April 15, 2019
Fast Facts
Bringing Business Up to Speed
Top Stories Legislation of Note Other News AWB Events & Resources Key Hearings/Meetings Tweet of the Week They Said It
Top Stories

With two weeks to go, lawmakers focusing on budget negotiations

The House and Senate budget-writers are negotiating on the final compromise state budget. Despite an additional $5.6 billion in new revenue, the majority Democratic leaders are continuing to call for new or increased taxes. The legislative session is scheduled to end on April 28.

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Boeing and Washington STEM celebrate signing day at the Capitol for students committed to STEM

Forty-nine students from every corner of Washington officially committed to STEM education programs and careers during a packed signing ceremony on Friday in the Capitol. Boeing executives and recipients of the business-funded Washington Opportunity Scholarship greeted these high schoolers and posed for photos.

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Legislature passes 100-percent clean energy bill

The state House has passed the 100-percent clean energy bill. The measure would mandate elimination of natural gas, coal and other fossil fuels from Washington's power supply by 2045. The bill has been a priority of Gov. Jay Inslee, and originally passed out of the Senate on the same day Inslee announced his presidential campaign on a clean-energy agenda.

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Low-carbon fuel standard bill misses key legislative cutoff

A bill that would mandate cleaner-burning (and more costly) fuel missed a key legislative deadline last week. However, the bill could theoretically be resurrected by inclusion in the operating budget.

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Nikki Haley to give keynote address at Spring Meeting

AWB's Spring Meeting in Spokane will feature a keynote address from Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations from 2017-19. Prior to serving as America's 29th permanent representative to the U.N., Haley was elected twice to serve as governor of South Carolina. Her keynote address, sponsored by Boeing, will mark the second time that AWB's Spring Meeting has been held in the Davenport Grand Hotel's spacious ballroom.

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Legislation of Note

HB 1403: Local B&O tax apportionment passes out of the Legislature

An AWB-supported bill on local business and occupation tax apportionment unanimously passed the Senate on Friday, and now awaits a signature from Gov. Jay Inslee. House Bill 1403 would simplify the administration of municipal B&O tax. AWB members worked with other stakeholders to collaborate on crafting this bill through 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.

SB 5961, 5998, 5997 and 5996: AWB testifies against tax increases

AWB's Clay Hill testified last week in opposition to several tax increase/modification measures during a Senate Ways & Means Committee hearing. He testified against a proposed substitute of SB 5961, which includes an 8.9 percent capital gains income tax; SB 5998, which would set up a graduated real estate excise tax; SB 5997, which would eliminate or narrow tax preferences for nonresident sales tax exemption by converting it to a remittance program, and would eliminate the preferential B&O tax rate for travel agents and tour operators; and SB 5996, which would fund fire prevention and suppression activities through an increase in property and casualty insurance premiums to 2.52 percent from the current 2.0 percent. Contact Hill to learn more.

HB 1344: Child care access bill passes the Senate with amendments

The Senate has passed House Bill 1344, a child care access bill supported by AWB that would continue the Child Care Collaborative Task Force and study the industry, providing necessary data and information to develop a well-thought-out and strategic plan for addressing child care access and cost in Washington. The bill passed the Senate 25-20 Friday evening. Significant changes have been made to the legislation, specifically in the number of official task force members, which was reduced from 40 to 23. "Unfortunately, there was a significant reduction in the number of business representatives on the official task force, but the bill would not have moved forward without these reductions," said Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for workforce. "The business partners who were cut from the task force can continue to participate in the discussion, but they will not be official members of the task force. This was the best compromise given the initial desire to completely take business out of the conversation." Contact Anderson to learn more.

