2015-2016 Victories From the 64th Washington Legislature

Date: May 17, 2017

Related Content: Victories State Washington

Stopping minimum-wage hikes, paid leave, and winning greater transparency in health-costs highlight accomplishments for small business

It took a special session for the Washington Legislature to finish all its work, but when it finally adjourned on March 29, 2016, NFIB was able to walk away with some important victories for small business.

From the 2016 half

Defeated Minimum-Wage Increase and Paid Sick and Safe Leave Proposals
Despite pressure from the Washington Restaurant Association and Association of Washington Business, the Senate was unwilling to approve a statewide minimum-wage hike and paid-leave mandate, due to NFIB’s opposition. Those groups sought a legislative referendum phasing-in a $12 statewide minimum wage, along with 24 hours of paid leave, as an alternative to an initiative expected to qualify for the November ballot that would ramp up to a $13.50 statewide minimum wage, with a paid sick leave mandate. 

Stopped Needless Regulation on Pregnancy Accommodation
Based on data showing 90 percent or more of employers already make pregnancy accommodations when requested, NFIB in concert with pro-small-business House members, drafted a bill identifying the rights and responsibilities of employers and their workers needing pregnancy accommodations. An alternative measure called for dragging small-business-owners into court for perceived discrimination. The Senate unanimously passed a bill based on NFIB’s draft. Unfortunately, the House amended that bill, this time exposing employers to litigation not just from an aggrieved worker, but from the attorney general as well. NFIB opposed the House version, which died when the Legislature adjourned.

Revised New Rule on Food Trucks
Due to NFIB’s opposition, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) was forced to negotiate substantial changes to House Bill 2443, its bill to require plan-review for all food trucks purchased out-of-state. Ten drafts later, NFIB and L&I finally reached agreement on language requiring plan-review only under certain conditions. An advisory committee will review the requirements to further reduce the list over the next year. L&I credited NFIB’s work for winning legislative approval of the bill. 

Won Seat on New Task Force to Streamline B&O Taxes, Licensing 
Thanks to House Finance Committee Chairwoman Kristine Lytton and NFIB member Sen. John Braun, the Legislature passed and the governor signed House Bill 2959, establishing a task force to recommend ways to streamline and consolidate local business and occupation (B&O) tax administration and local business licensing processes. Lytton announced the plan during NFIB’s Small Business Day in January. NFIB is specifically named as a task force member, guaranteeing The Voice of Small Business will be heard on this issue.

From the 2015 half

Won Greater Transparency of Health-Care Costs
NFIB led a statewide coalition of health-care providers, insurers, consumers, patient advocates, and small businesses to win passage of Senate Bill 5084, which now allows the state to begin building an effective All-Payer Claims Database that will empower everyone to compare quality and costs. APCDs are large-scale databases that systematically collect medical claims, pharmacy claims, dental claims (typically, but not always), and eligibility and provider files from private and public payers. NFIB was thanked for its leadership by Gov. Jay Inslee, who signed the bill into law on May 14. You can read more here.

Defeated Minimum Wage Increase
NFIB was instrumental in stopping House Bill 1355 in the state senate. The measure called for raising the state’s minimum-wage rate to $12 an hour over four years. NFIB succeeded in reminding legislators that the minimum wage is an entry-level wage, earned primarily by teens and young adults just starting their work lives, and that increasing it only eliminates opportunities to enter the workforce. NFIB also produced research showing the loss of 16,000 jobs if HB 1355 were to pass.

Stopped Paid “Sick and Safe” Leave
House Bill 1356 would have given employees at least 40 hours of accrued paid sick or safe leave per year, and for businesses with more than 50 full-time employees even “greater amounts of paid leave.” NFIB showed lawmakers the unaffordability of this to small-business owners and reminded them that leave time for any reason has always been accommodated between employer and employee. HB 1356 died in committee.

Killed Attempt To Silence Questions About Criminal History
NFIB testified against a pair of so-called “Ban the Box” bills, which would prohibit employers from asking about a job-applicant’s criminal history prior to determining they are “otherwise qualified” for a position. NFIB pointed out that the bills (House Bill 1701 and Senate Bill 5608) add time and cost to the hiring process and are an open invitation for litigation against small employers whose only crime is trying to do business in the state of Washington. Both measures were defeated.

Secured Protections for Independent Contractors
NFIB helped win passage of House Bill 1447, which Governor Inslee signed into law. It now allows the Dept. of Enterprise Services to fine poorly performing vendors in lieu of disbarring them from all contracting opportunities. NFIB Leadership Council member Dean Hartman and his brother Don led the way by crafting questions for DES to answer in order for the bill to proceed.

Preserved Right to Recover Attorney Fees
NFIB was asked by Rep. Mark Harmsworth to review House Bill 1094, a measure on biometric identifiers, not a topic NFIB would usually watch. After examining it, however, NFIB found it would strip small-business defendants who are vindicated at trial of their ability to recover attorney fees and costs under the state’s Consumer Protection Act. Working with Harmsworth and Rep. Jeff Morris, NFIB succeeded in amending House Bill 1094 to preserve a small-business owner’s right to recover attorney fees. The measure was then able to pass the House. The senate failed to act on the bill before the session ended.

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