March 11, 2019
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Top Stories

Workforce Summit brings together new ideas and innovative employers

From new recruiting tools to increasing access to quality early childhood education, the 2019 AWB Workforce Summit explored new solutions to creating a healthier workforce. With new collaborative elements and a focus on "Leading with Employee Culture," the third-annual event in Bellevue produced greater connections and practical ideas for Washington employers.

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As Legislature passes halfway mark, small- and medium-sized businesses would bear heavier burdens

As the Legislature passes the halfway mark, this Wednesday is another key cutoff date for most bills to move out of their house of origin. With plenty of floor action on major bills, AWB's Government Affairs team is busy. Many bills this year would create a piling-on effect on businesses, especially on small- and medium-sized employers. Action on the budget, including a number of tax proposals, is also moving forward.

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Giant cranes make their way along Tacoma waterfront

The Puget Sound's gateway to global trade had an eye-catching addition last week as four super-post-Panamax container cranes sailed into Commencement Bay for installation at the Port of Tacoma. The Northwest Seaport Alliance cranes will be among the largest on the West Coast. It's a timely addition for the Port of Tacoma, which just celebrated its centennial.

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U.S. Department of Labor releases proposed overtime rule, state department of L&I still working on a state overtime rule

The U.S. Department of Labor just released its notice of proposed changes to the Executive, Administrative and Professional (EAP) Employees' Overtime Rule. As drafted, in 2020, employees making the equivalent of $35,308 per year -- up from the current $23,660 -- would be eligible for overtime pay. The state Department of Labor and Industries is drafting its own version of the EAP Overtime Rule for Washington state that could increase overtime eligibility to workers making roughly $70,000.

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State treasurer advocates for stronger reserves, banking reform for cannabis industry

Washington State Treasurer Duane Davidson spoke about banking reform for the cannabis industry, stronger state reserves and the issues surrounding a possible state bank at last week's AWB's Lobby Lunch meeting. This week's Lobby Lunch will feature Senate Transportation Committee Chair Steve Hobbs.

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Legislation of Note

HB 1403: Local B&O tax apportionment

An AWB-supported bill on local business and occupation tax apportionment unanimously passed the House last week. House Bill 1403 now moves to the Senate. The bill would simplify the administration of municipal B&O tax and comes from the work of the Local B&O Apportionment Task Force. The solutions in the bill are supported by both AWB and the Association of Washington Cities. Contact Clay Hill, AWB government affairs director for tax and fiscal policy, to learn more.



HB 1965: Allowing whistleblowers to bring actions on behalf of the state

Employers could face an increase in frivolous lawsuits under House Bill 1965, which would allow private right of action on behalf of the state for alleged violations of workplace protections. This bill would allow individuals to act when an agency chooses to not move forward with an enforcement action. The bill is in the House Rules Committee. AWB is opposed to this bill. Contact Bob Battles, AWB government affairs director for workplace law, to learn more.



HB 1344: Child care access

House Bill 1344, passed out of the House of Representatives last week by a 72-24 vote. The bill, which AWB supports, 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 current 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: Management of plastic packaging

Progress has been made to improve a bill that would help better manage plastic packaging. AWB members, environmental groups, and staff from the Department of Ecology met with Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, last week on Senate Bill 5397. AWB expressed the business community's concerns with how the original bill was written. Based on the conversation, the senator put together an amendment to direct the Department of Ecology to hire a third-party consultant to evaluate the amount and types of plastic packaging sold in the state. The consultant would write a report on the full costs of managing plastic packaging waste and the costs and savings available with various existing product stewardship organizations and recommendations to meet the goals of reducing packaging. That amendment passed 48-0. The bill now heads to the House for consideration. Contact Peter Godlewski, AWB government affairs director for environmental issues, to learn more.



HB 1324 and SB 5423: Creating the Washington Rural Development and Opportunity Zone Act

The Rural Jobs Act passed the House unanimously last Thursday with amendments and had its first Senate hearing today in the Financial Institutions, Economic Development & Trade Committee. House Bill 1324, which would support Opportunity Zones in rural communities, is a priority of the AWB Rural Jobs Task Force. Contact Mike Ennis to learn more, or read about the bill in Olympia Business Watch.



Federal Issues

Signs point to improving climate for federal infrastructure package

Infrastructure investment is one thing that both parties can agree on in Washington, D.C. In a new policy analysis, K&L Gates looks at why the stars might be aligning for action in Congress and agreement in the White House on a bold federal infrastructure funding package. Meanwhile, the National Association of Manufacturers has released a new infrastructure report, "Building to Win."

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Other News

Broad toxics bill would cede legislative control to unelected agency

By a 25-24 vote, a broad bill aimed at controlling chemicals passed the Senate on Thursday. Senate Bill 5135 now moves to the House. AWB is opposing this bill, which would cede legislative oversight and authority to the Department of Ecology to regulate or ban entire classes of chemicals. To learn more, including how you can help, contact Peter Godlewski.

