Like you, we are members of the Washington Hospitality Association, representing each aspect of our industry – full-service and quick-service restaurants, and lodging. As your Government Affairs Committee (GAC) chairs, we have the pleasure of leading the committee and talking with you to determine our association’s legislative policy positions and priorities.
When we met last, in December 2018, in advance of the 2019 legislative session, we had a good idea of the challenges we would have during the session. However, we knew there would be some unknowns too. We knew, going into the session, that our team was already well positioned to work with every member of the Legislature. The State Government Affairs team has made forming strong, bipartisan relationships with lawmakers a priority. With one-party majority rule in the House, Senate and Governor’s Office, these relationships are more important than ever to advancing our policy goals.
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We began the session with a focus on workforce development and affordable housing. While these two topics may seem unrelated to the hospitality industry, as hospitality operators in communities across the state, we see the demand for workers, the need to grow the careers of those who have joined us in hospitality and the lack of affordable housing options. Though our workforce development legislation did not pass this year, we started the conversation and raised awareness of the potential for careers in hospitality from entry-level positions, all the way up to senior level management and ownership. For example, more than half of us who met for Hill Climb, in January, got our start in the industry as dishwashers and now own our own businesses.
During the 15 weeks of the session, we had weekly Government Affairs Committee calls to receive updates on what the team was engaged with and where different bills were in the legislative process. These calls, our discussions and the updates we made to our bill tracker helped guide the team on the issues. As a member-driven organization, our input and opinions were constantly called upon. We saw more members get engaged in the process this session – from responding to action alerts to testifying in committee to attending bill signings. At every step of the legislative process, members stepped up and worked to advocate on behalf of our industry. Hospitality in Washington is stronger for it.
Overall, this was a very good legislative session for the hospitality industry. The State Government Affairs team really worked hard to achieve the association’s mission and “deliver wins for the hospitality industry.” After some time spent analyzing the priority issues matrix that the Government Affairs Committee adopted in December 2018, the State Government Affairs team achieved 84 percent of the items on the matrix. This is a huge accomplishment!
We attended two bill signings this year for measures we worked on to help strengthen hospitality in our state. Our top priority short-term rental bill requiring tax fairness and consumer safety protections passed and was signed into law by the governor. Additionally, a bill to protect hotel and motel workers by providing additional training and panic buttons passed and was signed into law. For both bills, the State Government Affairs team called on us as your chairs and the Government Affairs Committee for guidance.
We are honored to serve as your Government Affairs Committee chairs and look forward to working with all interested members in the future on the issues that matter to us most.
Russell Brent, Mill Creek Pub
Ron Oh, Holiday Inn Express & Suites North Seattle – Shoreline
Brian Moreno, McDonald’s
Note: This article was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Washington Hospitality Magazine.