Legislative News: Twelfth Week of the 2017 Session
Today is the 85th day of the 2017 session that is scheduled to last 105-days. Tomorrow, April 4 is the last day to pass bills out of fiscal committees and read them into the record on the floor.
Negotiations on the budget have begun in earnest. Both the House and the Senate passed their budgets from their respective houses with few approved amendments.
Legislators have three weeks to hammer out their differences and arrive at a compromise solution within the 105-day session. You can read an in-depth breakdown of the budgets in our last edition of the Legislative News. As budget writers come together to find a compromise, the budget remains a fluid document with bills and concepts being added and removed until the final product is released.
Some bills are considered necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) and are therefore immune to cut-off dates. These bills become part of the final negotiations where they can be added and funded or not. Want a quick refresher on how a bill becomes law? Click here.
Budget negotiations will impact the tourism bills we support. As it stands all three bills are considered NTIB:
House Bill 1123 and Senate Bill 5251 are considered NTIB. This legislation 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 is also considered NTIB. The bill removes the excise tax exemption for premises with fewer than sixty lodging units and moves to tax certain vacation rentals, short-term home-sharing arrangements. The bill also secures funding for the Washington State Convention Center.
Skilled Worker Outreach
Senate Bill 5713 is scheduled for a vote today in the House Appropriations Committee. The bill has until tomorrow to receive a vote in order to survive cut-off. The Washington Hospitality Association testified on March 21, 2017. Watch it here. This is an early success for our industry. This bill would fund a skilled worker outreach and training program which would apply to several programs we offer through the Education Foundation.
Paid Family Leave
The Washington Hospitality Association has been in positive discussions with other business associations, labor groups and legislative leaders regarding the future of paid family leave. Sen. Fain (R) and Sen. Keiser (D) have co-sponsored Senate Bill 5829 which is a “title only” bill, meaning the body of the bill is blank. The title only bill has left a lot of room for stakeholders to negotiate, remain solutions focused and look for common ground in order to get a bill passed this session. Topics of discussion include portability, options for small businesses, wage replacement, employee training credit and more. Talks have been progressing well and we are cautiously optimistic that a paid family leave bill, that meets the needs of employees and is sustainable for employers, will pass this year.
Both HB 1893 and SB 5665 are in their respective Rules Committees. This legislation would allow operators the use of credit cards when purchasing alcohol which gives our members an additional option for paying for spirits and is a helpful convenience.
SB 5145 has made it through the Senate and past House policy committee and is now in Rules. This legislation would allow our members to work with craft distillers to create a private label brand.
Pop Syrup Tax
House Bill 1975 has never made it out of committee but as a tax it is considered NTIB. This legislation is not currently in either budget. However, 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 it should it start to progress.