Legislative News: Fifth Week of the 2017 Session

Legislative News: Fifth Week of the 2017 Session

Today is the 36th day of the 2017 legislative session, which is scheduled to last 105 days. The main goal of a long-session, like the one we are in, is to pass a balanced budget. The first cutoff  is Feb. 17, so bills are being introduced at a rapid rate. After the cut-off, bills that haven’t made it through their original policy committees are considered likely dead and the number of bills being tracked narrows. Need a quick refresher on how a bill becomes law? Click here.Your Government Affairs team is tracking 178 bills at this time. You can see a list of all the bills here. If you would like to participate on our weekly Government Affairs Committee calls, send an email to Katie Doyle at KatieD@wahospitality.org.

Liquor Legislation

Three bills came to the forefront this week concerning liquor regulation.

House Bill 1893, and its companion Senate Bill 5665, would allow operators the use of credit cards when purchasing alcohol. This gives our members an additional option for paying for spirits and is a helpful convenience. Julia Gorton, the Washington Hospitality Association State director of Government Affairs, testified in support of the bill in the House Committee on Commerce and Gaming Feb. 9. You can see her testimony here. The senate version of the bill was heard today. The Washington Hospitality Association also testified in support of the legislation.

Additionally, House Bill 2000 was heard in committee today. This bill would allow the private label of spirits and thereby leveling the playing field for distillery and winery industries. The Washington Hospitality Association also testified in support of this legislation. The bill is scheduled for a vote in committee tomorrow. We will keep you up-to-date as these bills move through the process.

Pop Syrup Tax

House Bill 1975 was introduced last week. The bill would add a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (including imitation sugar and diet drinks). This is not the first time the legislature has sought to tax soda or other non-alcoholic drinks to fill budget gaps. We are actively watching this legislation. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing yet and has until Friday to be heard or it is likely dead.

Paid Family Leave

Senate Bill 5032 passed out of policy committee and was heard in fiscal committee on Feb. 9. No vote has been taken on the bill in the appropriations committee to date. The Washington Hospitality Association has testified at all hearings on this legislation.

SB 5032 (companion to House Bill 1116)  and Senate Bill 5149 propose to create statewide paid family leave policies. The proposal in SB 5032/HB 116 would give employees six months of paid leave and uses an employer-employee payroll tax for funding.

The Washington Hospitality Association supports paid family leave and Senate Bill 5149, which would provide 12 weeks weeks paid time off. Compensation within this bill is phased in up to 67 percent of the employee’s salary. Leave is financed through an employee payroll tax. We will keep you informed on the progress of all three bills.

Minimum Wage and Teen Wage

The Washington Hospitality Association is part of the ongoing rulemaking process with the Department of Labor and Industries on Initiative 1433. Stakeholder feedback is being collected today. L&I will use the comments to draft rules to implement the new law. Final feedback is due March 3. L&I will hold hearings throughout the state for public comment after March 3. The hearing dates and times have not yet been disclosed.

Last week, Senate Bill 5541, which would institute a teen wage, was heard in senate policy committee on Feb. 2. Julia Gorton, the Washington Hospitality Association director of State Government Affairs, testified in support of the legislation. See her testimony here. The bill has not since progressed.

We will keep you up to date as more information is available on the L&I rule-making and SB 5541.

Tourism Bills

House Bill 1123, and its companion Senate Bill 5251, would create a statewide tourism marketing program. Without this new law we are the only state in the nation without a tourism program and missing vital economic opportunities.

An amended version of the bill passed out of policy committee and has been assigned a hearing on Feb. 15 in the House Committee on Appropriations. The senate bill was heard on Feb. 9, but has not been moved to a fiscal committee at this time.

The Washington Hospitality Association is also participating with stakeholders on House Bill 2015. The bill would remove the lodging excise tax exemption for properties with fewer than 60 units. We are working to ensure our smaller lodging members will not be negatively impacted by this legislation. Currently the bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.