Four victories for small business highlight first-half accomplishments
NFIB won passage of three priority bills during the 2017 Washington State Legislature’s regular session, and set the stage for further progress in coming sessions.
Our biggest challenges, however, were unresolved during the 105-day regular session, but will be the focus of special sessions.
As this report, the state operating budget, and any tax increases it may require, remains unresolved as the Legislature struggles to finally fulfill school funding obligations under the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. During the regular session, NFIB testified before state House and Senate committees about the harm new or increased taxes could cause small businesses.
Also, as this post, business and labor are negotiating a new paid family and medical leave insurance program for legislative approval. Big Labor and progressive interest groups will run an initiative to the people establishing this new program, likely funded entirely by a new tax on employers, if the state’s business groups refuse to agree to a bill in the Legislature this year. Based on our national policy, NFIB opposes any deal that does not exempt businesses with fewer than 50 employees, or that requires employers to pay for it. Early proposals would allow workers to take up to 26 weeks leave for the birth or placement of a child, plus 12 weeks leave for serious personal or family health issues, with workers and employers each paying half the program costs through a new payroll tax.
- Streamlining local business licensing. Small-business owners will eventually be able to go online to apply for and renew local business licenses required by more than 250 cities and towns. House Bill 2005 gives the Department of Revenue a decade to fully implement the program, but NFIB is continuing its efforts to secure a five-year timeline won in negotiations last year. The bill also gives cities two years to adopt a statewide standard for requiring local business licenses, with the goal of eliminating licensing requirements for minor, transient business activities, such as limited deliveries or service calls. In addition, the bill requires action next year to simplify local B&O tax apportionment recordkeeping rules.
- Small business bill of rights inventory. The Legislature unanimously approved House Bill 1352 requiring six selected agencies to review their laws, rules, and internal policies to identify the rights and protections afforded small business owners subject to audit, inspection, or other enforcement actions. The state attorney general will review those materials, and Washington’s Administrative Procedures Act, compile a report detailing those rights and protections, then recommend how the Legislature could improve the notice given to small-business owners in advance, or at the time of, a visit by a state agent. NFIB developed the legislation, and the lead sponsors of our House and Senate companion bills were NFIB members Rep. Andrew Barkis, and Sens. Lynda Wilson and Guy Palumbo.
- Regulatory Fairness Act update. NFIB helped shepherd House Bill 1120 into law. The bill addresses a performance audit identifying deficiencies in how state agencies prepare Small Business Economic Impact Statements (SBEIS) and consider mitigation in rule-making. In addition to the bill, the governor’s office convened an interagency workgroup to develop new tools and standards to assist agencies in this process. NFIB was part of that workgroup.
- Ban the box. NFIB again defeated legislation, Senate Bill 5312 and House Bill 1298, to prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s felony history on job applications.
- Amendments. NFIB also won amendments allowing it to be neutral on four bills that otherwise would have been harmful to small business: House Bill 1338 extending the health insurance high-risk pool, House Bill 1620 expanding local government background checks, House Bill 1797 and Senate Bill 5835 requiring pregnancy accommodation in the workplace.
2017 Legislative Overview
- 135 days in session (and counting) – 105-day regular session, one 30-day special session with another forthcoming
- 93 bills tracked; supported 46 (49 percent), opposed 36 (39 percent), monitored 11 (12 percent)
- Defeated all but one bill we opposed, a 97 percent success rate killing bills harmful to small business
- Three NFIB priority bills signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee: House Bill 1120, House Bill 1352, House Bill 2005
- The state director and NFIB members testified more than 50 times on bills and issues important to small business
- 19 NFIB members serve in the state Legislature, including current and retired members
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