March 4, 2019
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Legislative update: midpoint of session approaches as school funding takes the spotlight

It hasn't been a year since the Legislature pumped almost $1 billion into the state's K-12 educational system, but that jolt of money led to quick financial decisions that are now leaving local school districts warning of layoffs and budget cuts.

The Seattle Times looks into the issue in a story that says many school districts are forecasting multi-million dollar shortfalls for years to come unless the Legislature makes changes that either send more money or roll back parts of the state's McCleary education response.

The Times reports that 191 of the state's 295 school districts are already in the red.

“Without legislative action, valued K-12 programs and staff positions will be cut, class sizes will go up and some districts may be insolvent,” said Steve Webb, superintendent of Vancouver Public Schools, in an open letter to lawmakers warning them of a "McCleary mess."

Lawmakers, meanwhile, point to double-digit pay increases that school districts agreed to with teacher unions last summer.

“That’s part of the problem, no question,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington.

The Washington Policy Center took a look at the numbers in one district, noting that the Tacoma School District plans to lay off teachers despite receiving record-high funding from the state.

Sen. John Braun, ranking member of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, gives a brief history and economics lesson about the issue and about the steep costs of one proposed solution. Senate Bill 5313 would raise local K-12 property tax authority by $2.5 billion a year and return to the days of funding "haves and have nots" in richer and poorer districts.

Friday was fiscal cut-off in the 2019 legislative session and the pace of activity remains high in the Capitol as the session rolls toward this week's midpoint.

For the employer community, especially small businesses, this has been a challenging session. Between the employment law proposals (independent contractor rules, restrictive scheduling, etc.) and a variety of tax proposals, there are many issues that would make it harder for small businesses to compete and grow.

Among the proposals is a 67 percent business and occupation tax increase on service-sector businesses. A new AWB Amplified video takes a deeper look at that issue. An earlier video addresses the capital gains tax proposal also under consideration in the Legislature.

Contact Clay Hill, AWB government affairs director for tax and fiscal policy, or Amy Anderson, government affairs director for education, to learn more.

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Workforce Summit This Week
Limiting Worker Choice

Flexible schedules are vital to hospitality industry

By Larry Freshler, a hotel industry professional for 30-plus years

I chose to make my career with hotels because I believe that schedule flexibility is an important benefit of the industry. Scheduling flexibility allows employees to decide when they want to work. Through this option, employees have the opportunity to make the best decisions for their health and the well-being of their families.

As an HR professional, we want to encourage positive working relationships and foster healthy conversations among employees and their employer. Creating a statewide mandate of how employees and employers must interact does not create a good environment or culture. In my experience, no matter where you are in the hotel, as an employee, you have input into your schedule and always have the chance to pick up more shifts if you want them, or vice versa.

A scheduling policy as complex as the one proposed in Olympia would be a logistical nightmare. If this policy were adopted, we would likely need to add staff just to manage the new scheduling demands. Currently we act as a team and schedule our employees taking into considering their schedules and requests. In all my time in HR, I've seen some interesting proposals, but this one limiting the scheduling abilities of employers might be the most burdensome yet...

Read the full guest column in The Spokesman-Review
Attack on Agriculture

Is there slavery in the domestic food supply chain?

By The Capital Press Editorial Board

If the Washington Senate Labor and Commerce Committee has its way, farmers and ranchers who supply large retailers doing business in the Evergreen State could find themselves certifying to those customers that they are not slavers.

Introduced by Seattle Democrat Rebecca Saldana, Senate Bill 5693 mandates that retailers with worldwide sales of more than $200 million require farmers and ranchers to report any incidents of slavery, peonage and human trafficking. Furthermore, the law would require any violation of labor laws to be reported...

No one denies that human trafficking, particularly in the sex trade, is a real problem. While there's probably little doubt that forced labor is a problem in the third world, there is no evidence that slavery or peonage is practiced on U.S. farms in general or Washington farms in particular.

Washington farm groups were rightly enraged by the suggestion.

Washington Potato and Onion Association lobbyist Jim Jesernig, said potato and onion growers were angry, and so was he.

"The supply chain that feeds you and your constituents are our farmers, ranchers and food processors. This accuses them of slavery and human trafficking."

Read the full editorial in The Capital Press
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