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Fast Facts

Monday, April 22

House goes for tax increase; beer tax foes rally; DeBolt steps down as House GOP leader

House committee holds hearing on huge tax bill
The House Finance Committee heard testimony Friday on a bill that would generate more than $1 billion in new taxes, mostly by repealing or modifying preferences aimed at businesses. Employer groups urged lawmakers to reject House Bill 2038, arguing that businesses are still struggling to recover from the recession and shouldn’t be singled out for tax hikes. “Education is a societal obligation,” AWB’s Amber Carter said in response to supporters of the bill who claim higher taxes are required to fund schools. “This puts undue obligation on business.” It also breaks the will of voters, Carter said, by including taxes on bottled water — something voters rejected — and it threatens to eliminate 9,800 private-sector jobs.

Beer tax foes rally on Capitol steps
A pair of Rainier Beer’s famous grazing bottles came to the Capitol steps in Olympia Friday along with their wrangler and dozens of others from the state’s beer industry to protest proposed beer tax hikes. Brewerscarried signs saying “Crush Malt Not Jobs!” and “Our Employees Are Not Loopholes” to protest a proposal from House lawmakers that would permanently extend the so-called temporary tax on large brewers that is scheduled to expire in June The tax would extend to small, craft brewers, as well. “How do you budget for a 100 percent increase in a tax?” asked Ron Welcher, owner of Skookum Brewing Co. “It keeps adding up. It’s crazy.”

Senate approves modest transportation budget as House considers new option
The state Senate approved a transportation budget Friday that allocates money for maintenance, infrastructure and large-scale projects already underway, but includes just $82 million for design work on the controversial Columbia River Crossing. “This keeps ups moving forward,” Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, said. The $8.7 billion budget now heads to the House, which passed a transportation budget earlier this month. Meanwhile, lawmakers in the House are considering a scaled-back version of the package they already passed that would raise $8.4 billion in 12 years through an increased gas tax, a commercial vehicle weight fee and other fees. AWB’s Mike Ennis testified (TVW video) Friday in support of House Bill 1954, saying more money needs to be invested in preservation.

With 6 days to go in session, is it time for budget talks to begin?
That’s what the website Crosscut predicts. Last week, the Democratic-controlled House and Majority Coalition-led Senate weren’t talking with each other, even though the legislative session is scheduled to end on Sunday. That’s partly because both chambers still have work of their own to do — the House needs to pass legislation closing 15 exemptions, and the Senate needs to pass policy bills and approve fund transfers, among other things. With time running out, a special session is widely expected.

AWB Spring Meeting, May 7-8 in Spokane
You still have time to register for the AWB’s Spring Meeting, which will be held May 7-8 at The Davenport Hotel in Spokane. Don’t miss out on your chance to hear from Jim Hanna, director of environmental impact for Starbucks Coffee Company. This is also a great opportunity to take part in a Q&A with state agency directors Carol Nelson, (Department of Revenue), Brian Bonlender (Department of Commerce) and Joel Sacks, (Department of Labor & Industries). We’ll present the 14th annual AWB Community Service Awards, sponsored by Fluor Corporation, and the 21st annual AWB Environmental Excellence Awards, sponsored by Phillips Wesch Burgess. Recently retired state Auditor Brian Sonntag will receive the C. David Gordon Award. On Wednesday, Spokane Mayor David Condon will speak during breakfast about ways his city has made local government more user-friendly, and the AWB board will hold a meeting. Register online now. We’ll see you in Spokane!

DeBolt steps down as House Republican leader
Saying he should have done it two years ago, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt announced Wednesday that he would step down from his leadership post due to ongoing health problems. He collapsed earlier this month (The Chronicle/subscription required) at his Chehalis home and has had problems with potassium imbalance, his adrenal glands and his kidneys. In his address (TVW video) to the House, DeBolt said he will continue representing his Southwest Washington district but will no longer lead House Republicans. Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, will take over as interim caucus leader.

Dreamliner cleared for flights after Boeing fixes battery
After three months on the ground, the 787 has been cleared again for takeoff. The Federal Aviation Administration will allow Boeing to retrofit planes with an enhanced lithium-ion battery system. The reason thebatteries caught fire in January is still unclear. The planes are also cleared for long-distance flights. Boeing spent more than 100,000 hours developing and testing the fix that “made a great airplane even better,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner said. AWB President Don Brunell says that after so many recent tragedies for our nation, this is great news to start off the week.

Eyman announces initiative limiting taxes to one year
Initiative promoter Tim Eyman announced Monday that he plans to file an initiative that would limit the duration of all new taxes to one year, The Seattle Times reported (tiered subscription). He said he plans to file it later this week, but would not say whether he will try to get it on the ballot this year or next year. “Because the 2/3 law is no more, they (lawmakers) can raise taxes with a simple majority vote,” Eyman said. “But under our initiative, such tax increases will expire one year later.”

