Small Business Bill of Rights Inventory legislation steaming toward governor's desk
NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor reports from Olympia on the small-business agenda for the legislative weeks ending April 7, 14.
In the hours leading up to the 5 p.m. April 12 deadline for bills originating in one chamber to pass the opposite body, NFIB scored some victories and suffered a loss.
A few controversial issues, namely paid family leave and equal pay, remain alive because certain bills referenced in either the House or Senate budget proposal may be exempted from cut-off as “necessary to implement the budget” (NTIB).
The following is where the small-business agenda stands after Week 14 of the 2017 half of the legislative session.
- “Ban the Box” (House Bill 1298 / Senate Bill 5312) – Both bills are technically dead; however, the issue could be resurrected during a special session. It is too early to tell whether that will happen, or when. HB 1298 never made it to the Senate Rules Committee, despite having been approved by the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee. The Senate bill failed to be brought up for a House floor vote, even though it was eligible for consideration. This is a victory, as NFIB opposed both bills.
- Small business bill of rights inventory (House Bill 1352 / Senate Bill 5230) – Despite last-minute wrangling between House and Senate leadership that threatened to derail the bills, the Senate unanimously approved Rep. Andrew Barkis’ HB 1352, 49-0, April 12. Sens. Lynda Wilson and Guy Palumbo graciously agreed that the Barkis-Chapman version would be sent to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk, even though the House had scheduled SB 5230 for a vote before the Senate called up HB 1352. This is another victory for NFIB, which initiated the bill, negotiated with affected state agencies, secured bipartisan sponsors for companion House and Senate bills, worked closely with our lead sponsors and leadership in both bodies to ensure each bill passed its respective chamber, and pushed to get both bills eligible for consideration in the opposite house. While other business groups have already begun claiming credit, this was an NFIB project from beginning to end.
- Municipal business licensing (House Bill 2005 / Senate Bill 5777) – Sen. Sharon Brown and Rep. Kristine Lytton finally reached agreement on language this week and selected Lytton’s HB 2005 as the preferred vehicle. In another victory, the Senate unanimously approved the bill April 12, 49-0. NFIB, the Association of Washington Business (AWB), and the Washington Retail Association negotiated the issue for the business community during an interim task force, with those efforts continuing into session. The organizations worked with city representatives to ensure a bill reflecting the task force report won approval from both the House and Senate.
- Regulatory Fairness Act update (House Bill 1120) – On April 7, in another unanimous vote, the Senate approved Rep. Norma Smith’s HB 1120, 49-0. This marked another victory for NFIB, which worked closely with Representative Smith, the governor’s office, and AWB throughout the process to ensure this priority bill was approved.
- Public works bonding and retainage (House Bill 1538) – In a bitter defeat, the Senate approved this bill, 34-15, over the objections of NFIB, Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors, Building Industry Association of Washington, Independent Business Association, and other groups. If the governor signs the bill into law, HB 1538 will require prime contractors on public works projects to add any subcontractor who requests it to the prime’s retainage bond. Retainage is 5 percent of the contract price, which is withheld by the awarding agency until a public works project is complete. Construction groups asked NFIB and IBA for assistance when the bill passed the House with surprising bipartisan support. Based on input from NFIB/Washington Leadership Council members in the construction industry, NFIB agreed to join the makeshift coalition opposed to the bill seeking to protect the rights of all contractors – general and subs – to negotiate retainage and other contract provisions without undue government interference. This bill undermines the ability of general contractors to manage their bonding capacity and sets a dangerous precedent for subcontractors or suppliers in any industry to tilt the negotiating table in their favor by legislative fiat. In addition, the bill fails to solve retainage problems at the heart of the issue. It also papers over the Department of Labor & Industries’ prevailing wage section’s abysmal performance. On average, it takes the department 116 days to process and approve the Affidavit of Wages Paid, documentation necessary to close the project and seek the release of retainage. State law only gives public agencies 60 days to process final payment once a project is complete. We understand L&I also has a backlog of roughly 1,000 projects awaiting review and paperwork processing. NFIB and its coalition partners offered amendments to allow the release of retainage upon completion and acceptance of a subcontractor’s or supplier’s scope of work, as well as the creation of a task force to review and recommend changes to the retainage statute and L&I’s staffing levels and processes. Proponents, including NECA, SMACNA, IBEW, and (later) building trades unions, refused to consider any amendments whatsoever. NFIB members Sens. Lynda Wilson and Guy Palumbo deserve accolades for their efforts to bring the two sides together and working with us to develop amendments that could actually resolve the problem. NFIB member Sen. Brad Hawkins also voted “no” on the bill.
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[Tile photo of Rep. Norma Smith (see Regulatory Fairness section above) courtesy of the Washington State House Republicans website.]