February 17, 2020
Fast Facts
Bringing Business Up to Speed
Top Stories Legislation of Note Federal Issues Other News AWB Events & Resources Key Hearings/Meetings Best of the Blog Tweet of the Week They Said It
Top Stories

Pair of rulings on car tabs do not result in immediate changes

A King County judge has largely upheld Initiative 976, rejecting most arguments that the car-tab measure was unconstitutional. Until other aspects of the case are resolved, however, implementation of the measure is still on hold. Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court has upheld Sound Transit's controversial formula for calculating car tabs.

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State forecast shows strong revenues, slight slowdown

Washington's top economist told employers last week that the state economy is strong overall. Lobby Lunch attendees heard that job and wage growth are robust, but slowing, and an unsettled international trade policy remains a concern. This week's Lobby Lunch will feature top legislators working on transportation issues.

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Judge approves T-Mobile merger with Sprint

A federal judge has removed the last major hurdle to the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. The merged company will go under the T-Mobile name, and will be based out of the company's headquarters in Bellevue.

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Attendees at AWB Workforce Summit will get a sneak peek at the Business in the Northwest 2020 report

Join us in Tacoma March 19 for a discussion on navigating change and finding effective solutions for today's workforce. The AWB 2020 Workforce Summit will dive into some of the challenges employers face and provide attendees with tools that may help address those issues, including a sneak peek at the upcoming Business in the Northwest report. Registration is now open.

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Legislation of Note

HB 1965: Qui tam bill opens up potential abuses through 'bounty hunter' lawsuits

House Bill 1965 allows individuals to stand in the shoes of government and sue over labor and employment laws in exchange for a portion of the financial award. Under this "qui tam" bill, an attorney can represent a person without his or her approval, then take up to 40% of the award, plus attorneys' fees and costs. These laws encourage frivolous and abusive lawsuits with little or no consequences for the "bounty hunter" lawyers bringing the qui tam cases on alleged violations laws regarding minimum wage, anti-discrimination, leave, meal and break rules, or many others. HB 1965 is ripe for abuse; a similar law in California has been used to harass employers for shakedown settlements. In 2017 alone, California had 8,000 qui tam cases filed. The average settlement per employee was close to $75,000, but the employee received only $200 due to attorneys' fees and other costs. The bill, introduced in 2019, has had no hearings this year, and is in the Rules Committee, awaiting a possible floor vote in the House. Contact AWB's Bob Battles to learn more, or download this fact sheet.

HB 2821: Increase health care costs with new taxes on insurance plans

House Bill 2821 will increase the cost of health care for businesses and individuals by adding hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes on "fully insured" health insurance plans that set a fixed amount for costs paid by the employer. The money raised from the new taxes would fund insurance subsidies for people making more than 400% above the federal poverty line. "The tax imposed by HB 2821 will result in higher costs to those who can least afford it: small businesses and their employees," said AWB Government Affairs Director Amy Anderson. "This is punishing employers and employees who are doing the right thing by providing, and purchasing, health care coverage." Contact Anderson to learn more.

HB 2409: Workers' compensation penalties, duties and licensing of third-party administrators

House Bill 2409 concerns industrial insurance employer penalties, duties, and the licensing of third-party administrators. This bill would have an impact on all employers. The latest version of the bill changes the new fiduciary duty to a responsibility of fair conduct, removes elements of a violation of the duty, and applies the responsibility to employers and their representatives instead of employers and their lay representatives. Enforcement of this vague standard would be adjudicated by the Department of Labor & Industries and be subject to a penalty. The bill is currently in the House Rules Committee. If it does not move by this Wednesday, it will be considered dead for the session. AWB is opposed to this bill. Contact AWB's Bob Battles to learn more.

HB 6628: Clean Air Rule

Several stakeholder meetings have been held on House Bill 6628, the Clean Air Rule (CAR), and Sen. Reuven Carlyle has introduced a new version of the bill, which makes some changes. However, the new version does not address the underlying concerns AWB members have with the bill, and AWB remains opposed to this version as well. The bill is expected to move early this week and AWB has been meeting with members on both sides of the aisle to express our concerns and continued opposition to this bill. The House version of the bill is considered necessary to implement the budget, which means it could still move after cutoff if the Senate version isn't passed. Another bill of concern, HB 2586, is also being readied for the floor. AWB has also been working with legislators to oppose it as well. Contact AWB's Peter Godlewski to learn more.

