NFIB Washington Legislative Update | Week 10

Date: March 19, 2021

Odd bill for a chairman of the House "Civil Rights" Committee to sponsor?

State Director Patrick Connor reports from Olympia on the small-business agenda for the legislative and political week ending March 19

Legislative committees continued public hearings and executive sessions this week, as they will next week, in advance of the Friday, March 26, policy committee cut-off.

Both chambers are expected to release their operating and transportation budget proposals early next week, setting the stage for final budget negotiations to begin. Between this week’s surprisingly strong revenue forecast, and passage of the federal American Rescue Plan, budget writers have plenty money to spend, and proponents of new or increased taxes have lost most of their key arguments, save “regressivity” and “tax fairness.”

Despite the lagging lockdown of much of the state’s small business economy, revenue growth has almost fully rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Washington State Wire. Moreover, the federal government is expected to provide nearly $7 billion to Washington’s state ($4.25 billion) and local governments ($2.66 billion) in the latest stimulus bill.

Small Business Day 2021

Thanks to our sponsor, Rock Point Oysters, NFIB will be hosting a virtual Small Business Day next Wednesday, March 24, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Guests include:

  • Nick Streuli, External Affairs Executive Director, Office of Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Senate Republican Leader John Braun (NFIB member)
  • House Finance Committee Chair Noel Frame

Click here to register.

Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Contact Senior Grassroots Manager Stacy Jenkins for details.

#OpenSafeOpenNow

It appears the entire state is still poised to enter Phase 3 reopening, effective Monday, March 22.

Not much more is known about what Phase 4 may look like, or when it could begin.

NFIB members will be discussing this with Gov. Jay Inslee’s executive director for external affairs, Nick Streuli, during next Wednesday’s virtual Small Business Day.

Environment
  • HB 1091, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), passed the Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee on Tuesday, and has been referred to the Senate Ways & Means Committee. A hearing before that panel has not yet been scheduled. NFIB opposes the bill.
  • SB 5126, Gov. Inslee’s cap-and-trade bill, may have hit a speed bump in the Senate Ways & Means Committee where it was scheduled for executive session on Thursday, but no action was taken. As a revenue bill, it is exempt from deadlines, so don’t count this one out yet. NFIB opposes the bill.
Health Care
  • SB 5149, the governor’s health-insurance tax increase proposal to fund foundational public health, remains stalled in the state Senate. It appears dead, at least for this year, thanks to continued opposition from the building trades unions. NFIB also opposes the bill.
  • SB 5399, establishing a commission to plan and implement a state-based universal health care system, was heard in the House Health Care & Wellness Committee and is scheduled for executive session next week. NFIB opposes the bill.
Labor
  • HB 1076, allowing qui tam bounty hunter lawsuits against employers for alleged violations of nearly a dozen workplace statutes, passed the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee this week. It is headed to the Senate Ways & Means Committee next. Rep. Drew Hansen, the measure’s sponsor, emailed a candid defense of the bill to an NFIB member who wrote him expressing concerns. Hansen admitted the purpose of the bill is to allow unions or other third parties to sue employers so workers don’t have file complaints or lawsuits themselves for fear of retaliation. This would circumvent the state’s own complaint process, and deny employers the right to face their accusers directly. That’s a questionable constitutional approach, particularly coming from the chair of the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee. NFIB opposes the bill.
  • HB 1097, Gov. Inslee’s so-called “worker protection” bill, won approval by the Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee, and was sent to the Senate Rules Committee for further action. NFIB opposes the bill.
  • HB 1455, restricting state agency release of workers’ full social security numbers on certain correspondence to employers or other parties, also passed the Senate labor committee, and was sent to Senate Rules. NFIB supports this bill.
  • SB 5097, a watered-down expansion of the definition of “family” member in the state’s Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) law, was approved by the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee. It has not yet been officially referred to House Rules. NFIB remains slightly concerned about the expansion, but we are not actively opposing the bill.
  • SB 5115, the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act, and SB 5190, providing presumptive unemployment and workers’ compensation coverage for health care workers during a disaster, were both scheduled for executive action this week in the House labor committee, but only SB 5190 has so far emerged. The two bills provide somewhat different benefits for the same health care workers, creating conflicting and confusing obligations upon those workers’ employers. It appears those conflicts are being worked through by the committee. NFIB continues to monitor the progress of both bills.
  • SB 5355, allowing workers to place wage liens on the private, personal property of an employer, as well as the employer’s spouse and estate, is scheduled for executive action in the House labor committee next week. NFIB opposes the bill.
Tax & Fiscal
  • HB 1332, requiring counties to allow property tax deferrals for businesses suffering 25% or greater revenue loss in 2020, was heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee early this week. It is scheduled for executive action Monday. NFIB supports the bill.
  • SB 5096, establishing a capital gains tax, was heard this week in the House Finance Committee. Of the 4,002 signing-in on the bill, 60% were in favor, the Washington State Wire reported. NFIB submitted written comments requesting amendments to more fully protect the value of the sale of a small business from the tax. That letter is attached. While the bill has not yet been scheduled for executive action, it is exempt from normal deadlines, and could advance at any time. NFIB is continuing its work to protect small-business owners from the proposed tax.

We will be discussing these and other small-business issues being considered by the Legislature with KGMI’s Dick Donahue on his “Wealth Wake Up” radio program at 11:15 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, March 20. This is our third monthly appearance on the program during the legislative session. You can listen live, online.

One final reminder … if you have not yet registered for Wednesday’s virtual Small Business Day, please do so now! Also, it would be helpful to have questions for our guest speakers submitted in advance. Please email your questions for the speakers to [email protected]

Previous Reports and Related News
Photo snip courtesy of TVW

 

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