Legislative News: Sixth Week of the 2017 Session

Legislative News: Sixth Week of the 2017 Session

Today is the 43rd day of the 2017 session, which is scheduled to last 105 days. The first cut-off was Friday, Feb. 17. Several bills are now dead. While all legislation is capable of being revived, it is unlikely in most cases. Additionally, there are some bills immune to cut-off  dates as they are considered necessary to implement the budget (NTIB). This week’s edition of the Legislative News will focus on bills that have changed status (alive/dead) due to cut off.

  • You can see a list of future cut-off dates here.
  • Quick refresher on how a bill becomes law? Click here.
  • Want a more in-depth explanation? Click here.

The main goal of a long session, like 2017, is to pass a balanced budget. The McCleary Decision is making the task more difficult this year. In the McCleary Decision the State Supreme Court found that the state has not adequately funded education and gave the Legislature until 2018 to fill, what they believed, would be a $6 billion gap. Due to this new large financial demand, legislators are looking to pass bills that bring in income (like new taxes or those that eliminate exemptions) and it becomes more difficult to get bills to progress that require state funding.

Liquor Legislation

  • House Bill 2000 is continuing through the process. This bill would eliminate confusion about what restrictions currently apply to private label spirits and sales. The Washington Hospitality Association testified in support of this legislation last week and will continue to advocate for is passage.
  • House Bill 1893 its companion Senate Bill 5665, have moved into Rules Committee. Therefore they are also still alive and moving through the process. These bills would 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.
  • House Bill 1874 is continuing through the process. This legislation would lower the blood and breath alcohol concentration (BAC) from 0.08 to 0.05 for a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrest.  The Hospitality Association is concerned with the bill, as all other states in the country maintain the .08 BAC level, and current MAST certified employees are trained to recognize signs of intoxication based on .08 BAC level precautions. The Hospitality Association will urge lawmakers to ensure proper level of education and outreach is done before any significant law changes take effect.

Pop Syrup Tax

House Bill 1975 continuing through the process. Although it has not been scheduled for a hearing the bill was referred to a finance committee so it is considered NTIB.  This legislation 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 and we are prepared to advocate against this legislation should it be brought for a hearing.

Paid Family Leave

Three bills were introduced at the beginning of session that would create a statewide paid family leave policy. While the bills all addressed ways to create the program, they were different in their approach to implementation of paid leave. The day before the first cut-off, Sen. Fain (R) and Sen. Keiser (D) co-sponsored Senate Bill 5829, a “title only” bill, meaning the body of the bill is blank, and capable of being amended once an agreed to approach has been decided. This move leaves a lot of room for negotiation, compromise and a solution that works for employers and employees. Details of the bill are still being worked out and the Washington Hospitality Association will keep you up to date as specifics emerge. We will keep you informed on the progress of this legislation. However, this new legislation is not the only bill that is still alive.

  • House Bill 1116 (companion to Senate Bill 5032 which is considered NTIB) is still moving through the process. The proposal in the bill would give employees six months of paid leave and uses an employer-employee payroll tax for funding.
  • Senate Bill 5149, is considered NTIB and could still continue through the process. This bill 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.

Teen Wage and Minimum Wage

  • Senate Bill 5541, would institute a teen wage, at 85% of the state minimum wage, passed out of Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee and is now in Senate Rules Committee. This legislation would change I-1433, triggering a 2/3 vote of the legislature. However, we will continue to work hard to promote this legislation. Teen employment is important to our industry and the state economy. Read this column to see why.
  • Another bill, which seeks to lower the first increase set forth by I-1433, from $11 per hour to $10 per hour, House Bill 1724 never received a hearing and is considered dead.
  • Rule-making with the Department of Labor and Industries on Initiative 1433. Stakeholder continues. Final stakeholder feedback is due March 3. L&I will hold hearings throughout the state for public comment after March 3.

Tourism Bills

  • House Bill 1123 (and Senate Bill 5251) have both been passed from their respective policy committees in the House and Senate. This bill 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.
  • House Bill 2015 was dropped into the system last week, and scheduled to be heard on Wednesday. The bill would secure necessary funding for the Washington State Convention Center.
  • Senate Bill 5827 was also dropped into the system last week, and heard on Monday. Your GA Team testified in support of this important bill. This legislation defines the term “tourist” for purposes of local lodging tax reporting. This definition is important so that tax dollars for local tourism efforts are being spent appropriately.