Ergonomics is Back! Bill Would Repeal Initiative 841

Date: January 15, 2022

NFIB Washington reports on Week 1 of the 2022 session of the Legislature

State Director Patrick Connor reports from Olympia on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending January 14.

The week went largely as expected. New bills continue to be introduced, but in this short, 60-day session, it’s becoming less likely that legislation introduced after January 14 will get a committee hearing before the February 3 policy cut-off.

Small Business Day

Registration is open for this year’s virtual Small Business Day, which will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, January 26.

Thanks to our sponsors, Rock Point Oyster Co. and CA Logue Public Affairs, there is no charge to participate. However, advance registration is required. Please click here to register.

B&O Tax Replacement Survey

Washington state’s Business & Occupations (B&O) Tax is universally reviled. This tax on gross receipts is fundamentally regressive and has drawn criticism from legislative Republicans and Democrats alike. There is a growing interest in replacing the B&O tax. The question is, what do we replace it with?

The state Tax Structure Work Group is developing options to replace the B&O, but your input is needed. They’ve posted an online survey to gather feedback. It will remain open until January 31.

NFIB encourages small-business owners to complete this survey. Please note, there are two versions. You should be able to complete the short survey in 10 minutes or less. The long version could take as much as 45 minutes, but most people complete it in about half an hour. Results from the long version will be most useful, but even completing the short form will be helpful.

Health Care
  • HB 1688 and SB 5618, Balance billing – The House bill was heard this week, and its Senate companion is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee at 8 a.m. Friday, January 21. NFIB supports these bills.
  • HB 1837, Ergonomics – That’s right. Ergonomics is back. This bill would repeal Initiative 841, which prohibited the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) from engaging in rulemaking related to ergonomics requirements. In 2001, L&I imposed a sweeping ergonomics rule limiting repetitive motions workers could make during a shift, among other restrictions and requirements. For instance, the rule prescribed the amount of time a worker could swing a hammer or use a power tool during the workday. Employers estimated compliance costs at more than $750 million in 2002. With inflation alone, that cost would be nearly $1.2 billion today. Business groups sued to stop the rule and waged a successful campaign to pass I-841 in 2003. NFIB opposes HB 1837. We encourage you to testify or at least sign-in opposed to the bill. Click here for the Committee Sign In webpage. Select the House >> Labor & Workplace Standards Committee >> January 18, 10 a.m. hearing. Then choose HB 1837. You will then be given the choice to testify (by video conference), have your position noted for the record, or submit written comments. Whichever you choose, please be sure to select “CON” for your position. You might also consider making a contribution to the NFIB WA PAC. We need to begin preparing to defeat the bill sponsor(s), and possibly running another ballot measure, this fall. 
  • SB 5517, Worker cannabis use – The bill would limit an employer’s ability to terminate or refuse to hire workers based on positive drug tests for cannabis. The sponsor claims individuals can test positive long after intoxication or other impairments have dissipated. And, since cannabis use is legal in Washington state, workers should not be in jeopardy of losing a job due to recreational consumption away from the workplace. NFIB opposes the bill since it would interfere with employers’ ability to manage their workforce and maintain workplace safety. 
  • SB 5600, Apprenticeship expansion – This legislation would provide public funding to expand state-approved apprenticeship programs into a number of “non-traditional” sectors, like education, health care, hospitality, IT, and biotech. NFIB submitted written comments expressing our concerns about lack of access to traditional apprenticeship programs, particularly for non-union employees.
  • HB 1614 and SB 5533, Organized retail theft – In a letter to House Consumer Protection & Business Committee members, NFIB raised a number of questions and concerns about the House version of this legislation. The House bill had a public hearing this week, but executive action to amend and approve the bill was delayed. SB 5533 will be heard in the Senate Energy, Environment & Trade Committee during its meeting Thursday, January 20 at 10:30 a.m. NFIB will express its concerns at that hearing as well. 
  • HB 1810, Right to Repair consumer electronics – NFIB testified in favor of this bill to allow small, independent repair shops and individual electronic device owners greater access to instructions, tools, parts, schematics, etc. to repair cell phones, tablets, computers, laptops, and similar electronic devices. Our position was set based on the current member ballot, which is running nearly 64% in favor of the policy.
Tax & Fiscal
  • HB 1732 and 1733, WA Cares delay and exemptions –These bills were approved by the House Appropriations Committee on January 13 and sent to the House Rules Committee for further action. We expect the full House will vote on the measures as early as Wednesday, January 19. We are asking NFIB members to contact their state representatives, asking for a YES vote on the bills. Here’s a link to that Action Alert. NFIB supports HB 1732 and is monitoring 1733. Also, at their request, NFIB submitted a letter to Speaker Laurie Jinkins and House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan suggesting additional changes to the WA Cares program for future consideration. 
  • HB 1819 and HJR 4208, Personal Property Tax exemption – This constitutional amendment and enacting statute would increase the personal property tax threshold to $100,000 in asset value and make it available to all businesses. We are still awaiting an updated fiscal estimate from the Department of Revenue. We hope to support these bills, which are scheduled for a public hearing in the House Finance Committee on Thursday, January 20 at 8 a.m. 
  • SB 5557, B&O tax waiver for start-ups – NFIB testified against this bill on January 13 in the Senate Business, Financial Services & Trade Committee. It would raise B&O taxes on existing firms by an unknown amount each year to offset revenue losses from granting start-up businesses a two-year B&O tax exemption. We pointed out the fundamental unfairness of this approach, as well as the lack of tax certainty it would cause. We suggested instead that the sponsor and committee consider increasing the B&O filing threshold, and revisit the small business tax credit, to assist startups and better address the innate regressivity of the B&O tax. 
  • SB 5873, Unemployment Insurance and Paid Family & Medical Leave tax relief – Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee chair Karen Keiser introduced this bill on January 14. It would reduce the social tax component of UI premiums for 2022 and 2023 and cap the social tax modifier for businesses with 10 or fewer employees. In addition, the bill would reduce the worker’s portion of the PFML premium by transferring money from the state general fund. Basically, employers – particularly small employers – and workers would receive a tax break if this bill were to pass. It has been referred to the Senate Ways & Means Committee. NFIB supports the bill.
Prior Legislative Updates
Photo snip courtesy of TVW


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