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Fast Facts

Monday, May 20

'No great news' from special session so far; CEO explains need for further modest worker's comp reform; rally supports transpo package

First week of special session passes with ‘no great news’ on budget
Lawmakers wrapped up their first week of the special session Friday with no visible progress in budget negotiations. Gov. Jay Inslee, who has narrowed his goals for the overtime session to passing a budget, a transportation package and stricter drunken driving penalties, told reporters gathered for a press conference Thursday that “there’s no great news here today.” Senate majority leaders have higher hopes: They reportedly submitted a list of 33 measures they want included in the budget discussion, including workers’ compensation reform and education measures. One possible explanation for the slow pace: Some lawmakers may believe they will have more money to work with if they wait until the next revenue forecast June 18. A couple of problems with that strategy: The special session ends June 11. And state law technically requires adoption of a budget by June 1.

Modest workers’ comp reform worthy of special session attention
Bill Weaver, president and CEO of AWB member Canyon Creek Cabinet Company in Woodinville, makes the case in this op-ed in The Herald about the need for modest workers’ compensation reform during special session. “Simply put, without help from Olympia, employers across the state can bet on increased workers' comp taxes over the next several years as the Department of Labor & Industries starts to dig out from the recession and impose surcharges to rebuild its diminished surplus,” writes Weaver. “To compete worldwide, we depend upon a stable and predictable business climate. Business costs like workers' compensation matter.”

Plan to tax bottled water flummoxes
That was the headline The Spokesman-Review applied to a guest piece by Lodi Water Company owner and AWB member Jim Connelly, who is troubled by lawmakers’ flagrant disregard for the will of voters who shot down a plan to tax bottled water in 2010. “Bottled water is regulated as a packaged food product and as such is currently exempt from Washington’s sales tax,” Connelly wrote. “Voters have already made it clear that it should stay
that way because they don’t want their food taxed.”

Survey says voters have no appetite for new taxes
Washington voters are not in a mood to raise taxes and want state government to hold the line on spending, according to a new Moore Information survey. Voters support the bipartisan, no-new-taxes budget crafted by the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus, the Washington State Wire reports, describing the results as “striking.” By big margins, voters would rather balance the budget by cutting spending than by raising taxes. The statewide survey found that 61 percent of voters would prefer to “reduce spending, even if some crucial programs are cut,” rather than “increase taxes, even if it is hard for middle-class families.” Seventy-one percent agree that “…now is the wrong time to raise taxes on working families and struggling businesses.”

Seattle Times and governor part of consensus supporting transportation package
There is widespread agreement on the importance of lawmakers agreeing on a comprehensive transportation package to rebuild and Washington’s infrastructure. Hundreds rallied on the Capitol steps this morning in support of an $8.4 billion transportation package, and The Seattle Times makes the case (tiered subscription) that this is the year for a comprehensive transportation-funding package, including a gas tax increase. “Gridlock stalls growth, costs jobs, wastes time better spent doing anything else,” The Times wrote, noting that Puget Sound is forecast to have 650,000 more residents by 2027. Fortunately, Gov. Jay Inslee lists transportation as one of his three priorities for the special session. Contact AWB Vice President for Governmental Affairs Gary Chandler if you’d like to help lawmakers understand the importance of agreeing on a transportation plan.

Sen. King won’t stand in the way of transportation plan
Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, co-chair of the Senate Transportation committee, has said that, although he opposes a gas tax increase, he will not block a package as it comes together as long as certain conditions are met. Among his priorities: Republican opposition to the Columbia River Crossing and support for a referendum clause to allow voters to weigh in. “Obviously if we’re concerned about our ports, the sooner we get started on trying to keep them competitive, the better off we are,” King said.

