Four Anti-Small-Business Bills Appear Dead for the Session

Date: February 07, 2020

Restrictive scheduling measures headed for defeat, freelancer bill removed

State Director Patrick Connor reports from Olympia on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending February 7

February 7 marked the deadline for bills to be approved by policy committees. Fiscal committees have until Tuesday, February 11, to approve bills impacting state spending or tax collections, although bills affecting the state budget can be exempted from that deadline.

As a result of the February 7 policy cut-off, several bills opposed by NFIB appear dead for the session. Among them are:

  • HB 2564, requiring OSHA 10 safety training for the state’s more than 200,000 construction workers, as well as OSHA 30 training for supervisors.
  • HB 2740, prohibiting employers from refusing to hire applicants who test positive for marijuana.
  • SB 5981, creating a cap and trade program. However, a carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme could be part of a transportation funding bill.
  • SB 6516, establishing a 32-hour workweek.

Small Business Bill of Rights

This week, the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee unanimously approved NFIB’s HB 2577 on a 9-0 vote. The bill was referred to House Appropriations, which is scheduled to hear the bill February 8.

Meanwhile, the Senate Ways & Means Committee also unanimously approved SB 6408, sending it to the Senate Rules Committee.

NFIB is working to get the Senate bill moved to the floor for a vote.

Labor

As reported above, Sen. Karen Keiser’s freelancer bill and Sen. Joe Nguyen’s 32-hour workweek bill are dead for the session.

  • Restrictive scheduling bills may be headed for defeat. SB 5717 died in the Senate Labor Committee. HB 1491 is in the House Appropriations Committee but has not yet been scheduled for action. It must pass Appropriations by the Tuesday, February 11, fiscal committee deadline.
  • Both Secure Choice Retirement bills are still alive in the House. The House Consumer Protection & Business Committee today, Friday, February 7, approved HB 2516 with several NFIB-supported amendments attached. The Senate-passed bill, SB 5740, has also been sent to the House Consumer Protection & Business Committee for consideration.
  • HB 1395, direct contractor liability for subcontractor payroll and tax liabilities, is on the House second reading calendar where it could be brought to the floor for amendment and a vote at any time.
  • Several bills NFIB opposes related to workers’ compensation are still alive, including HB 2409, HB 2758, SB 6440, and SB 6552.
  • SB 6053, allowing workers to file wage liens on an employer’s personal property, was heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee this week. A committee vote was postponed but could be rescheduled before Tuesday’s fiscal committee cut-off.

Taxes

After hours of vigorous debate Thursday, the House passed SB 6492, 52-45. Five Democrats joined all Republicans (less one excused) voting against the bill. SB 6492 is the “fix” bill to last year’s HB 2158, B&O surcharge on services. SB 6492 would reinstate the 1.5% B&O tax rate on services for businesses earning up to $1 million annually. A new tax rate of 1.75% would be applied on service firms grossing more than $1 million. Advanced computing businesses with at least $25 BILLION in global sales would pay a 1.22% surcharge – up to a maximum of $9 million. This is an increase to HB 2158’s $7 million cap on advanced computing businesses’ surcharge. The bill also eliminated HB 2158’s $4 million floor for affiliated advanced computing business tax surcharge. Republicans offered some three dozen amendments, most seeking to exempt various medical professions and providers from the tax. All were defeated. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee for signature.

The House Finance Committee heard public testimony this week on HB 2907, the so-called King County head tax bill. The Finance Committee is poised to approve the bill today, Friday, February 7. The Senate version, SB 6669, is not expected to be considered due to its late introduction. NFIB was invited to a stakeholder meeting Wednesday to discuss the House bill. Of particular concern is the inadequate definition and exemption of small businesses, particularly pass-through entities, in the bill. There seems to be a strong effort underway to pass this legislation, providing King County additional tax dollars to address homelessness and related issues.

The House Appropriations Committee will hold a marathon meeting on February 8. The agenda so far includes 47 bills scheduled for a public hearing and 22 for executive action. Among them are several of interest to NFIB. We support all but HB 2550 (oppose) and HB 2308 (neutral if NFIB amendments are adopted):

  • HB 2354, expediting certain professional license applications
  • HB 2355, allowing competency exams for certain professional license applicants
  • HB 2457, establishing a health system transparency board
  • HB 2550, increasing environmental restrictions on development (oppose)
  • HB 2577, our small business bill of rights
  • HB 2308, requiring employers to report employee job titles (NFIB amendments to be considered in executive session).

Small Business Day 2020

Thank you to the NFIB WashingtonLeadership Council, other members, field sales representatives, and guests who traveled to Olympia Tuesday, braving rain, and the occasional snow flurry, to participate in NFIB’s Washington Small Business Day (SBD) at the Capitol 2020.

Coincidentally, late Monday afternoon, Sen. Karen Keiser removed her dreaded SB 6276, the freelancer bill, from Tuesday’s public hearing schedule. It is now dead for this year. Consequently, many SBD participants planning to testify on that bill instead signed-in opposing a new King County head tax (HB 2907) and the Senate’s cap-and-trade measure.

Participants engaged in a constructive discussion with representatives from the state Workforce Training Board and Employment Security Department (ESD) about HB 2308, requiring employers to list worker job titles on quarterly unemployment tax returns. As a result of this conversation, NFIB was able to negotiate several amendments, allowing the Leadership Council to approve taking a neutral position on the bill. The amendments included:

  • Limiting penalties only to situations where employers willfully refuse to provide the request information on their quarterly returns.
  • Making the first year voluntary for employers.
  • Requiring a report to the Legislature in 2025 specifying what changes or improvements have been made to Workforce board programs and WorkSource job placement efforts.

In addition, ESD has:

  • Invited NFIB members to test the system prior to launch.
  • Offered to provide a feedback mechanism during Year 1, so employers can offer suggestions for improvements.
  • Agreed to include NFIB in any stakeholder or rule-making process needed for implementation.

SBD attendees also enjoyed spirited question-and-answer sessions with Senate Republican Leader Sen. Mark Schoesler, House Republican Leader Rep. JT Wilcox, Tax Structure Work Group Co-chairwoman Rep. Noel Frame, and Washington Policy Center’s new Small Business Director (and former Rep.) Mark Harmsworth. Schoesler, Wilcox, and Harmsworth are all current or former NFIB members.

Clockwise: State Director Patrick Connor introduces former NFIB Leadership Council Chairwoman and current State Rep. Kelly Chambers; Sen. Mark Schoesler, and Mark Harmsworth from the Washington Policy Center speak to NFIB members at the 2020 Small Business Day at the Capitol.

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