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Fast Facts

Monday, January 13

Transportation, education on agenda as Legislature convenes for 60-day session

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Transportation, education on agenda as Legislature convenes for 60-day session

Lawmakers returned to the state Capitol today for the start of a “short” legislative session that could be less contentious than those in recent memory. One reason is because for the first time in six years they aren’t looking to plug a $1 billion-plus budget hole. Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed supplemental budget actually calls for a modest boost in state spending. Also, as AWB President Kris Johnson pointed out, some of them may be worn out by all the special sessions the last few years. Still, there are some big challenges on tap, including how to fund transportation improvements and speed up efforts to satisfy the Washington Supreme Court’s order to fund schools. Things to note:

  • AWB Legislative Priorities: Transportation — making reforms to the state Department of Transportation needed to keep goods, services and people moving; workers’ compensation — approving reforms that give injured workers the option to settle claims and make Washington a more competitive place to do business; and regulatory reform — simplifying and streamlining the rules for employers, giving them the confidence to start or grow their business.
  • AWB’s Lobby Lunch series resumes Jan. 23. Download and return this registration form to guarantee a spot.
  • Gov. Inslee will give his formal “state of the state” address tomorrow at noon during a joint session of the House and Senate. The session will be broadcast live and online via TVW.
  • AWB’s Friday Phone Briefings resume this week (more details below).
  • The revamped awb.org website lets you instantly find your state and federal lawmakers. Learn about their committee assignments, see their voting record on business issues and instantly send them an email.
  • Follow the action at Olympia Business Watch, on Twitter (@awbolympia) and on Facebook.

For a variety of reasons, include fatigue and looming fall elections, lawmakers reportedly have limited ambitions for the 2014 session. But AWB won’t stop advocating for issues that impact Washington’s employers — and encouraging employers to share their stories with lawmakers. “We start work on it again, today,” Johnson said.

Supreme Court rebukes Legislature over education funding
Last week, the state Supreme Court issued a dismal report card on the Legislature’s progress on increasing school funding. The Legislature is “not on target” to meet the 2012 McCleary decision, The News Tribune reports (tiered paywall). In an 8-1 ruling, gave lawmakers until April to turn in a complete plan on phasing in $5 billion in extra funding by 2018. The court order (PDF) also found it “deeply troubling” that legislators did not address pay raises for teachers and administrators. State School Superintendent Randy Dorn responded with a plan that would impose steep tax increases if the Legislature doesn’t act, although no lawmakers were immediately eager to implement this sequester-like pressure, The Olympian reports (tiered paywall).

Troubled megaprojects, concerns about costly low-carbon fuel cast shadow over transportation talks

With Bertha, the tunnel boring machine, stuck 60 feet below Seattle and cracked pontoons busting the budget for the SR 520 bridge, WSDOT was in the spotlight last week. Lawmakers from both parties said the troubled mega-projects make it harder to support a gas tax package to pay for much-needed maintenance and expansion of the state’s transportation system. AWB remains committed to comprehensive WSDOT reforms as part of a transportation package. Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee has not ruled out unilaterally imposing a low-carbon fuel standard, a move that many fear could add a dollar to the price of each gallon of gasoline.

2014 Legislature includes lots of new faces

The Washington Legislature received a significant makeover during the interim dueto a series of retirements, job changes and illness. AWB’s legislative reception Feb. 5, part of our two-day Legislative Summit, is a great chance to meet with both new and returning lawmakers to establish and build relationships, and inform them about the challenges facing your business. Here’s a roundup of the changes:

  • 4th Legislative District — Leonard Christian was appointed to House of Representatives, replacing former Rep. Larry Crouse.
  • 7th Legislative District – Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, defeated Sen. John Smith in the November general election.
  • 21st District — Sen. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds, resigned last week following his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, is widely expected to replace him.
  • 26th Legislative District — Leaders from Kitsap and Pierce counties will meet Friday to pick a replacement for state Rep. Jan Angel following her election to the Senate.
  • 33rd Legislative District — King County Councilmembers appointed Deputy SeaTac Mayor Mia Gregerson to the House seat vacated by Dave Upthegrove, who was elected to the Council Council.
  • 38th Legislative District — Snohomish County Councilmembers appointed June Robinson to the House of Representatives, replacing John McCoy who was appointed to the state Senate after Sen. Nick Harper resigned to take a job in Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s administration.
  • 43rd Legislative District — King County Councilmembers chose state Rep. Jamie Pedersen to replace Ed Murray in the state Senate following Murray’s election as Seattle mayor; Brady Walkinshaw was their chose to fill Pedersen’s House seat.
  • 44th District — Rep. Mike Hope has announced that he will not seek reelection and has endorsed Mill Creek City Councilman Mark Harmsworth to succeed him, but a final choice has not been made.
Boeing contract signing bonuses will add $200 million to state’s economy later this month

