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Fast Facts

Tuesday, May 28

Bridge collapse pinches major freight artery; incident could be a 'game-changer' for transpo package; budget negotiations 'glacial'

I-5 bridge collapse pinches highway that carries $20 billion in freight each year
Thursday’s collapse of the 58-year-old Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River will be a major disruption for a “huge commercial artery” carrying as much as $20 billion in freight each year between Canada and the American West, the AP writes. Traffic is crawling over detour routes as the state puts together 160-foot temporary spans that could be in place by mid-June. A permanent fix could be in place by fall. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell noted that 12 percent of the 71,000 vehicles that cross the bridge daily are commercial traffic. The oversize load of drilling equipment that hit (video) the bridge span came from Canada and was bound for Alaska via a barge in Vancouver, Wash., the AP reports. Traffic from Canada has doubled in the past decade, with nearly 1.9 million Canadian vehicles crossing that bridge last year.

Freeway bridge collapse focuses attention on need for transportation package
The I-5 bridge collapse doesn’t just impact traffic. Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said it could be a “game changer” in the debate over a proposed transportation revenue package. The collapse not only highlights the need for increased attention to Washington’s infrastructure, but it also points specifically to the need for more emphasis on repairs and maintenance, said Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia. The Spokesman-Review agreed, arguing in an editorial that the state “definitely needs additional revenue streams for transportation.” The incident should be a wake-up call to the state and the entire nation, the head of the National Transportation Safety Administration said. A report issued by the Seattle chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers two days before the collapse gave the state’s road system a D+ grade and the state’s bridges a C-. Republicans are pushing for this package to include more money for upkeep and fixing the long list of deficient or failing bridges.

Tardy budget will soon turn lawmakers into lawbreakers
As special session budget negotiations proceed at a “glacial” pace, The Seattle Times notes (tiered subscription) that an unused 1973 law means that any lawmakers who don’t finish a state budget by June 1 could be charged with a misdemeanor and fined. How late could this one go? Gov. Jay Inslee says he is “confident” about a pre-July finish, but last week Inslee vetoed part of a bill that made it contingent on passage of a state budget by June 30. Failure to pass a budget by July 1 would be “the doomsday scenario” with delayed pension payments and paychecks and a hit to the state’s credit rating, the Times wrote.

Spokane’s Fairchild Air Force Base denied bid to host new aerial refueling tankers
Leaders in the Spokane area expressed concern and disappointment Wednesday after the U.S. Air Force announced that McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, rather than Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, would be the first base to receive a new line of aerial refueling tankers. Gov. Jay Inslee called it “an extremely unfortunate decision.” Rich Hadley, president and CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated, said the community must push hard to ensure that Fairchild would not be included in a round of base closures that could come before the end of the decade. Sen. Patty Murray demanded a formal briefing from the Air Force on the decision-making process, the AP reported. Fairchild, with 5,800 workers, is the Spokane region’s single largest employer, with an annual economic impact of $1.3 billion.

Labor unions point out problems with Affordable Care Act
Labor unions are beginning to break with President Obama, saying the Affordable Care Act “could be catastrophic,” The Hill reports. Obama’s promise in 2009 that employer-provided insurance would not be forced to change for businesses or employees “is simply not true for millions of workers,” United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen wrote in an op-ed. Meanwhile, the nation’s largest organization of nurses is slamming the national health care reform, saying it is doing nothing to control skyrocketing health care costs. National Nurses United, representing 185,000 nurses, says “increasing numbers of Americans are priced out of access to needed medical care or pushed into financial ruin or bankruptcy.”

U.S. House passes bill to speed up approval of Keystone XL pipeline
With frustration growing about long delays in approval of a key new piece of the nation’s energy infrastructure, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would bypass President Barack Obama, NPRreported. The bill to approve the project and limit legal challenges passed largely on party lines and is unlikely to pass the Senate. The $7 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline, first proposed in 2008, would carry oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada to Texas oil refineries. AWB President Don Brunell has long argued that Obama should approve this pipeline, which would unleash thousands of jobs and improve our energy security.

PRIORITY LEGISLATION
Immigration reform needed for high-tech businesses, farms and all of our trade-
dependent state
AWB President Don Brunell joined Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League, in a Seattle Times op-ed explaining the need for a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Reform is crucial for Washington state, which depends on trade and relies on immigration to help power our high-tech industries and rural farms. “As economies in many parts of the world stagnate due to an aging population, immigration holds the key to America’s future expansion,” they write. Meanwhile, Canada is hoping to take advantage of American businesses’ hunger for high-tech workers. A new billboard in Silicon Valley references the tightly limited supply of high-tech work visas with the slogan “H-1B Problems? Pivot to Canada. New Start-Up Visas, Low Taxes.”

