Victories from the 65th Washington State Legislature (2017-2018)

Date: June 12, 2018

New small-business rights inventory, swifter resolution of legal claims highlight accomplishments

The Washington State Legislature ended its 2017-2018 regular session on March 8, 2018, with some NFIB accomplishments for small business.

From the 2018 half

Defeated $200 Million Health-Care Reinsurance Tax
NFIB was the first to oppose a new state-run reinsurance program to subsidize insurance companies for high-cost medical claims. The scheme would have been funded by a $200 million annual tax on health insurance policies. This proposed windfall for insurance companies contained no requirement for them to reduce premiums or offer coverage in every county.

Secured Swifter Resolution of Legal Claims
NFIB again stood up to insurance companies and won, this time supporting legislation increasing the value of legal disputes that can go directly to arbitration to $100,000. The bill also expedites the discovery timeline while preserving both parties’ right to a jury trial if they’re unsatisfied with the results of arbitration. This bill should allow small business owners to resolve contract, payment, trademark, and other disputes in a matter of months, not years, ending the long waits for jury trials, drawn out discovery and depositions, and costly attorney fees that can force small business owners into “settle or starve” decisions, even when their position is the right one.

Won Workers’ Compensation Change
NFIB worked with the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), the self-insured employers’ association, and organized labor to forge agreement on a plan to change how L&I calculates expected investment returns for certain workers’ compensation pension accounts. The resulting bill, which passed the legislature unanimously, allows L&I to transfer surplus reserves to the pension account, eliminating a key driver of what otherwise could have been a decade-long increase in workers’ compensation taxes.

From the 2017 half

Won Streamlining Municipal Business Licensing
The more than 250 Washington cities and towns requiring a local business license must now join one of two online portals where small businesses can obtain or renew those licenses, saving them time and money. Those cities also have two years to establish a statewide standard for requiring local business licenses, with the goal of eliminating them for infrequent out-of-town sales, deliveries, service calls, or other activities.

Secured a Small Business Bill of Rights Inventory
NFIB is working to ensure small businesses know their rights when the government comes knocking at their door. NFIB wrote and passed a bill requiring six agencies to identify a small business’s rights and protections when subject to audit, inspection, or other enforcement action. The state attorney general will also recommend ways to improve and standardize the notice you receive in advance or at the time of an agency visit.

Obtained Regulatory Fairness Act Improvements
NFIB helped shepherd into law a measure addressing several deficiencies identified by a performance audit on how agencies apply Small Business Economic Impact Statement (SBEIS) requirements and provide mitigation during rule-making. In addition to the bill, the Gov. Jay Inslee’s office convened an interagency workgroup to develop new tools and standards to assist agencies with the SBEIS process. NFIB was part of that workgroup.

Defeated ‘Ban the Box’ Proposals
NFIB again defeated legislation to prohibit small-business owners from inquiring about an applicant’s felony history on job applications. These bills are sure to be back next year, and NFIB will continue to defend small businesses’ ability to manage their workforce and protect their employees and customers.

[Tile photo: Gov. Jay Inslee shakes hands with NFIB Washington State Director Patrick Connor (standing) after signing House Bill 2005 into law simplifying the administration of municipal general business licenses.]

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