The state’s economy will get a $200 million boost starting Jan. 25. That’s the week Boeing distributes the $10,000 signing bonus to members of the Machinists’ nion, which voted Jan. 3 to accept an eight-year contract extension that guarantees construction of the 777X in Washington. Union members do whatever they want with the money: save it, pay bills, or go shopping, The News Tribune reports (tiered paywall). A move by some union members to appeal the vote to the National Labor Relations Board will not derail the bonus payments

Workers’ comp needs further reform, studies show, but issue faces uphill climb in House

Washington continues to have the nation’s highest workers’ compensation benefits – which mean high costs for employers. The Washington Research Council released a report last week exploring ways to moderate the costs of the state-run run system by addressing some of its structural problems. Without them, employers can expect to see continued rate increases. A state audit (PDF) released last month shows that L&I’s Medical Aid Fund would need 12.1 percent annual growth through 2018 to meet minimum reserve levels, and the Accident Fund would require 2.2 percent annual growth. While the need for change is clear, House Speaker Frank Chopp shows no sign of allowing a vote, The Olympian reports. To learn more, check out AWB’s legislative objectives.

KEY HEARINGS, MEETINGS
Friday Phone Briefings Are Back for 2014 Session!

Get up to speed on what’s happening in Olympia — all in just 30 minutes! The AWB Friday Phone Briefings will return this Friday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 a.m. Register online, then call in each Friday during the regular legislative session to get updates, insights and more about what’s happening in the state capital this session. Your registration code is good for all calls this session. Questions? Contact the call host, AWB Communications Vice President Jocelyn McCabe, APR.

AWB land use meeting Jan. 15

The AWB Land Use Committee will meet Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at AWB in Olympia. The committee will discuss several land use legal cases, discuss SEPA rulemaking, and review legislative activities. Send any questions to Government Affairs Director Brandon Houskeeper. Contact Connie Grande for call-in information.

House Finance Committee to hear sales tax exemption bill Jan. 16

Did your business benefit from the rural county sales tax exemption? Come share your story Thursday before the House Finance Committee, which is scheduled to hear a bill that would reestablish the exemption. House Bill 2204, sponsored by Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, would bring back the exemption that was initially adopted in 1985 and extended through 2009. A hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. For more information, contact AWB’s Amber Carter.

Friday: Call on lawmakers to extend high-tech R&D tax credit

Lawmakers on the House Committee on Technology & Economic Development are scheduled to hear a bill Friday that would preserve one of Washington’s best tools for attracting high-tech jobs: the business and occupation tax credit for research and development. House Bill 1303, prime-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, would extend the credit until 2035. It’s currently due to expire next year. If your business has benefitted from the tax credit, consider coming to Friday’s 1:30 p.m. hearing and telling lawmakers why it’s vital that they preserve the R&D tax credit. For more information, contact AWB’s Amber Carter.

Regulatory Reform Committee returns, set to meet Jan. 29

AWB’s Regulatory Reform Committee is being revived this year and needs new members. If you’re interested in joining, please contact AWB’s Mike Ennis or Brandon Houskeeper. The committee will meet at 10 a.m. Jan. 29 at AWB to hear from Department of Commerce officials about the Red Tape Index, a new tool modeled after one in Europe that the state will use to identify and reduce regulatory burdens faced by the business community. The Governor’s Office has asked AWB for input on the effort. There will also be a Regulatory Reform panel at AWB’s Legislative Summit Feb. 6th.

OTHER NEWS
Is paid vacation time the next mandate?

Employees should have the right to paid vacation time to reduce stress, according to a Seattle lawmaker who has introduced a bill that would mandate paid time off for those who work more than 20 hours a week. Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Ballard, would require all businesses with 25 or more employees to give 40 hours of vacation after an employee has been on the job six months, with increases stepping up to three weeks of paid vacation after five years of employment. The rule could be waived in a collective bargaining agreement.

Poll shows public increasingly satisfied with fiscally conservative Majority Coalition Caucus

The latest Elway poll shows a public that is glad the conservative-leaning Majority Coalition Caucus in control of the state Senate. Forty-six percent of those polled believe having a “fiscally conservative coalition” will be good for the state this year, versus 39 percent who felt it would have a negative impact. Gov. Jay Inslee’s approval rating is up slightly from July, with 45 percent calling his performance “good” or “excellent” but with 50 percent rating him “fair” or “poor.” He rates higher (Seattle Times/tiered paywall) than did Gov. Chris Gregoire after the first year of her administration (40 percent positive), but lower than Gov. Gary Locke (who had 54 percent approval).

Spokane tribe enacts state’s strictest water standards

The Spokane Tribe enacted ultra-strict water quality standards on its stretch of the Spokane River, a move that could eventually force further emissions cutbacks on upstream businesses and municipal dischargers. The newly announced limits are so low, in fact, that they would be impossible to attain or even to detect. The tribe would limit levels of PCBs to 1.3 parts per quadrillion – the equivalent of just over two sheets of typing paper on a land mass the size of Washington, the Spokesman-Review reports.