Delays announced for new Obamacare small business health plan finder
The Washington Health Benefit Exchange will not be fully operational this fall as planned, the AP reports. Only one insurance provider had the resources to prepare products and participate this year, the Health Exchange reported. Instead, the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) will be run as a pilot project in a few as-yet unannounced counties by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest. Richard Onizuka, chief executive officer for Washington Healthplanfinder Plans, said he was disappointed not to have more insurance companies involved in the rollout of the SHOP program for businesses, but said other companies are interested in having products available by October 2014, “which will provide small businesses with more robust coverage options.”

Boeing restarts 787 deliveries after four-month halt to fix batteries
Boeing’s 787 model is back in the delivery pipeline after the company handed off a plane to Japan’s All Nippon Airways in Everett on Tuesday, “marking a possible turning point for the beleaguered airplane,” the Puget Sound Business Journal wrote. Boeing had spent the last four months fixing battery problems. Airlines around the world are returning the 787 to the air after the battery fix was put into place. Meanwhile, AWB President Don Brunell notes, the direct competitor to the 787, the Airbus A350, made its first official appearance on Monday in Toulouse, France.

AWB joins governor and bipartisan coalition of business and labor to support coal and
clean energy bill
AWB joined labor leaders in praising a bipartisan agreement that allows Washington’s only coal-powered energy plant to sell its electricity as renewable energy. The new law supports the Centralia power plant owned by TransAlta as it transitions away from coal power by 2025. The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, of which AWB is a member, noted that SB 5297 was sponsored by Republicans and received supporting votes from prominent environmentally minded Democrats. The bill amends Initiative 937, the 2006 measure requiring utilities to generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources. "We hope to see this process repeated in other decisions facing the state," said AWB President Don Brunell. "We hope this is the start of a new way of doing business."

State releases draft rules for newly legalized marijuana market
The Washington State Liquor Control Board released a draft set of regulations for marijuana licensing last week, marking a major milestone in the state’s legalization of pot. The rules list how pot should be grown, detail labels (including warnings that pot may be habit-forming) and even the official logo, “fit for a Cheech and Chong van” to be used on all pot products. Even before the rules were released, the expansion of marijuana continued, with one Seattle-area ranch adding cast-off pot stems and greens into pig feed. These “pot pigs” apparently got the munchies, as they tend to gain more weight. With all the talk of legalized pot, employers should remember that nothing about drug-free policies has changed. As AWB’s magazine, Washington Business, reported in the spring edition, employers can continue to test and fire for drug use.

PRIORITY LEGISLATION
Worker’s comp reform could become bargaining chip in budget negotiations
A bipartisan proposal to cut worker’s compensation costs and enhance opportunities for injured workers could become a bargaining chip in negotiations between the House, Senate and governor, Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom told PubliCola. The worker’s comp reform was one of 33 measures on a list obtained by the APthat the Senate wants considered as part of final budget negotiations. Washington’s worker’s comp system has the highest benefit payouts in the nation.

Simplot asks for federal approval of genetically modified healthier potato
Simplot has asked the FDA for approval of a potato with genes that have been tweaked to have a much lower level of a naturally occurring but potentially cancer-causing neurotoxin, the AP reports. The Idaho company’s scientists have gone deep inside the natural potato DNA to turn off certain genes that produce the potentially carcinogenic acrylamide, as well as reduce bruising. The unwanted attributes have been silenced but the result is still 100 percent potato. This type of scientifically driven progress is another reason voters should reject Initiative 522.

OTHER NEWS
Kriss Sjoblom reappointed to governor’s economic advisory council
Gov. Jay Inslee has reappointed Washington Research Council economist Kriss Sjoblom to the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors. Sjoblom, the vice president for research for the WRC, was also appointed to the council by Govs. Mike Lowry, Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire. The Council of Economic Advisors counsels the governor on state financial matters, including the budget, tax policy, debt and cash management.