Labor unions lead the way in lobbying
Labor unions and public agencies are among the biggest spenders in Olympia, according to an analysis of Public Disclosure Commission records conducted by The Olympian (tiered subscription). Service Employees International Union 775 Healthcare topped the list, followed by the Washington Education Association and the Washington Federation of State Employees; AWB was No. 8. In total, interest groups and public agencies reported spending $12.9 million lobbying the Legislature this year, although that number is expected to grow as lawmakers continue to debate the state budget.

AWB files amicus brief in important workers’ comp retro case
This afternoon, AWB filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in the Washington Supreme Court urging the court to accept an appeal by the Building Industry Association of Washington in a case challenging the structure and organization of BIAW’s program for returning refunds on workers’ comp premiums to participating members. The case has the prospect of imposing new liabilities and limitations on the operations of all retro programs in the state, limiting the program’s effectiveness and impacting sponsoring organizations. AWB is joined on the brief by the Washington Restaurant Association. For more information or a copy of the brief, contact Kris Tefft.

State’s unemployment rate drops, but so do jobs
Washington’s jobless rate in March dropped to 7.3 percent, the lowest level since December 2008. The biggest job gains were seen in education and health services, manufacturing, retail and construction. And while the jobless rate dropped, the number of jobs available also decreased – 4,600 jobs in the public sector and 900 in private employers. Statewide, 254,000 people are officially listed as unemployed. In his weekly column, AWB President Don Brunell notes than 23 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work. The solution, he writes, is to encourage private sector job creation by celebrating success and encouraging risk while minimizing the uncertainty caused by new government regulations and taxes.

Social media password compromise bill passes House
The House unanimously passed a bill banning employers from requesting social media passwords, using “coercive friending” or forcing workers to log in to Facebook and other social media sites in the employer’s presence. The bill, which now goes to the Senate for a vote, would allow employers to investigate leaks of trade secrets.

“Gang of Eight” U.S. Senators introduce immigration reform bill
The so-called “Gang of Eight” U.S. Senators introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill last week following months of discussion. It marked a significant step in a process that’s backed both by business and labor organizations, including AWB. The legislation will likely see amendments as it goes through the hearing process, but U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue welcomed it as a “critical step toward a final law that will work for our economy and for our society.”

Top Democrat foresees ‘huge train wreck’ for Obama’s health care law
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, surprised Obama administration officials last week when he declared during an otherwise routing budget hearing that he believes Obamacare is headed for a “train wreck.” “I just see a huge train wreck coming down,” said Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Baucus, who is up for re-election next year, blames poor implementation of the law.

Poll shows declining trust in Obama, Congress
A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds an increasingly gloomy electorate, with majorities disapproving of President Barack Obama’s handling of the deficit as well as the proposals to reduce federal red ink by slowing growth in Social Security and Medicare spending. “Rounding out the portrait of a nation in a funk, the share of people saying the United States is heading in the wrong direction is at its highest since last August: 56 percent,” the AP reports.

EPA delays power plant emissions rule
The Environmental Protection Agency has delayed indefinitely a final ruling limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, the McClatchy-Tribune news service reported. The rule, proposed a year ago, was the first to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. Critics of the rule called it a back-door way of killing coal-fired power generation. An EPA spokeswoman said work continues on the rule but no timetable has been set for its release.

PRIORITY LEGISLATION
Senate votes to ban pair of toxic flame retardants from products for kids
The state Senate passed a bill last week banning two forms of carcinogenic flame retardants from use in car seats, strollers and other products made for young children, the AP reported. Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, led the passage of the bill, which is scaled back from an earlier House version. It now heads back to the House where, as the website Publicola speculates, lawmakers could try to “upgrade” it, possibly turning it into a bargaining chip in budget negotiations. Meanwhile, AWB supports the EPA’s continued implementation of a work plan to assess the potential risk of certain chemicals, including flame retardants.

OTHER NEWS
L&I to hold Worker Memorial Day ceremony
The names of the 66 people who died last year from a job-related illness or injury will be read aloud Tuesday at the Department of Labor & Industries’ annual Worker Memorial Day ceremony. The list includes a 22-year-old college student working as a commercial fisherman and seniors in their 80s exposed to asbestos during their prime working years. Gov. Jay Inslee and AWB President Don Brunell are scheduled to speak at the event.