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Senate Transportation Committee approves $15 billion package with carbon fee but no low-carbon fuel standard

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, says the $15 billion transportation package that his panel approved last week remains a "work in progress." The bill would create a state carbon tax and raise the state gas tax. Hobbs will answer AWB member questions about the bill this Thursday at Lobby Lunch in Olympia. Space is still available.

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Labor & Industries announces emergency change to prevailing wage for landscapers

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries filed an emergency ruling, effective today, changing the prevailing wage for some landscape workers.

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Boeing announces biofuel in the tank to fly new airplanes home; Alaska Airlines will be first customer

Boeing announced Friday that it would begin offering biofuel for airlines to fly their newly purchased airplanes home. Alaska Airlines will be the first customer to participate in the program. The two companies made the announcement Friday in Seattle at the Washington Sustainable Aviation Fuels Summit.

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Nominations still open for AWB's board of directors

AWB is looking for dynamic business leaders from employers of all sizes and regions of the state to serve on the AWB Board of Directors. We're accepting nominations for board membership until March 22. Nominations should be sent to Bonnie Millikan at bonniem@awb.org.

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AWB Events & Resources

Employment law basics for your business with AWB's popular webinar series

AWB's popular Human Resources and Employment Law Webinar Series continues on March 20 with a talk on employee handbooks from Greg Hendershott and Angela Vogel from Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. The series continues through the summer with other relevant topics, such as performance evaluations, wage and hour rules, accident prevention efforts and more.

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Webinar: Anti-Harassment Training in the #MeToo Era

Whether this is your first or twenty-first anti-harassment training, this webinar will provide you with key take-aways for conducting workplace investigations and preventing and responding to harassment. The webinar will be held Wednesday, June 26. Learn more and register online.

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Webinar: Marijuana and Opioids in the Workplace: Employment Law Guidance on Addressing Substance Abuse

Despite striving to maintain drug-free workplaces, many employers are increasingly facing substance abuse issues in their workforces. This May 22 webinar will focus on strategies to prevent and address substance abuse impacting the workplace. Learn more and register here.

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Key Hearings/Meetings

AWB Employment & Labor Committee meets Fridays

AWB's Employment & Labor Committee meets each Friday at AWB, with a call-in option also available. Contact Bob Battles to learn more or Tommy Gill at 360.943.1600 for call-in information.



Conference calls on rural jobs, transportation, land use canceled until March 13

Over the next two weeks, lawmakers will move from daily committee hearings to full-day floor sessions. This means AWB's weekly calls on transportation, land use and rural jobs will be canceled until the house of origin cutoff on March 13. Contact Mike Ennis to learn more or Tommy Gill at 360.943.1600 for more information.



Tweet of the Week

Port Pride



They Said It

Creating Opportunity

"(The program is) the most powerful revitalization tool that exists." ~ Arthur "Wes" Larson, a Bremerton developer, discussing opportunity zones, a new provision in federal tax law that encourages investment in rural and low-income areas.




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Workforce Summit
Inspiring Action


Hair stylists embody democracy in action

By AWB President Kris Johnson

It was an impressive display of grassroots organizing. Arranged solely through a quick online effort, the state Senate Labor and Commerce Committee hearing was jam-packed with hair stylists, salon owners and cosmetologists on Jan. 28.

Thousands of people signed in to testify and a line of professionals stretched from the Senate hearing room outside to the domed building on the Capitol campus nearly a football field away.

Those small-business owners and independent contractors converged on Olympia on short notice from every part of the state to testify against bills that would severely restrict who can and cannot be classified as an "independent contractor" in Washington state.

It was a powerful sight and an inspiring illustration of democracy in action.

That bill, and others like it introduced this session, would severely hamper those entrepreneurs' ability to continue to operate as their own boss...

Read the full column in South Sound Business
Carbon Costs


Time to stall climate bills that would raise gas prices

By Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial Board

Recycling is all well and good, but not when it comes to the Legislature's latest attempt to combat climate change by proposing solutions that result in higher gas prices, thus putting the pocketbook hurt on all Washingtonians, especially those in the Yakima Valley.

Didn't voters just reject a plan, Initiative 1631, that would place a fee on carbon polluters (that's you, large, multi-national oil companies) while virtually assuring that residents would see a significant price rise at the pump and higher electricity bills?

... Washington's regressive tax system already disproportionately affects those with the least wiggle room in their household budgets. Lower-income residents seemingly are just as concerned with combating climate change as those of more means, but they will be unfairly called upon to bear the bulk of the burden.

Read the full editorial in The Yakima Herald-Republic
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