Jobless rate drops
Washington’s official unemployment rate dropped to 7 percent in April as the state added 3,800 jobs. While this is good news, the Columbian cautioned that the Great Recession is far from over, since the state has yet to regain 22 percent of the 200,000-plus jobs lost during the economic downturn. The official jobless rate only counts those applying for unemployment benefits; there are 138,997 people who have been out of work for so long that they no longer quality for unemployment relief. Using the broadest definition of the number of unemployed, “we ranked 5th highest in unemployment,” Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Chairwoman Janéa Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, said (News Tribune/tiered subscription). “So again, this is a sign that our state has a lot of room for improvement in regards to our business-friendly outlook for our employers.”

Goldmark loses appeal that McKenna had argued wasn’t worth the bother
A public utility district can use eminent domain to take over state-owned trust land currently being used for grazing, the Methow Valley News reports about a unanimous appeals court decision. The ruling disappoints Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, who said he hasn’t decided whether to appeal. This case caps a high-level argument between Goldmark, a Democrat, and former Attorney General Rob McKenna that played a role in the Republican’s unsuccessful campaign for governor, the News Tribune (tiered subscription)reports. The state Supreme Court last year forced McKenna to represent Goldmark after McKenna said the case wasn’t worth appealing.

AWB EVENTS & RESOURCES
Space available at Export-Import Bank’s seminar on trade finance solutions
The Export-Import Bank of the United States, an official credit agency of the United State government, is offering two days of seminars in early June for exporters and lenders. “Trade Finance Solutions for Exporters and Importers” will be held on June 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and costs $199. “Working Capital Delegated Authority Qualifying Training for Lenders” will be held June 7 from 8:30 to 1 p.m. and costs $125. Both classes will be held at the Westin Building in downtown Seattle. Click here to register. The Ex-Im Bank, according to Seattle regional office director John Brislin, assumes country or credit risks that commercial lenders are unable or unwilling to accept, helping lenders to profit, U.S. exporters to capitalize on business opportunities, and international buyers to purchase high-quality “Made in the U.S.A.” products and services.

Accident Prevention Plan webinar set for June 20
An accident prevention plan is a key element in any organization’s safety and health program. In fact, failure to have one can be one of the fastest ways to receive a citation, whether from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration or state jurisdictions. This one-hour webinar is designed for anyone who is responsible for safety and health within a workplace, including risk assessment managers, safety and health directors, personnel or committee members, and human resources department personnel. Topics will include: Developing an accident prevention plan; job hazard analysis; training on the plan; accident investigations; and ongoing review of the plan. Presenters are Bob Battles, and Chrystina Solum, from the law firm Eisenhower Carlson. Join us Thursday, June 20 from 9-10 a.m. Register online. Members: $35. For more information, contact AWB’s Karlee Glasgow.

AWB’s Human Resources Forum will address the impending “talent war” 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. We have a limited group room block at the Seattle Airport Marriott so make your reservation early; call 800.228.9290. Questions contact Karlee Glasgow, 800.521.9325. To register.

‘Morning Joe’ duo and Time magazine’s economy editor to headline Fall Policy Summit
The line-up for AWB’s 24th annual Policy Summit in September will feature a powerful lineup of speakers addressing national politics and economic issues. MSNBC’s morning show team of Joe Scarborough andMika Brzezinski will speak at the keynote dinner. We will also hear from:

· Rana Foroohar, Time Magazine columnist and economy editor
· A CEO panel featuring Scott Morris (Avista), Colin Moseley (Green Diamond Resource Company) and Mark Grescovich (Banner Bank)
· A health care panel featuring Don Conant, an active AWB member and a member of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board; Gubby Barlow, president of Premera Blue Cross, and Hadley Heath, a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women's Forum and an expert on the Affordable Care Act

The Policy Summit will be held Sept. 17-19 at Suncadia Lodge in Cle Elum. Contact Anne Haller, AWB’s director of member relations and events, at 360.943.1600 or AnneH@awb.org for more information or to register.

THEY SAID IT
“Frank Chopp has no lungs.” ~ Seattle Democratic Rep. Reuven Carlyle, suggesting that his party’s top leader in the House would win a “breath-holding” budget standoff with the Senate.

This Week's President's Perspective: The Human Spirit is our Greatest Asset

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