March 25, 2019
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Top Stories

Tax collections coming in $861 million above forecasts, but House Democrats call for new taxes on 'excess profits' and employers

Washington will collect "a lot" of tax money, roughly $50.5 billion over the next two years. That's $4.5 billion more than the last budget cycle, according to new revenue figures. Despite the growing tax surplus, the Democratic majorities in the Legislature are calling for new taxes. The House Democrats released their budget plans today (watch the press conference on TVW), calling for an increase in state spending of $8 billion, or an 18-percent increase over the current budget.

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Low-carbon fuel standard bill moves forward, will raise the cost of fuel

The Senate's environment committee moved forward with a low-carbon fuel standard last week, sending the bill to the Senate Transportation Committee for consideration. The bill would increase fuel costs by as much as 30 or more cents per gallon. Similar programs in Oregon and California are already increasing fuel costs even before they are fully phased in. AWB opposes this measure.

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Trade mission to Japan creates enduring ties and memorable moments

The "Business and Baseball" trade mission led by AWB concluded Friday after an unforgettable week. The emotional highlight came as the Washington delegation had an up-close view at Ichiro Suzuki's final game. But off the field, more than 30 business and political leaders strengthened ties between Japan and Washington, two major trading partners.

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Sen. Carlyle discusses carbon pricing, taxes and more at Lobby Lunch

The chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Technology Committee, Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, discussed clean energy bills and millions in new state revenue with business leaders at AWB's Lobby Lunch last week. This Thursday's Lobby Lunch speaker will be the chair of the House Environment and Energy Committee, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-West Seattle.

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Legislation of Note

SB 5135: Allowing Department of Ecology to ban chemicals

AWB members and staff met with every member of the House Energy Committee to discuss serious concerns with Senate Bill 5135. The bill also had a hearing last week in the House Energy Committee. The bill would cede legislative authority to ban chemicals to unelected employees of the Department of Ecology. Alternative chemicals often require tradeoffs in other areas of safety and performance and AWB believes the proper evaluation of those tradeoffs lies with the legislative body and not agency officials. To learn more, including how you can help, contact Peter Godlewski.



HB 1599: Promoting career and college readiness through modified high school graduation requirements

An AWB-supported education proposal, House Bill 1599, was heard in the Senate Early Learning & K-12 committee last week. HB 1599 provides a multiple-pathway approach to high school graduation that requires students to complete a High School and Beyond Plan, earn required credits towards graduation (24 unless an Individual Education Plan (IEP) has been put into place), and successfully complete one or more pathways in order to earn a high school diploma. Contact Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for education and workforce, to learn more.



HB 2149-53: Budget reform bills

Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, has introduced a slate of budget reform bills. They include: HB 2149 - Improving state budgeting through zero-based budget reviews; HB 2150 - Implementing the periodic review of state spending programs; HB 2151 - Addressing fiscal notes; HB 2152 - Extending the period through which a state budget must be balanced; and HB 2153 - Concerning evaluation of state agency budget requests. Stokesbary is the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, and also has released a YouTube video on the state's growing budget surplus. Contact Clay Hill, AWB government affairs director for tax and fiscal policy, to learn more.



SB 5489: Environmental justice

AWB testified last week against Senate Bill 5489, a so-called "environmental justice" bill that would subvert the legislative process. The bill is scheduled for an executive session on Tuesday in the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee. The bill would require state agencies to establish a task force to recommend social justice measures in the state permitting process and then allow state agencies to implement those recommendations. This is a far-reaching bill which bypasses the normal legislative review process for new rules. Contact AWB's Mike Ennis or Peter Godlewski to learn more.



HB 1059: Extending the business and occupation tax return filing due date for annual filers

AWB supports House Bill 1059, which would extend the business and occupation filing date for annual filers. The bill had a public hearing last Tuesday before the Senate Ways & Means Committee, and was scheduled for an executive session vote today. Contact Clay Hill, AWB government affairs director for tax and fiscal policy, to learn more.



SB 5376: Data breach and European-style privacy protections

AWB continues to work with sponsors of Senate Bill 5376 to improve this bill, which had a hearing before the House Innovation, Technology & Economic Development Committee on Friday. The proposal continues to change, but still is set to adopt the privacy standards of the European Union's GDPR with a low threshold of 100,000 transactions, which would require most businesses in the state to comply with the GDPR standards. It also includes a problematic private right of action that affects everyone, down to a corner lemonade stand. Contact Bob Battles to learn more.