SB 5526: House passes bill to create a 'public option' health insurance plan

The House passed an amended version of Senate Bill 5526, the public option health care bill, last week, by a vote of 54-38. This version of the bill provides reimbursement rates at 150% of Medicare rates, the ability for the state’s plans to continue to offer non-standardized plans, and a B&O tax exemption for health care providers. This version of the bill has also been supported by Community Health Plan of Washington, Premera Blue Cross and Regence. You can read their letter of support. AWB's health care committee voted to oppose this bill at the beginning of session, and continues to oppose the bill because of concerns that premiums for employer-provided health care would increase and that access to health care would not be expanded. Contact Amy Anderson, AWB government affairs director for health care, to learn more.

HB 1696: AWB moves to neutral position on amended wage and salary information bill

After amendments on the Senate floor, House Bill 1696, concerning wage and salary information, passed 37-10. The bill limits what prior wage and salary information an employer may request of an employee. As originally proposed, the bill would have also required employers to provide salary ranges for each position. AWB opposed the bill as originally written. After a striking amendment on the Senate floor, AWB moved to a neutral position on the bill. Contact Bob Battles, AWB government affairs director for workplace law, to learn more.

Other News

Microsoft: Federal government greatly underestimates number of Americans without high-speed internet

Microsoft has recently highlighted new research that shows as many as 163 million Americans lack access to high-speed broadband internet. That's a huge difference compared to the Federal Communications Commission estimate of about 25 million people. Microsoft is calling for a new approach to measure the situation.

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Marijuana use among workers climbs to 14-year high, new report shows

More American workers, including those that work in safety-sensitive jobs like pilots and train conductors, are testing positive for marijuana, a report from the drug-testing company Quest Diagnostics shows.

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Douglas County PUD looks to produce hydrogen from surplus hydroelectricity

Officials from the Douglas County PUD seek to branch out to produce hydrogen fuel with excess power generated by the Wells Dam on the Columbia River, Northwest Public Broadcasting reports. Hydrogen power is often created from burning natural gas, but the Douglas County idea would create "renewable hydrogen" from hydropower instead.

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AWB Events & Resources

Protect your business by learning more about cybersecurity at special event June 19

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AWB are sponsoring a special event in Seattle on June 19 that will focus on how you can protect your business or nonprofit from increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks.

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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, April 10, with a talk on wage and hour law with Priya B. Vivian from Lane Powell, PC. The series continues through the summer with other relevant topics, such as performance evaluations, non-compete agreements, accident prevention efforts and more.

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Webinar: Anti-Harassment Training in the #MeToo Era

Whether this is your first or 21st 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 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.

Tweet of the Week

STEM Signing Day

They Said It

Let the People Decide

"They (voters) should certainly have a say, given the number of times they've said no to an income tax." ~ AWB Government Affairs Director Clay Hill, about a proposed capital gains income tax.

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Spring Meeting
State Funding

Lifting levy lid violates spirit of McCleary deal

By The Columbian Editorial Board

Efforts in the Legislature to remove a lid on local school levies represent a step backward for school funding in Washington. Rather than invite a return to inequitable funding and open the door for lawsuits, lawmakers should provide state funding where necessary and adhere to a hard-fought agreement.

Following the 2012 state Supreme Court ruling in McCleary v. Washington, lawmakers took five years to hammer out a compromise in which the state would fully fund public K-12 education. That compromise limited local levies to $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value or $1,500 per student, whichever is less.

That was the promise lawmakers gave to taxpayers in 2017 -- state property taxes would increase in order for the Legislature to live up to its "paramount duty" of funding basic education. In exchange, local levies would decrease. The adjustments would prevent inequalities between districts that were at the heart of the McCleary decision; local levies had been used to fund basic expenses such as teacher salaries, creating disparities between wealthy districts and poor districts.

Now, school districts want the Legislature to keep both state and local property taxes high. Senate Bill 5313 would allow districts to tax up to $2.50 per $1,000 in assessed value -- a 67 percent increase from the current law -- or $2,500 per student, depending on a district's enrollment.

Passage of such a plan would put the state on the road to McCleary 2.0. It would invite the return of an unfair funding system that triggered the lawsuit in the first place and that had the amenities of a public education determined by a student's ZIP code.

Read the full editorial in The Columbian
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