in HB 2204. The bill would expire upon passage of comprehensive B&O tax reform.
  • NFIB has also lent tepid support to the governor’s call to eliminate B&O tax filing requirements for businesses with gross annual revenue of $50,000 or less. While this would ease the paperwork burden and save a maximum of $750 in B&O taxes for as many as 20,000 very small businesses, NFIB has cautioned legislators that this is not true job creation or economic development legislation. The bills are SB 6318 and HB 2520.
Leadership Council Members Testify

Not even the very best professional lobbyists can match small-business owners in getting lawmakers to listen and to act. Smart legislators know that small-business owners are the most highly regarded group in America, according to Pew Research and others. NFIB/Washington thanks its leadership council members for taking the time recently to testify on bills harmful and beneficial to small business. Photos of them at work are below and above.

Selected NFIB testimony and press coverage on the above issues are available here. For more information, please contact NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor at 360-786-8675. You can also stay up to date by following us on Twitter (@NFIB_WA) and Facebook.

From left to right: NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor, Lynda Wilson of DeWils Custom Cabinets, Kelly and Jeff Chambers of Visiting Angels in Olympia and Vancouver, prepare for a day of legislative testimony.

From left to right: Lynda Wilson of DeWils Custom Cabinets; Bob Lycke, president of Kuker-Rankin; Jeff and Kelly Chambers of Visiting Angels; Erin Shannon, small-business director with the Washington Policy Institute; and State Director Patrick Connor.

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We appreciate the work of NFIB-member Rep. Terry Nealey and fellow Rep. Matt Shea who have offered amendments ... to protect small businesses and uphold their constitutional rights."

Jeff Chambers, left, owner of Visiting Angels in Olympia and Tacoma, joins NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor, right, in testimony on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and its effect on small business.

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