Job Skills Program funding request

1983, the Job Skills Program (JSP) has funded customized training designed to meet the needs of business and industry and to provide or retain gainful employment opportunities for new hires and incumbent workers. JSP is a dollar-for-dollar matching grant program, and at least 50% of training expenses are covered by the business through cash and/or in-kind payments. Businesses with reported gross business income of less than $500,000 are exempt from the dollar-for-dollar match. The Job Skills Program was funded at $5.45 million from the education legacy trust account for FY 2018 and FY 2019 of the biennium. This is a significant decrease in funding from a decade ago. AWB's vice president of Government Affairs, Gary Chandler, sits on the Washington State Workforce Training and Coordinating Board. Both business and labor members from the board have been advocating for additional funding to the JSP program for the last three legislative sessions. This year we are supporting the $2.4 million request included in the governor's proposed budget. Contact AWB's Amy Anderson to learn more.

Federal Issues

Administration releases president's budget request

The presidential administration has released its budget for fiscal year 2021. Dubbed "A Budget for America's Future," it highlights the administration's priorities, but Congress will decide the ultimate funding levels for the coming year.

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Bellingham-based nominee for Ex-Im Bank vice chair pushes for American alternative to Huawei

It's coming on a year since the president nominated Paul Shmotolokha of Bellingham to serve as first vice president of the Export-Import Bank. Shmotolokha, an international expert on technology, telecommunications, and renewable energy, recently published a piece in the Wall Street Journal pushing for American alternatives to Chinese 5G giant Huawei.

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Other News

Employers taking a close look at proposed payroll tax

A payroll tax to fund affordable housing and homeless services is being proposed in the Legislature. Some questions about the bill include how it could affect small businesses and whether local cities could still impose additional taxes.

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King County judge dismisses challenge of 'title-only' bills

A King County judge has ruled that a bank tax enacted last year through a title-only bill did not violate the state Constitution. In related news, several bills were introduced that year that would prohibit the use of title-only bills, but those proposals didn't receive a legislative hearing.

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Thousands apply to Paid Family and Medical Leave program

State officials encourage workers to submit complete and accurate applications when applying for the new Paid Family and Medical Leave program. Thousands of people have applied for the benefit, which became available Jan. 1.

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Nominations sought for AWB's Board of Directors

As a member-driven association, AWB's diverse and robust Board of Directors is an important source of strength. Nominations are now open for business leaders from across the state, and from employers of all sizes, to serve on the AWB Board. The nomination deadline is March 15.

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AWB Events & Resources

AWB Webinar on SECURE Act legislation on Feb. 26

The SECURE Act Legislation (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement) is a comprehensive retirement and savings law that went into effect Jan. 1. AWB is partnering with Integrity Financial to host a webinar on Feb. 26 to give you an overview of the new law and how the most significant provisions could benefit you and your business. Register now!

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HR & Employment Law Webinar on March 4: Employee Handbook

This seminar takes a look at some of the dos and don'ts of crafting an effective employee handbook, including essential policies your handbook should contain, highlights recent changes in Washington's legal landscape (such as the new paid sick leave law and local ordinances), and examines policy pitfalls and common-sense approaches that can help protect your business. AWB's next upcoming HR & Employment Law Webinar will be held on March 4. Register online for this and other timely webinars!

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Travelers Cybersecurity Symposium March 10

Is your business protected from a cyber attack? Join the Travelers Institute for Cyber: Prepare, Prevent, Mitigate, Restore, an educational symposium in Bellevue on March 10 helping organizations tackle evolving cyber threats. This national series brings together thought leaders from the public and private sectors to share insights into the current threat landscape and strategies to help prepare for and respond to a cyber incident. Co-hosted by AWB, the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and the Travelers Institute, registration for this event is free.

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Navigate change & find effective solutions at AWB's Workforce Summit on March 19

AWB's 2020 Workforce Summit on Thursday, March 19, at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center brings together new ideas and innovative employers to share tools that will address workforce challenges and foster positive action on strategic workforce development. With new collaborative elements and networking opportunities, you will benefit from greater connections and practical solutions for today's workforce. Registration is now open.