Sen. Mike Carrell to receive stem cell transplant
Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, will receive a stem cell transplant from his brother this week during treatment for a blood condition known as pre-leukemia. Carrell was hospitalized last month and is beginning 100 days of treatment. Legislative leaders say he would only be called back to the Capitol for a crucial vote.

Tacoma civic leader George Weyerhaeuser Jr. dies
George Weyerhaeuser Jr., a retired executive at the timber products company founded by his great-great grandfather and a civic leader in his own right, died on April 14 of a heart attack (Seattle Times/tiered subscription). He was 59. Weyerhaeuser was president of the Thea Foss Waterway Development Authority and a strong backer of Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. He had retired from Weyerhaeuser in 2008. “He was more interested in what was best for the company, not for George Weyerhaeuser. He wore his name well. It brought great responsibility, and he carried it out,” said Jim Keller, a former Weyerhaeuser senior executive and a close friend. A public memorial has been set for May 31 at the Museum of Glass.

Memorial held for former Rep. Tom Huff
A memorial service was held Saturday for former state Rep. Tom Huff, a Republican from Gig Harbor who served in the Legislature from 1995 to 2001. Huff received AWB’s Matson Award in 1999 for his work in support of the private sector. Condolences may be sent to the family: Mary Ann Huff and Family, 10512 119th Avenue Court KPN, Gig Harbor, WA 98329.

BMW plant in Moses Lake readies second production line
The BMW/SGL carbon fiber line in Moses Lake will have a second production line running by August. The $100 million project will expand production capacity for light-weight carbon fiber composites used in the chassis of BMW’s new electric “i” vehicles. BMW looked around the world for a production site that would not use fossil fuels and found the ideal location in Grant County, with its ample hydroelectric power from the Columbia River dams.

L&I ‘Stay at Work’ program
Are you using the L&I “Stay at Work” program to help bring an injured worker back to work with a light-duty job? Stay at Work is a financial incentive that encourages employers to bring their injured workers quickly and safely back to light-duty or transitional work by reimbursing them for some of their costs. AWB is looking for a member company to be featured in an upcoming article in an upcoming issue of Washington Business magazine. If you have used, or are currently using, the L&I “Stay at Work” program and are willing to be interviewed, please contact AWB’s Jocelyn McCabe at 800.521.9325.

AWB EVENTS & RESOURCES
Friday Phone Briefing is back: Budget breakdown
The Legislature is scheduled to wrap up its work in just six days. Will they finish the big budget deal on time or go into a special session? We’ll bring you the latest in our final Friday Phone Briefing of the 2013 regular session. To join this 30-minutesession update, register online. For questions, contactJocelyn McCabe, AWB vice president, communications at 360.943.1600. Additional calls may be scheduled in the event of a special session, so watch Fast Facts for announcements. We’ll also send an email reminder of any new calls if you have already registered.

The Northwest Export Webinar: Breaking Down Barriers to Exporting, April 30
The world is shrinking, but that means your marketplace is expanding. Learn about the trends, opportunities and challenges of international trade from a leader in the transportation industry, UPS. Register online now for a 90-minute webinar on April 30.

Registrations are now open: Human Resources Forum, July 16
As the unemployment rate drops, many of your employees will be looking to make a move. A recent survey by FPC, a national executive search firm, found that 88 percent of employees across all industries and all job levels are planning to look for a new job as the market improves. What can you do to retain your current stars as well as attract the best and brightest to your business? Join AWB and special guests for a high-energy discussion on creating a better workplace through innovative initiatives, creative benefits and cultural shifts. Learn from award winning companies as they share their success stories (and challenges) in transforming their workplace environment.

Presenters:
· Top Threats Facing Employers Today, Reid Bates, franchise owner, Express Employment Professionals
· Your People Are Your Brand, Where Science and Comedy Meet to Increase Employee Engagement and Performance: Ken Grant, president, Motivated Branding and Dr. Patrick Hopp, senior consultant, Leadership Development Worldwide
· Ingredients For an Innovative Workplace: Panel of past AWB Better Workplace Awards for Innovation moderated by Ken Grant
· Implementing Innovative Initiatives Successfully, Real World Experience in Making Significant Cultural Changes: Delta Emerson, executive vice president and chief of staff, Ryan, LLC.

The forum is from 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. July 16 at the Seattle Airport Marriott. Contact Anne Haller for sponsorship information. Registrations are now being accepted.

THEY SAID IT
“Sometimes people take their health for granted and feel invincible, but then they are confronted with reality. That’s where I find myself today. … It has been a privilege to fight for families across this state in the Legislature, but now I get to focus on my own. Tomorrow is my son’s sixteenth birthday and I can’t wait to celebrate with him. And the goal is to celebrate many more with him.”
- Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, announcing that he will step down from leadership of the House Republican caucus

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