Legislative Deadline Dooms NFIB’s Small Business Bill of Rights

Date: March 10, 2020

Session ends Thursday, March 12. Special session not expected.

State Director Patrick Connor reports from Olympia on the legislative activity as of March 9

Dozens of bills died as a result of the 5 p.m. Friday, March 6, opposite chamber cut-off (deadline for House bills to pass the Senate, and vice versa). Unfortunately, that included Senate Bill 6408, NFIB’s Small Business Bill of Rights.

NFIB appreciated the calls and emails its Leadership Council members directed to House Speaker Laurie Jinkins and Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, urging them to move SB 6408 from the House Rules Committee to the floor for a vote. The bill was pulled from Rules to the 2nd reading calendar, but not scheduled for a vote before Friday’s deadline.

The Senate and House both met Saturday to begin resolving differences resulting from amendments made by the other body. That process, along with finalizing the supplemental budgets, will consume the remaining days of this legislative session.

Thursday, March 12, (Day 60) is the constitutional deadline to adjourn the 2020 session. At this time, a special session is not expected to be necessary.

Here are the bills of interest to small business that are still alive as of Monday, March 9:

  • HB 1110, Low Carbon Fuel Standard – While the bill did not advance from the Senate Transportation Committee, that committee’s proposed substitute contained new revenue and spending requirements. That could allow the bill to be classified as “necessary to implement the budget” or “NTIB,” and exempt it from deadlines. As such, don’t count on this bill dead until the Legislature actually adjourns. NFIB remains opposed.
  • HB 1888, limiting public disclosure of public employee information – Various amendments won the bill strong bipartisan votes in both chambers, despite the bill’s central goal of preventing public employees from being notified of their constitutional right to leave or decline to join a union. NFIB remains opposed. The bill is headed to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
  • HB 2308, requiring employers to report worker job titles – The bill passed both chambers with bipartisan support, although many Republicans voted against the bill despite NFIB’s neutral position. It now heads to Governor Inslee for his signature.
  • HB 2409, increasing workers’ compensation penalties and licensing requirements – NFIB still opposes the bill despite a Senate-approved amendment:
    • Doubling penalties and adding a three-year CPI adjustment, instead of tripling penalties and pegging automatic increases to wage inflation, as the trial lawyers initially proposed;
    • Providing some flexibility for the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) to waive penalties for de minimus and paperwork violations;
    • Requiring third-party administrators used by self-insured employers to be licensed by L&I;
    • Eliminating the punitive and undefined “fair conduct” provision sought by the trial bar.

The House concurred with the Senate amendment. The bill now heads to the governor for his signature.

  • HB 2457, health care cost transparency board – The House concurred with a Senate committee amendment slightly modifying the requirements for board membership. NFIB supports the bill, which is headed to the governor for his signature.
  • HB 2948, King County head tax – Rumor has it that negotiations between Big Labor, Big Business, King County and its cities broke down last week. The bill has a clause making it NTIB, so there is a possibility it could be pulled from the House Finance Committee to the House floor for a vote before session ends. Several tax bills were jammed through the Legislature during the last 72 hours of session last year, so while its resurrection appears rather unlikely, we’ve learned never to count a tax bill out before the final gavel falls. NFIB opposes the bill.
  • HB 2957, authorizing the Department of Ecology to reduce carbon pollution through a new Clean Air Rule – This bill was introduced, then heard and approved by the House Appropriations Committee all on the same day last week (March 2). It was then sent to Rules where it appears to be dead for the session. NFIB opposes the bill.
  • SB 5402 (new), tax administration technical correction bill – Two NFIB-supported bills, HB 2749 and HB 2867, requested by the Department of Revenue (DOR) that failed to pass the Senate by cut-off were added by the House as amendments to SB 5402. HB 2749 would have provided the city of Kent with a one-year extension for joining the FileLocal consortium to process its municipal B&O tax collections and business licenses. HB 2867 would have moved the date interest begins accruing for annual B&O-tax returns filed after the new April 15 deadline. NFIB supports this bill, which now includes HB 2749 and HB 2867. The bill passed the House and will return to the Senate for a concurrence vote.
  • SB 5887, waiving prior authorization for a limited number of therapeutic visits allowed in a health plan – This is a holdover from 2019. The bill would allow an individual to seek an initial consultation and up to six treatment visits by a chiropractor, massage, physical, or other listed types of therapists, without prior, concurrent or post-service authorization, if the treatment is covered by that individual’s health insurance policy. SB 5887 went directly to the Senate floor earlier in session, where it passed unanimously. It was amended in the House Health Care & Wellness Committee, and then received a unanimous vote in the House. The Senate unanimously concurred, Monday, March 9. NFIB supports the bill, which will be sent to the governor for his signature.
  • HB 6097, allowing the Insurance Commissioner to consider a health insurer’s excess surplus when approving rates – The state’s three largest nonprofit health insurers have amassed a combined $4.5 billion excess surplus. This is in addition to restricted reserves required to pay the future cost of claims or hedge against unexpected expenses or other losses. Due to an amendment by the House Health Care & Wellness Committee, the bill, which passed the Senate and House, will return to the Senate for a concurrence vote this week. NFIB supports the bill.
  • SB 6632, adjusting Business Licensing Service (BLS) fees – This bill passed both chambers over of the objections of many Republicans and now heads to the governor for his signature. NFIB supports the bill. Without it, the BLS fund will become insolvent, jeopardizing DOR’s ability to issue business licenses for dozens of cities, as well as endorsements from multiple state agencies.
  • SJR 8212, allowing investment of payroll taxes funding the Long-Term Services & Supports program. Last year the Legislature passed a new entitlement for long-term care benefits funded by a payroll tax on workers. Revenue from the new tax will be collected before benefits are available in order to build a reserve to help fund the program. Allowing these funds to be invested should delay or eliminate the need for tax increases on workers, or the imposition of a tax on employers, to fund the program once benefits become available.

Special Request From the DC Office | COVID-19 IMPACT ON SMALL BUSINESS

In response to a growing number of press inquiries, NFIB is collecting information from its Leadership Council members. If you’re willing to share your responses, please let Senior Media Manager Tony Malandra and State Director Patrick Connor know about any of the following:

  • Are you taking proactive steps to minimize exposure or otherwise address COVID-19 concerns with your employees or customers? If so, what steps have you taken?
  • Has there been any impact on your supply chain thus far?
  • Has there been any impact to your sales thus far?
  • Has there been any travel restrictions or concerns directly or indirectly impacting your business?
  • Would you allow your name, business name, and/or city to be identified, if appropriate to the media inquiry? We can also provide partial information, if you prefer, such as first name and city, or business name and city. Let us know how you’d like to be identified, if at all.

ICYMI: The NFIB Small Business Legal Center has posted a helpful article on the topic, How Small Business Can Prepare for Coronavirus.

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Photo courtesy of TVW

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