Weekend work for lawmakers as important March 9 deadline looms
State Director Patrick Connor reports from Olympia on the small-business agenda for the legislative and political week ending March 5
Floor action continued in both chambers this week. The state Senate is scheduled to work tomorrow (Saturday), when its capital gains tax proposal is expected to be debated. The state House has possible floor sessions slated for both Saturday and Sunday. The deadline for legislation to pass its house of origin is 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 9.
A summary of key bills affecting small business that won approval this week are discussed below.
Small Business Day 2021
Thanks to our sponsor, Rock Point Oysters, NFIB will be hosting a virtual Small Business Day on March 24, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.
- Nick Streuli, External Affairs Executive Director, Office of Governor 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.
Thursday, March 4, legislative Republicans released their “Open Safe, Open Now” plan to begin moving the state toward a full re-opening.
Under this plan, Phase 3 would begin immediately. This would allow students to return to in-person schooling, in accordance with CDC and Harvard’s School of Public Health guidelines. Restaurants, bars, theaters, museums, and other entertainment venues, indoor religious services, including weddings and funerals, as well as professional services, would be allowed at 50% capacity.
Three weeks later, Phase 4 would begin, unless local health officials determine a county has not met the necessary health metrics for a full re-opening.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee still has not announced any plans whatsoever for Phase 3 or beyond. March 23 will be the one-year anniversary of the governor’s initial COVID-19 stay-at-home proclamation.
- HB 1091—The low carbon fuel standard passed the House this week, 52-46. Five Democrats: Reps. Alicia Rule, Sharon Shewmake, Larry Springer, Pat Sullivan, and Amy Walen, joined all Republicans voting against the bill. NFIB opposes the bill.
- SB 5373 – A new carbon tax proposal was heard Thursday in the Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee. This version would impose a $25-per-ton fee, indexed to the CPI + 5%, with proceeds used for new bonding authority and other spending programs. As a revenue bill, it is exempt from normal deadlines. NFIB opposes the bill.
- SB 5399 – The Senate approved this legislation creating a Universal Health Care Commission to design and implement a publicly financed, publicly and privately administered, health delivery system. For this scheme to work, all private health insurance would have to be abolished, and those premiums converted into taxes, along with the federal government agreeing to provide the equivalent of a block grant in lieu of Medicare, Medicaid, and federal employee health insurance programs. The ballpark price tag is $60 billion per year. NFIB opposes the bill.
- HB 1073, SB 5097 – Both modifying the state’s Paid Family & Medical Leave program passed their respective chambers this week. The House bill would temporarily make it easier for workers to qualify for the program until June 30, 2022. The Senate bill slightly expands the definition of family member and would require the Employment Security Department to monitor and report on various program utilization statistics. NFIB opposes the bill.
- HB 1097 – Gov. Jay Inslee’s so-called “worker protection act” passed the House this week. The bill would:
- add daily penalties for employers refusing to comply with a stop-work order from the Department of Labor & Industries
- extend the period of time workers have to file complaints alleging retaliation
- create a grant program to assist smaller employers purchasing equipment or making capital improvements needed to comply with new safety requirements during a state of emergency.
The grant program would be funded by a diversion of workers’ compensation funds. NFIB opposes the bill.
Tax & Fiscal
- HB 1332 – The House today passed this bill requiring counties to allow local property tax deferrals in 2021 for businesses suffering revenue losses of at least 25% in 2020 compared to 2019, due to COVID-19 restrictions and closures. This is a deferral only, not a tax exemption or reduction. No interest would apply to these deferrals. NFIB supports the bill.
- SB 5096 – The Senate is expected to debate its version of a capital gains tax on Saturday. The prime sponsor has introduced a striking amendment that would exempt the first $250,000 of capital gains in a year from the 7% tax. The striking amendment would also exempt the sale of a small business from the tax if the firm is a qualifying family-owned business with worldwide gross revenues of $10 million or less during the 12 months preceding the sale of the business. There is no cap on the number of workers a qualifying small business may employ. The tax would not apply to retirement accounts, nor to the sale of real estate, livestock (if the seller is a farmer or rancher), timber, or property covered by Sec. 167 or 179 of the Internal Revenue Code. Eight other amendments have also been filed. It is rumored an amendment by Sen. Steve Hobbs removing the emergency clause from the bill, thereby allowing a referendum to be filed, will be adopted, paving the way for the bill to pass on a largely party-line vote. NFIB has concerns about the bill.
- SB 5188 – The Senate today approved a somewhat watered-down state bank bill. This version would basically rely on investments from local, state, and tribal governments to seed a “public financial cooperative” that would lend funds to those same entities, and perhaps others. The bill passed on a largely party-line vote of 27-21. Interestingly, Sen. Tim Sheldon, who typically votes with Senate Republicans, joined Senate Democrats voting in favor of the bill, while Sen. Reuven Carlyle was the lone Democrat to oppose the bill along with all Republicans. NFIB has concerns about the bill.
Previous Reports and Related News
- February 12—Week 5: NFIB-priority PPP loan conformity passes Legislature. NFIB amendments sought, incorporated into bills on health care, taxes.
- February 5—Week 4: NFIB amendment adding small business representation on the state Department of Commerce grant committee accepted in legislative bill.
- January 29—Week 3: NFIB wins protection for small-business owners in Consumer Protection Improvement Act lawsuits
- January 23—Week 2: Legislative Report. House passes NFIB-backed B&O tax exemption for PPP, EIDL loans
- January 15–Week 1: Legislative Report. Senate Bill Would Stop the State from Following the “Roadmap to Ruin”
- January 10–Spokesman-Review Guest Editorial: Inslee Agenda Seeks to Destroy Even More Small Businesses