NFIB Washington Legislative Update | Week 7

Date: February 26, 2021

Victory! NFIB helps win PPP tax conformity

State Director Patrick Connor reports from Olympia on the legislative and political week ending February 26

First, some good news. Gov. Jay Inslee signed HB 1095, an NFIB priority, on February 19. The legislative website still (incorrectly) shows the bill as “delivered to the governor,” but no action taken by him. HB 1095 exempts from the state’s B&O tax those grants made by governmental entities during a declared state of emergency. This means more than 100,000 Washington businesses that received a federal PPP loan, as well as those who were awarded EIDL advances, Working Washington Small Business Grants, and the like, will not have to worry about a surprise tax bill from the state. NFIB thanks the governor for signing this crucial legislation, the bill’s prime sponsor Rep. Amy Walen, and the Department of Revenue, which worked with NFIB to identify and propose a legislative solution to this potential problem. The bill passed both the state House and Senate unanimously.

In other legislative news …

Monday’s fiscal cut-off saw a flurry of activity as the House Appropriations Committee worked to pass nearly two dozen bills that day, and the Senate Ways & Means Committee advanced 40 others.

Action shifted to the House and Senate floors Tuesday. Each chamber has been putting in long hours holding virtual debates on bills and numerous amendments. Thursday, the House was in session until 11 p.m. or so, and Senate didn’t adjourn until 11:45 p.m. The House is scheduled to continue working through the weekend.

In advance of floor action, NFIB submitted our priority vote lists to each chamber. Senate priority list here, House priority list here.

#OpenSafeOpenNow

Thursday, the governor announced all regions of the state will remain in Phase 2 for the next several weeks. No specific timeframe was given for the next announcement of any advances or regression. The governor still has not released any information about what Phase 3 will look like, or when metrics and permitted activities for Phase 3 or beyond will be made public.

Environment
  • HB 1091, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard bill, could be sent to the House floor for a vote at any time. NFIB opposes the bill.
  • SB 5126, the governor’s cap-and-trade bill, was approved by the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee on Thursday, and sent to Ways & Means, well after the policy committee cut-off. This indicated the bill has been deemed “necessary to implement the budget” (NTIB), and is exempt from normal deadlines. NFIB opposes the bill.
Health Care
  • SB 5149, the additional monthly tax on health insurance policies, hasn’t yet advanced from the Senate Ways & Means Committee, but it appears likely that this bill will continue to be in play as budget negotiations progress. NFIB opposes the bill.
  • SB 5399, forming a universal health care commission to implement a state-financed, public-private healthcare delivery system, is eligible for consideration by the full Senate. NFIB opposes the bill.
Labor
  • HB 1073 and SB 5097, expanding Paid Family & Medical Leave definitions and coverage, both continue to advance. The less troublesome House Bill is still in House Rules, while the damaging Senate Bill is eligible for floor action at any time. SB 5097 would strip all small business protections from the law, requiring employers to both hold jobs for workers taking leave, and continue providing health insurance benefits to those same workers during their absence. NFIB opposes the bills.
  • HB 1076, allowing bounty-hunting trial lawyers to sue employers over alleged violations of nearly a dozen workplace laws, is currently in House Rules, but expected to move to the House floor. NFIB has issued an Action Alert asking members to contact their state representatives, requesting they oppose the bill. California calls its qui tam bill the Private Attorneys Generals Act (PAGA). Employers in that state have already been subjected to costly nuisance suits for minor errors, where no workers have suffered any harm. Trial lawyers get rich from these greenmail schemes while small businesses suffer, and workers and the state receive little or no compensation for the “harm” alleged in these lawsuits. NFIB opposes the bill.
  • HB 1097, the governor’s so-called “worker protection” act, is also eligible for a floor vote in the House. The Department of Labor & Industries and governor’s office did accept some changes NFIB and others suggested, but the bill remains an unnecessary and costly burden for the state’s employers. NFIB opposes the bill.
  • SB 5115, Sen. Karen Keiser’s “Health Emergency Labor Standards Act” (HELSA) passed the Senate this week after substantial amendment. The bill would establish troublesome precedents, but would expire once the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted. NFIB continues to have concerns about the bill.
Tax & Fiscal
  • HB 1332, granting a local property tax deferral for businesses suffering substantial losses during the pandemic, is also eligible for consideration by the full House of Representatives. NFIB supports this bill.
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