Two unemployment insurance relief bills introduced
State Director Patrick Connor reports from Olympia on the small-business agenda for the legislative and political week ending April 2
Greetings on this Good Friday.
Today, Friday, April 2, is the deadline for legislative fiscal committees to approve bills sent from the opposite chamber that have an impact on the budget. However, revenue (tax) bills, and other legislation deemed “necessary to implement the budget” (NTIB) are exempt from this cut-off.
The state Senate has already approved its operating, transportation, and capital budgets. The House is expected to debate, and most likely approve, its operating budget bill tomorrow, Saturday, April 3. House committees have approved that chamber’s capital and transportation bills, but they have not yet advanced for floor votes. Interestingly, the House sent the Senate transportation budget bill directly to its 2nd reading calendar, bypassing the House Transportation Committee.
- HB 1091, Low Carbon Fuel Standard – The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved the bill, yesterday, Thursday, April 1, and referred it to the Senate Rules Committee. This paves the way for Senate passage. Ways & Means did approve an amendment by Sen. Mark Mullet that lowers, and gives more time to attain, the bill’s carbon-reduction targets. An amendment by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege that ties the carbon-reduction requirements to in-state biofuel production was also added. The Mullet amendment should allow further legislative review of fuel cost-increases and program effectiveness before the Department of Ecology can increase program targets. NFIB remains opposed to the bill.
- SB 5126, Cap and Trade – The bill is now on the Senate’s 2nd reading calendar, making it eligible for a floor vote at any time. NFIB opposes the bill.
- HB 1076, qui tam bounty hunter lawsuits – The bill is scheduled for executive action today in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. It would allow workers and third parties to sue employers for alleged violations of nearly a dozen workplace statutes, even if workers suffered no harm from the alleged violation(s). NFIB opposes the bill.
- HB 1097, Gov. Inslee’s “worker protection” act – This bill would add new daily penalties on businesses operating in defiance of an L&I stop-work order, give workers more time to file complaints alleging retaliation by their employer, and divert funds from the employer-paid portion of workers’ compensation taxes to create a fund for L&I to provide safety grants to selected employers during a state of emergency. The bill is on the Senate’s 2nd reading calendar, making it eligible for a vote at any time. NFIB opposes the bill.
- HB 1568 and SB 5478, unemployment insurance relief – These bills, introduced just this week, would provide as much as $600 million in targeted unemployment insurance tax relief to employers in certain industries that have been hardest hit by shutdowns and slowdowns ordered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers in those sectors whose unemployment insurance taxes jumped at least two rate classes could see their experience-rated charges removed from their account. The Senate version, which could be approved by the Senate Ways & Means Committee today (Friday, April 2), would provide this relief to qualifying firms with up to 40,000 employees (yes, forty THOUSAND). The House bill would provide up to $350 million to qualifying firms with up to 20 employees, plus another $250 million designated for qualifying small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. It also includes many more impacted industries than the Senate version. NFIB supports both bills, but prefers the House version, which would guarantee more relief to small businesses hardest hit by the pandemic and the government’s response to it.
- SB 5046, allowing lump sum settlements for certain workers’ compensation claims – The bill was removed from the House Rules Committee and placed on the House’s 2nd reading calendar this week. The bill would help bring Washington state’s workers’ compensation system a little more in line with most other states by allowing injured workers aged 50 or older who have complex, unresolved claims to negotiate a lump sum settlement with the Department of Labor & Industries to close the claim. Historically, these types of claims effectively turned into lifetime pensions, and have been among the most costly to the system. Lump sum settlements will limit costs, and allow injured workers more freedom to determine whether to re-enter the workforce, an option previously denied to them. NFIB supports the bill.
- SB 5355, wage liens – The bill was placed on the House’s 2nd reading calendar, making it eligible for a vote at any time. If approved, the bill would allow workers to place wage liens on the private, personal property of an employer, as well as the employer’s spouse and estate. NFIB opposes the bill.
Tax & Fiscal
- HB 1332, county property tax deferrals for businesses suffering 25% or greater revenue loss in 2020 – The bill was sent to House Rules this week for further consideration. NFIB supports the bill.
- HB 1406, the Billionaires’ Tax – This bill made a surprise re-appearance, winning approval by the House Finance Committee this week. As amended, revenues from this proposed tax would be used primarily to fund an “anti-displacement property tax exemption program.” The bill was referred to the House Appropriations Committee. NFIB has not taken a position on this bill since it does not appear to impact any of our members.
- SB 5096, capital gains tax – Despite both Senate and House budgets relying on a new capital gains tax to fund various spending initiatives, the bill still has not been approved by the House Finance Committee. The topic will undoubtedly be part of final budget negotiations between the chambers. Perhaps it remains in House Finance to facilitate further modification based on the revenue demanded in the final budget agreement. NFIB has submitted suggestions to the House Finance Committee leadership for amendments to better protect the sale of a small business from the tax, if it is enacted.
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