Port of Seattle plans to act by June on $15 minimum wage

The Port of Seattle will take public testimony and hold hearings before deciding how to increase wages of workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, with a decision expected by June, The Seattle Times reports (tiered paywall). A judge ruled last month that a voter-approved initiative raising the minimum wage to $15 for many SeaTac workers would not apply to the 4,700 workers at the airport. “We will have thoughtful discussion with workers, airport tenants and the public about how to strengthen working conditions for current employees and create pathways to career advancement,” Port Co-President Courtney Gregoire said.

Groundbreaking case born in Yakima labor dispute lands in U.S. Supreme Court

The highest court in the land hears arguments today in a Yakima case that could set long-term precedents about how the president fills vacant positions when the Senate is not in session. The case, NLRB vs. Noel Canning, dates back to a ruling two years ago by the National Labor Relations Board about a contract at the Yakima-based soft drink bottling company. The company appealed the decision, saying President Obama had appointed three members using a “recess appointment” even though the Senate was officially in session. The Yakima Herald-Republic and Seattle Times have details on this case, which could settle a question about the range of powers granted to the president under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution.

U.S. Chamber renews push for lawmakers to focus on business

Tom Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, announced that the nation’s largest employer advocacy group will use its clout and resources to support lawmakers who work for business-friendly policies, The Hill reported. “In primaries and in the general election, we will support candidates who want to work within the legislative process to solve the nation’s problems — and who understand that business is not the problem, business is a big part of the solution,” Donahue said in his annual State of American Business address. AWB would like to hear from you on this issue. Email us with your thoughts on Donahue’s stand and how AWB should advocate for private employers in our state.

Surprise in the U.S. Capitol as Senate warms to three-month extension of jobless benefits

A measure that would extend long-term unemployment benefits for another three months got an unexpected jolt of life last week in the U.S. Senate, although passage is still far from certain. Six Republicans sided with Democrats on a procedural vote that keeps the bill alive. A major point of debate: how to pay the $6.4 billion cost to continue sending unemployment checks averaging $256 a week to an estimated 1.3 million recipients.

Sheida Sahandy, a Bellevue City Hall manager, appointed to lead Puget Sound Partnership

Gov. Jay Inslee tapped Sheida Sahandy last week to lead the Puget Sound Partnership. Sahandy is the assistant to the Bellevue city manager, and has worked for the state’s fifth largest city since 2006. Sahandy has a Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a law degree from Columbia University. Her biography provided by the governor’s office does not list any private sector experience, but her LinkedIn profile notes work for two corporate law firms. The Puget Sound Partnership has 47 employees and an annual budget of $9.4 million. She will be the agency’s fifth executive director since the Legislature created it in 2007, the AP reports.

AWB EVENTS & RESOURCES
Help us recognize businesses that give back to their communities

Please take a few moments to recognize a business that is helping make its community a better place to live, work, learn and play. Consider such categories as community beautification, education, helping people in need, mobilizing people into action, recognizing volunteerism or aiding youth organizations. The Community Service Awards will be presented at a special dinner held in conjunction with the annual AWB Spring Meeting May 13 at The Davenport Hotel and Tower in Spokane. Nominations are due by Feb. 10. Download a nomination form here: http://www.awb.org/awards/.

Meet your elected officials at the 2014 AWB Legislative Summit

Legislative response has been very strong so far this year – which means this is a prime opportunity to meet and talk with legislators from your district. Attend AWB’s annual Legislative Summit Reception to meet your lawmakers and other business leaders in an informal setting on Feb.5. The next day, Feb. 6, join us for the AWB board meeting at 7:30 a.m., followed by legislative issues panels and policy analysis with legislators. The issue panels will focus on regulatory reform, labor and workplace relations, and transportation. We conclude the summit with a keynote luncheon address by Gov. Jay Inslee and the presentation of the AWB Better Workplace Awards. Register online now and reserve a room at the Red Lion Hotel.

Get savvy about the 24-hour news cycle in this Wednesday’s Crisis Communications webinar

The news cycle doesn’t stop just because you’re having a crisis. In fact, that’s when your world goes into fast-forward. Are you ready for the late-night phone call from a reporter or the leaked internal document posted by an anonymous blogger? Strategic communication veterans Randy Pepple and Jennifer West will offer practical advice to tackle real-life scenarios during AWB’s Crisis Communications webinar this Wednesday. The cost for AWB members is $49, or $79 for non-members. Register online or contact AWB’s Karlee Keith for more information.

THEY SAID IT

“If you want to encourage entrepreneurship, talk to business owners, not policy wonks.” ~ Megan McArdle, in a column for Bloomberg

From the President: New face, same commitment

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