Legislators Challenged on Their Ban-the-Box Hypocrisy

Date: March 17, 2017

NFIB priority bills continue to gain traction in Olympia

NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor reports on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending March 17

Week 10 of the legislative session saw a return to committee hearings as bills approved by the state House or Senate were considered by panels in the opposite chamber. NFIB’s priority bills continued to gain traction, while we found new ways to attack those we oppose.

Of special note, NFIB/Washington appeared on TVW’s The Impact this week discussing “ban the box,” and was quoted in the Washington Post regarding our lawsuit seeking to overturn I-1433, the minimum wage and paid leave mandate. A running list of notable media appearances is available on our website here.

Regulatory Fairness Act

Regulatory Fairness Act (RFA) (House Bill 1120) – This NFIB-supported bill was heard Friday in the Senate State Government Committee where Chairman Mark Miloscia said he intends to approve the measure next week. Also this week, an interagency work group provided the first round of materials for a new online tool that should better equip agencies to determine whether a proposed rule requires a small business economic impact statement (SBEIS). This is part of a joint legislative and administrative approach to address a state auditor’s office performance review that found significant flaws in how agencies comply with the RFA and its SBEIS requirements.

Ban The Box

“Ban the Box” (House Bill 1298 / Senate Bill 5312) – As the only business group willing to go on record testifying against SB 5312, sponsored by state Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee Chairman Michael Baumgartner, NFIB was invited to participate in a television interview on The Impact, a program broadcast on TVW, Washington state’s version of C-SPAN. The other guest was Tarra Simmons, a third-year law student who served time for a drug-related offense.

In addition, NFIB testified against House Bill 1620 Thursday. That bill would expand the authority of cities, counties, and metropolitan park districts to require criminal background checks of job applicants, employees, volunteers, vendors, and independent contractors. Moreover, the bill would allow those local governments to charge applicants for the cost of the background check if the public entity’s “budget limits its ability to reasonably absorb such costs.” Normally, NFIB would not engage on a bill like this; however, given that 61 House members, including 11 Republicans, voted to expand government’s ability to screen its workforce – and charge applicants for that review – while also voting to restrict small-business owners’ prerogative to prequalify applicants – and expecting you to eat the cost of background checks – we could not ignore the hypocrisy of the situation.

While we are sympathetic to the plight of cash-strapped municipalities and parks districts, we were compelled to oppose legislation granting tax-takers greater authority to pass along costs to others, while at the same time depriving taxpayers, whose dollars support those entities, essential tools to manage their personnel needs, and increasing both the cost and time for small businesses to do so. Also of note, HB 1620 would allow background checks for anyone handling cash or credit or debit cards at metropolitan parks district facilities. Neither ban-the-box bill allows private employers an exemption for applicants who would perform cash- or card-handling activities if hired.

Small Business Bill of Rights Inventory

Small business bill of rights inventory (House Bill 1352 / Senate Bill 5230) – The House State Government, Elections & IT Committee this week heard SB 5230 over the course of two days, due to a packed committee calendar. Tuesday, prime sponsors, Sens. Lynda Wilson and Guy Palumbo, introduced the bill. NFIB was joined by the Association of Washington Business and Independent Business Association testifying in support Wednesday. The bill is scheduled for a committee vote next week, where it is expected to receive strong, bipartisan support. The House version is in Senate Rules, awaiting referral for a floor vote.

Municipal Business Licensing

Municipal business licensing (House Bill 2005 / Senate Bill 5777) – Both bills received hearings this week, House Bill 2005 in the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee, and Senate Bill 5777 in House Finance. The bills are not identical, and House Finance Chairwoman Kris Lytton has expressed a strong preference for her version, HB 2005. It remains to be seen whether she will address any of the concerns raised by the cities, who favor SB 5777. This disagreement on language threatens to drag the bills into conference committee, keeping them in play for most or all of session.

Previous Reports and Related News Releases, Editorials

March 10 Report—Major Legislative Deadline Passes in Olympia

March 3 Report—NFIB Agenda Bills Passing by Big Margins in Olympia

February 24 Report—Key NFIB Legislative Bills Advancing in Olympia

February 22 Editorial—Good News Can Come Out of Olympia

February 17 Report—NFIB Making Long Strides in Regulatory Reform

February 16 News Release—Small Business Seeking to Toss I-1433

February 16 News Release—New Poll Shines Light on Big Small-Business Headache

February 10 Report—NFIB Only Business Group to Testify for Right to Work

February 3 Report—Competing Employer Mandates Take Center Stage

January 27 Report—Small Business Bill of Rights Inventory Legislation Advances

January 20 Report—Bill Introductions Begin in Earnest in Olympia

January 13 Report—Opening of Legislative Session Sees NFIB Charging Ahead

[Tile photo of Tarra Simmons, Patrick Connor, and The Impact host Mike McClanahan courtesy of TVW.]

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… given that 61 House members … voted to expand government’s ability to screen its workforce – and charge applicants for that review – while also voting to restrict small-business owners’ prerogative to prequalify applicants – and expecting you to eat the cost of background checks – we could not ignore the hypocrisy of the situation.

… we were compelled to oppose legislation granting tax-takers greater authority to pass along costs to others, while at the same time depriving taxpayers, whose dollars support those entities.

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