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Bipartisan Spring Meeting keynotes: Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

We are excited to welcome a slate of dynamic keynote speakers to Spring Meeting, including former U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and political analyst Amy Walter. This annual event is where Washington employers come for insights into the economic and policy issues that impact their business. The meeting will also feature updates on how the 2020 legislative session will affect Washington employers. We hope to see you in Spokane May 13-14. Registration is now open!

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Economic development professionals to convene at statewide 2020 Economic Symposium in Pasco April 14

Register by Feb. 29 to receive 10% discount on any full day symposium registration. AWB is partnering with the Washington Employment Security Department to bring you the 2020 Economic Symposium, Connecting the Dots: Metrics that Matter. This event convenes economic and workforce development leaders to address key issues that affect all of us. Register here.

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Key Hearings/Meetings

Monday calls offer an update on health care issues

Learn about important health care issues during a weekly Monday phone call with Government Affairs Director Amy Anderson. Her weekly health care phone calls will be held every Monday from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Contact Anderson to learn more and register.

Education update calls held on Monday mornings

Get an update on education issues with Government Affairs Director Amy Anderson every Monday from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Contact Anderson to learn more and register.

Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee to confer in person and by phone each Monday

Government Affairs Director Tommy Gantz will hold weekly in-person meetings with a call-in option on tax and fiscal policy issues each Monday. Calls will last no more than a half hour. Contact Gantz to learn more and register.

Employment Law update phone calls to be held each Friday

Government Affairs Director Bob Battles will hold weekly conference calls on employment law issues each Friday from 8-9:30 a.m. Contact Battles to learn more and register.

Transportation and land use phone calls held each Friday

Government Affairs Director Mike Ennis will hold weekly conference calls on two of his issue areas -- transportation and land use -- each Friday morning. He'll cover transportation at 9 a.m., and then a separate call will cover land use at 10 a.m. Each call will last about half an hour as he leads participants in going through relevant bills, formulating a position, and discussing testimony during public hearings. Contact Ennis to learn more and register.

Best of the Blog

Grassroots Alliance Connects with Schrier

AWB's Grassroots Alliance members continue to connect with lawmakers who make the decisions that impact employers of all sizes. Members of the Covington and Maple Valley Black Diamond Chambers of Commerce recently met with U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., to discuss concerns and establish a strong working relationship. Read the full blog post here.

Tweet of the Week

AWB in D.C.

They Said It

The Economy Continues to Grow

"There is a slowdown in this forecast, but it's still continued growth." ~ Steve Lerch, executive director of the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, speaking at last week's AWB Lobby Lunch. The state's new revenue forecast will be released this week.

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Support for Affordable, Quality Early Childhood Education
Supporting the Community

Making Childcare And Preschool Affordable Helps Working Families

By Will Hausa
Chairman, Washington State Commission on African American Affairs

This is an economic issue and indeed goes to the heart of my goal for the community. A recent report from the Association of Washington Businesses (AWB) found that half of Washington families could not find and keep affordable and reliable childcare. 27% of our state's parents leave work, school, or other professional development opportunities because they can't afford childcare or preschool. The lost wages from leaving the workforce have long-term financial consequences for families.

Childcare and preschool business owners are also looking at the economics. They are struggling to pay their workers a reasonable rate. So, they increase tuition costs. Our childcare providers and preschool teachers need the motivation and support to do a good job, and that includes a good wage. But that leaves families in a bigger bind because they get priced out of the system...

Read the full column in The Seattle Medium
Vital Baseload Generation

Looming power shortage is 'killer argument' against dam-breaching

By Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla

The case for breaching the Snake River dams was always weak-to-nonexistent, but in the last few months, a new argument has emerged that ought to end the debate once and for all.

We need the power -- or we may just find ourselves shivering in the dark.

Utilities throughout the Pacific Northwest are sounding the alarm about a power shortage that will begin next year -- and keep getting worse -- as clean-energy legislation forces the shutdown of coal plants.

By 2032, the chance of blackouts will triple, according to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the independent agency charged with forecasting the region's power needs. Similar warnings come from other utility organizations -- Portland General Electric, the Pacific Northwest Utility Coordinating Committee and the Northwest Power Pool.

One cold snap, and the entire grid could go down.

These warnings couldn't come at a better time for our region's fight to preserve the four Snake River dams. Over the last 30 years, environmental groups have managed to turn an absurd suggestion into a disturbing possibility...

Read the full guest column in The Tri-City Herald