Seattle Times: Lawmakers should pass worker’s comp reform
The bipartisan worker’s comp reform bill that passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate is bottled up in the House and needs to be taken up and passed, The Seattle Times writes (tiered subscription). Senate bill 5127 would expand on 2011 reforms by lowering the age at which an injured worker has the choice to settle for a one-time payment rather than collect permanent disability payments. This bill would also fix a flaw in how the 2011 reforms have been implemented by prohibiting the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals from second-guessing workers, even if they are represented by attorney, who want to accept settlements. This reform could help offset much of the $1.8 billion in extra money L&I says it needs over the next 10 years.

OTHER NEWS
It’s not too late to register for Washington Business Week
Know a high school student? There’s still time to register him or her for Washington Business Week, the week-long summer program that teaches young people about free enterprise. There are still openings for programs at Gonzaga, Central Washington and Pacific Lutheran universities. The Business Week program offers pathways for students interested in health care, transportation, energy and agri-business, as well as an international program for young people in Poland. “Business Week is a fun and rewarding experience for students and company advisers alike,” said AWB President Don Brunell, himself an adviser at Business Week. Two of Brunell’s adult children, both teachers, have also served as company advisers, and his grandchildren are alums of the program, as well. “Washington Business Week is worth every penny you can invest in it,” Brunell said. Check out this video for more information, and go online to register.

‘Harsh’ proposed farm rules threaten small family farms
Small farmers with a sustainable, all-natural focus are joining the long list of businesses saying that intrusive and poorly crafted regulations are a threat to their survival. “Harsh and expensive new Food Safety Modernization Act regulations have Washington's small farmers scrambling,” Crosscut reports. The 2011 law and its proposed Good Agriculture Practices certification mandate trace-back and extensive documentation for every apple, carrot and egg. “You can regulate yourself to death, and I think sometimes that’s what is happening,” explains Carol Kraus of The Farm at Swan’s Trail in Snohomish.

No raise for governor, but Supreme Court justices, lt. governor and others will get a
boost
The state’s nine Supreme Court justices will see a raise from their current $164,000 a year to $172,500 in 2014 after a decision by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials. Other offices that will see pay increases include the lowest-paid statewide elected office, the lieutenant governor (up to $97,000), as well as the lands commissioner ($124,000), treasurer ($125,000) and superintendent of public instruction ($128,000). The panel decided not to increase the governor’s salary, which at $167,000 a year is the same pay since the start of the Great Recession in 2008, The Olympian reports (tiered subscription). Just over half of statewide elected officials are getting no raises this year – including secretary of state, auditor, insurance commissioner and attorney general. Dick Walter, former AWB vice president of operations, represents business on the citizen salary commission.

Department of Revenue allows online amendments to previously filed state excise tax
returns
The Washington Department of Revenue has released an online tool that lets businesses electronically amend previously filed state excise tax returns. Businesses have been able to file returns online since 1998, but amendments had to be done on paper. In the two weeks since the online amendment system was opened, more than 1,100 amended returns have been filed electronically, the department said. The new system also allows a taxpayer to make a payment or request a credit or a refund.

AWB EVENTS & RESOURCES
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. HR continuing education credits have been applied for.

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. There is 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, or register here.

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 for $199 per person. “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.

‘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 Resort in Cle Elum. Sponsorships for the new Policy Summit App are now available. Details here or contact Anne Haller, AWB’s director of member relations and events, at 360.943.1600 or AnneH@awb.org. Registration opens June 10. Go here for Suncadia room reservations.

Annual golf tournament set for Rope Rider Golf Course Sept. 17
AWB Institute is excited to be hosting the annual fundraising tournament for Washington Business Week — an educational program that offers students a chance to experience simulated career challenges in a general business setting or in the career-focused pathways of health care, energy, manufacturing and agriculture. The tee time at Rope Rider Golf Course is 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17, during AWB’s Policy Summit. Golfers will enjoy playing on this spectacular course designed by Jacobsen Hardy Design, one of the nation's most respected course architecture firms. Registration is $140 and opens online June 10. Golf sponsorships are available here.

AWB offers simple 401(k) plan for members
Members can take advantage of an exciting retirement program – MyFuture 401(k) – an easier, more cost-effective plan for your company. Each adopting employer retains control of the vesting, eligibility requirements, matching contributions, profit sharing, and general plan design while decreasing the administrative burden and fiduciary liability. On-site education and enrollment services are provided to your employees by Integrity Financial, a local investment advisor, along with institutional grade investment options and professionally managed risk-based portfolios. For more information, please contact AWB at 1.800.521.9325 or visit http://www.awbmyfuture401k.com/.

THEY SAID IT
“This is not a rainy day.” ~ State Treasurer Jim McIntire, saying the Legislature should leave “rainy day” fundsintact when balancing the budget. He also notes the June 1 statutory deadline for completion of the budget.

This Week's President's Perspective: Oil and Water Can Coexist

Photo credit WSDOT via Flickr.

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