Cut-off date concentrates light on bills helpful, harmful for small business
NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor’s report from Olympia for the legislative week ending March 10
Week nine tolled the death of dozens of bills as the 5 p.m., March 8 deadline for legislation to pass its house of origin came and went. Although bills deemed “necessary to implement the budget” are exempt from deadlines, the policy bills directly affecting small business were winnowed to just over two dozen. NFIB/Washington priority bills were unscathed by this latest cut-off.
A few bills of concern are still alive.
Paid family and medical leave (Senate Bill 5149, House Bill 1116) – Despite having technically “died” due to various deadlines, this issue is still being actively negotiated. NFIB outlined its position in a letter to the Senate last week. Since then, NFIB has been included in strategy development discussions among the broader business community, who seem to have moved in NFIB’s direction on several key tenets. Meetings March 10 and March 13 should refine the business community’s position and better determine the negotiating positions of the four legislative caucuses.
“Ban the box” (Senate Bill 5312, House Bill 1298) – On March 9, Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee Chairman Sen. Michael Baumgartner pushed through an amendment in committee replacing the House-passed bill with the text of his own bill, which barely won Senate approval, 25-24. The Senate vote fractured both caucuses due to controversy over efforts to protect the city of Seattle’s existing “ban the box” ordinance from the new statewide standards SB 5312 proposes. As the only association to testify against ban the box, NFIB State Director Patrick Connor was invited to appear on TWV’s public affairs show The Impact, where he debated Tarra Simmons who supports the legislation.
“Equal Pay” (Senate Bill 5836, House Bill 1506) – The House passed its version, 61-36, as the final bill considered before Wednesday’s cut-off; the Senate bill technically died in the Senate Rules Committee. However, the issue is still alive and being negotiated. The Association of Washington Business (AWB), Washington Retail Association, and some large tech firms have been the primary negotiators for the business community. Key sticking points remain in HB 1506, particularly the opportunity for dual litigation against employers and a prohibition on directing employees into “less favorable employment opportunities.” NFIB remains opposed to the bills.
Meanwhile, NFIB priority bills continue to move forward in both chambers.
Small business bill of rights inventory (Senate Bill 5230, House Bill 1352) – The Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee advanced HB 1352 March 9 to the Senate Rules Committee without a public hearing. It previously passed the identical Senate version on a unanimous vote, as did the full Senate. Speaking of the Senate version, SB 5230 is scheduled for public hearing in the House State Government, Elections & IT Committee March 14, and approval in executive session the following day. It will be interesting to see which bill wins approval first and is sent to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
Municipal business licensing (Senate Bill 5777, House Bill 2005) – Both bills are scheduled for a public hearing next week. HB 2005 will be heard in the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee March 16, while SB 5777 is scheduled for hearing the next morning in House Finance. The bills are not identical, so there is a possibility a conference committee will be necessary unless NFIB, AWB, and the Association of Washington Cities can reach agreement on one version, and persuade prime sponsors Rep. Kris Lytton and Sen. Sharon Brown to concur.
Regulatory Fairness Act update (House Bill 1120) – This measure is also scheduled for hearing next week. The Senate State Government Committee will take up the legislation Friday morning, the same time House Finance will be hearing SB 5777 on municipal business licensing. Given the bill passed the House unanimously, Senate passage is expected.
Aside from the bills discussed above, the key outstanding issue looming over the session is what a budget agreement, which must include education funding enhancements, will look like. Thus far, there is no specific tax plan moving forward in either chamber, although whispers of a B&O tax increase, carbon tax, and/or capital gains tax continue to haunt the halls of the Legislature.
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[Tile photo of Sen. Michael Baumgartner courtesy of Washington State Senate Republican Caucus]