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

House Bill 1523 was heard last week in the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee. An executive session vote is scheduled this Wednesday. Its Senate companion, SB 5526, will have a hearing this Tuesday in the House Health Care & Wellness Committee, with an executive session vote scheduled for Wednesday. While amendments have removed the requirement that only standardized plans will be allowed on the health care exchange, AWB is concerned that the potential costs could cause higher costs for employers and employees. AWB opposes these bills. Contact Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for health care, to learn more.



Federal Issues

Sen. Murray re-introduces Child Care for Working Families Act

Last week, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, announced she would re-introduce her comprehensive child care and early learning bill. Murray, a former preschool teacher, said the bill would improve access to high-quality child care, bring down child care costs, create 770,000 child-care jobs, and allow 1.6 million parents to go back to work.

Read more »

Employers invited to conference call on USMCA

The U.S. Office of Public Liaison and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are offering updates on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) during a Tuesday conference call. All employers and interested parties are invited to participate.

Read more »

Other News

Microsoft joins UW, SBCTC in call for dedicated higher education funding

An op-ed in The Seattle Times last week urged the Legislature to create a dedicated tax-funded source for higher education. Noting the importance of effective workforce development, Microsoft President Brad Smith joined the president of the University of Washington and the vice-chair of the board for the state's two-year colleges in calling for an increase in the business and occupation tax rate for some service-sector employers -- with a higher rate for the "largest companies in the tech sector."

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Washington ranks second in U.S. for innovation, new survey shows

The personal finance website WalletHub has ranked Washington as the second-most innovative state in the country based on 24 key indicators like research and development, share of technology companies and student performance.

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Health Sentinel Network is recruiting healthcare employers for voluntary survey

The Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board is asking employers to consider participating in a voluntary, ongoing research project on Washington's rapidly changing healthcare workforce. In collaboration with the University of Washington, the Health Sentinel Network is gathering key data from healthcare industry employers.

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation launches campaign to help combat opioid crisis

America's opioid crisis is hurting families as well as the businesses and companies that drive the economy. But businesses can help solve the problem, a new campaign from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation shows.

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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 this Wednesday, March 27, 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.

Read more »

Key Hearings/Meetings

AWB Employment & Labor Committee meets Fridays

AWB's Employment & Labor Committee meets each Friday at AWB from 8-9:15 a.m., 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 Friday

AWB will hold weekly calls on transportation, land use and rural jobs each Friday morning. Contact Mike Ennis to learn more or Tommy Gill at 360.943.1600 for more information.



Best of the Blog

New federal lands bill includes major projects for Washington

A newly-signed federal measure clears the way for several new investments around Washington, from smarter firefighting to more protections for public lands. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, co-sponsored this bipartisan bill. U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-WA, was also in the White House for the signing ceremony. Read the full blog post here.



Tweet of the Week

Collaboration



They Said It

Live Within Your Means

"Before any new or increased taxes are even considered, lawmakers must trim the wish list of spending and write a budget solely based on the available -- and record-setting -- $50.6 billion in anticipated income." ~ The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Editorial Board.




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HealthChoice Works
Revenue Growth


No need for state Legislature to raise taxes

By The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Editorial Board

As the people in Washington state continue to spend, spend, spend, the sales tax being collected grows, grows, grows. And this has prompted state lawmakers to want to spend, spend, spend -- raise taxes -- and spend some more.

This makes no sense.

Yet, that is essentially what is happening in Olympia as lawmakers craft the 2019-2021 state budget...

The state Legislature will now have a record $50.6 billion to spend for the 2019-21 state operating budget -- a nearly 16 percent increase from the current two-year budget.

Yet, the Democrat-controlled Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee are not backing off the effort to raise more revenue -- and that could mean increasing taxes.

We strongly believe lawmakers and the governor should make every effort to write a no-new taxes budget. Spend only what is available, or even a bit less...

Read the full editorial in The Union-Bulletin
Broadband is Crucial


Utility of internet still not available to all

By The Herald Editorial Board

Most of us enjoy fast and reliable broadband internet service at the touch of our phones, tablets or TVs. It's become another utility -- and another monthly bill -- like our electric service, water, sewer and natural gas.

But for millions of Americans -- and hundreds of thousands in Washington state who live in rural areas and on tribal lands -- it’s a utility that stops well short of their neighborhood, much less their homes. The farther one gets from urban and suburban areas -- where internet customers are concentrated and getting service to them is more cost-effective for internet providers -- the less likely that service is available at the speeds that the Federal Communications Commission has set as a standard: 25 megabits per second.

In all senses of the word, this is a utility. Especially for those in rural areas who are already at a distance from city services, broadband is about more than binging on Netflix. This is a service that is important to local businesses, telecommuters, public school and college students, and patients who are increasingly using telemedicine to connect with their doctors and other health professionals...

Read the full editorial in The (Everett) Herald
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