March 4, 2019
Fast Facts
Bringing Business Up to Speed
Legislation of Note « All Categories

HB 1841, 1842, and 1843: Anti-rail legislation

AWB and a coalition of agricultural and business groups are opposing a trio of anti-rail bills which would increase and delay the cost of moving goods by rail, interfere with long-standing collective bargaining agreements, and are generally subject to federal preemption. House Bill 1841 would mandate minimum crew sizes on freight trains. House Bill 1842 would mandate limits on the number of hours railroad yardmasters could work and prohibit carriers from communicating with them during off-duty hours. House Bill 1843 would prohibit railroad carriers from disciplining employees for illness or injuries, and would establish fatigue layoff and family leave programs for railroad workers. Contact AWB's Mike Ennis to learn more about how these bills would create new costs and delays for Washington's trade-driven sectors, especially agriculture, natural resources, aerospace, port and maritime.

SB 5116: 100-percent clean energy

The state Senate approved Senate Bill 5116 on Friday by a 28-19 vote. Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, the ranking member of the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee, said the bill would raise energy prices and reduce the reliability of the electric grid, ending the state's low-cost electricity advantage while having no effect on world climate or local conditions. The House Energy and Environment Committee will hear the bill on Tuesday at 8 a.m. AWB will continue to testify with concerns regarding the bill's cost impacts on businesses and consumers as well as grid reliability. Contact Peter Godlewski, AWB government affairs director for environmental policy, to learn more or to testify.

HB 1515: Independent contractors

House Bill 1515 is the last of this session's independent contractor bills that is still alive and moving through the Legislature. The bill as originally proposed would substantially change the independent contractor law in Washington. Substitute House Bill 1515 was moved out of committee. The bill would create a task force with equal number of labor and business representatives as well as legislators from each caucus. AWB is seeking minor changes to the substitute bill. If those are made, AWB will likely support the task force created by the bill. Contact Bob Battles to learn more.

HB 1965: Whistleblower actions on behalf of the state

House Bill 1965 would allow whistleblowers to bring actions on behalf of the state for violations of workplace protections. This bill would allow individuals to act when an agency chooses to not move forward with an enforcement action. This could result in an increase in frivolous actions. The bill is in the House Rules Committee. AWB is opposed to this bill. Contact Bob Battles to learn more.

SB 5526/HB 1523: Creating a 'public option' health insurance plan

Both the House and Senate versions of the public option health insurance "Cascade Care" bill passed out of financial committees last week. Senate Bill 5526 and House Bill 1523 both move to the respective Rules committees in each chamber to await a floor vote. "These bills have the potential of increasing the cost of health care for employer sponsored insurance and decreasing access to health care coverage to those who would be covered by the plan proposed in these bills," said AWB's Amy Anderson. "This plan will continue the trend of increasing the cost of health care and will also decrease access to health care."

HB 1344: Child care access

AWB testified today in support of House Bill 1344, which directs the Department of Commerce to contract for a regional assessment of the child care industry. The Department of Children, Youth, and Families would be required to use the child care cost estimate model developed by the Child Care Collaborative Task Force (CCCTF) to determine child care subsidy rates by 2025. AWB co-chairs the CCCTF, which is studying the childcare system in Washington state, options for business to work collaboratively with the childcare system to provide affordable, accessible and flexible child care, and how the state can better support the system. The items addressed in HB 1344 will provide the necessary data and information the task force needs to develop a policy agenda for child care and early childhood education. Contact AWB's Amy Anderson to learn more.

SB 5397: Concerning the responsible management of plastic packaging

Senate Bill 5397 passed the Senate Ways & Means Committee last week and moves on to Rules. AWB wants to work with the sponsor, Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, and environmental advocates to have a discussion about the bill and produce a version that all stakeholders can support. Before this discussion, AWB's Peter Godlewski is holding a meeting with AWB's MTCA/PBT committee this Thursday at 1:45 p.m. to discuss the business community's approach to finding workable solutions on the issue of plastic packaging. Contact Tommy Gill for call-in options or Peter Godlewski to learn more.

HB 1703: Tax exemption reports

AWB testified against House Bill 1703 last week, and the bill did not advance. Section 4(4) of the bill proposes that tax incentives be reapproved every two years, creating uncertainty in the business climate. Opportunity Washington covered the bill and hearing here, writing that HB 1703 is likely to introduce "unprecedented uncertainty to state tax policy, jeopardizing the certainty and stability that has contributed to Washington's extraordinary economic growth." Contact Clay Hill, AWB government affairs director for tax and fiscal policy, 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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