December 2, 2019
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Top Stories

This week: Join Gov. Inslee and a 10-year-old 'change maker' at AWB's Holiday Kids' Tree lighting

It's time! The tree arrives tomorrow, and after elves spend the week decorating, this Friday is the big tree lighting of the 31st annual Holiday Kids' Tree. Join Gov. Jay Inslee, 10-year-old "change maker" Jayden Nelson, and Santa for a fun, family-friendly event this Friday at 6 p.m. in the Capitol rotunda.

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Ecology director announces plan to step down at end of year

Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon announced today that she will step down from her post at the end of the year after nearly seven years running the state agency. She plans to pursue a private law practice focusing on environmental law after taking some time to reconnect with family and friends.

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King County judge halts Initiative 976, for now

Lower car-tab taxes are on hold for now. A King County judge has ordered a temporary halt to Initiative 976 while the issue plays out in court. The move means the state can continue to collect higher car-tab taxes.

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AWB members prepare to meet with federal leaders as D.C. Fly-in kicks off

Nearly 30 Washington employers are heading out to the other Washington this week for the seventh-annual AWB D.C. Fly-in. The schedule includes meetings with nearly every member of the state's congressional delegation, as well as talks on trade, agriculture, tax policy, the Columbia River treaty, and much more.

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More airport, transit options needed to handle Puget Sound growth

Western Washington needs more options to handle surging growth, and the region's main airport will not be able to meet passenger demand by 2050, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council executive director. Also, drive times to get to the airport could get worse.

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Study seeks input on ideas to remove, or keep, Snake River dams

A new survey is now open for public comment, giving Washington employers and others interested in the future of the four lower Snake River Dams a chance to make their voices heard.

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Make Holiday Kids' Tree your #GivingTuesday donation

Thanksgiving and Black Friday are behind us, and now it's time for Giving Tuesday. AWB's Holiday Kids' Tree Project is the perfect Giving Tuesday donation. This effort provides food and toys to rural families in need through local fire departments. Donate tomorrow online and help us make the holidays a little brighter for families across Washington.

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Other News

L&I approves small workers' comp rate decrease

The Department of Labor & Industries has approved a 0.8% decrease in average workers' comp rates. It's the third year of decreases in the average rate charged to employers. Many businesses who remember years of double-digit rate increases during the Great Recession will welcome the small drop in costs as a little step in the right direction.

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State minimum wage scheduled to rise to $13.50 in new year, increasing cost challenges for employers

Washington's minimum wage will increase to $13.50 on Jan. 1, up from the current $12 per hour. The increase comes from Initiative 433, passed by voters in 2016. The Columbian reports that the increase will mean both higher labor costs for businesses, as well as higher overhead costs as suppliers pass on their increased labor expenses.

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With strong revenues, state Senate leader calls for B&O tax rollback

State Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, says state government has plenty of revenue, and that lawmakers should roll back a recent hike in the business and occupation tax that was passed earlier this year.

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Lands commissioner proposes insurance surcharge to fight wildfires

State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz has proposed adding a $5 surcharge to premiums for casualty and property insurance to create a new revenue stream to prevent and fight wildfires.

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State Rep. Jeff Morris resigns

State Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, announced his resignation Wednesday to take a new job with Schneider Electric, a Fortune Global 500 firm.

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Washington consumers prefer to shop in-store, says recent holiday retail study

Washington State University's Carson College of Business found that nearly half of Pacific Northwest consumers do most or all of their shopping in-store, demonstrating the staying power of brick-and-mortar stores in the region, reports the WSU Insider.

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Passages: William Ruckelshaus, former head of EPA and founder of public policy center

William Ruckelshaus is best known as the first head of the EPA and as a key figure resisting President Nixon during Watergate. In Washington state, however, he's been a prominent leader in public policy through the William D. Ruckelshaus Center.

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Key Hearings/Meetings

AWB Employment Law Committee Meets Dec. 11

AWB's Employment Law Committee will meet Wednesday, Dec. 11 from 1:30--3:30 p.m. at the AWB offices in Olympia, located at 1414 Cherry Street S.E., Olympia, WA, 98501.

To participate by phone, please contact Thomas Gill at TommyG@awb.org or 360.943.1600. For more information please contact Bob Battles at BobB@awb.org.



AWB Events & Resources

Holiday Kids' Tree: Join us at the Capitol on Dec. 6 for a festive evening of generosity

The tree has been picked and hundreds of toys are being packed by Santa's elves. AWB is getting ready for this year's Holiday Kids' Tree Project, and the arrival of the tree to the state capitol. New this year: Donations are now accepted online.

Read more »

Best of the Blog

Enthusiastic 10-year-old 'change maker' will light Holiday Kids' Tree

When the lights go on this Friday at the 31st annual Holiday Kids' Tree celebration, a 10-year-old dynamo will be the one flipping the switch. Jayden Nelson of rural Lewis County calls herself a "change maker," and her story is inspiring. Read it at Olympia Business Watch.



Tweet of the Week

Supporting Families



They Said It

Dams Support Social Justice

"People really need to consider the social justice component of hydroelectricity in getting to the clean energy future we all desire." ~ Kurt Miller, Northwest RiverPartners executive director, explaining his group's opposition to any breaching of dams on the Columbia and Snake river system. He noted that in California, rolling blackouts hit lower-income residents the hardest, because people with higher incomes can install solar panels, batteries and generators.




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Holiday Inspiration
Good Building

Cross-laminated timber can help the Northwest lead on the Green New Deal

By Seattle City Councilmember Abel Pacheco and his director of communications, Conor Bronsdon

We live in a region of pioneers and conservationists in a land built on the back of the timber industry. The idea of sustainable working forests fits not just our historical industrial strengths, it fits our regional ethos. In the Pacific Northwest, we want to live green. It's time for Seattle to take the lead on mass timber. With cross-laminated timber (CLT) and other mass timber products we can move to solve our housing crisis, develop needed density, and address climate change -- all while staying true to our regional culture and history.

By using CLT in the development of much-needed housing we will actively remove and store carbon from the atmosphere -- every cubic meter of timber growth captures one ton of carbon from the atmosphere. Construction would simultaneously emit less carbon.

Encouraging CLT usage could also jump-start stalled rural economies that have languished since the logging industry slowed down. Construction startup Katerra opened the nation's largest capacity CLT manufacturing facility in Spokane and Vaagen Brothers Lumber, which has been in Washington for four generations, is expanding CLT production operations in Colville. With the state making code changes fall that allow for the use of mass timber in buildings as tall as 18 stories, the region is primed to use CLT to address our affordable housing crisis.

Read the full op-ed in The Puget Sound Business Journal
A more resilient workforce

Prepare students for technical careers

By The Seattle Times editorial board

Once, all it took to secure a satisfying and well-paying job was a high school diploma and a good work ethic. But that story has largely changed.

That's why Washington's public schools must offer robust, high-quality Career and Technical Education programs to help prepare the state's vocationally minded students for career success.

A college education should be within reach of all students with the aptitude and interest to pursue a four-year degree, but not everyone wants to follow that path. At the same time, there is a high and consistent workforce demand for skilled tradespeople, without whom Washington's economy would shudder to a halt.

Read the full editorial in The Seattle Times.