Hot Off the Grill: 2015 Legislative Session week twelve

Hot Off the Grill: 2015 Legislative Session week twelve

Dear WRA members, Today is day 82 of the 2015 regular session. On April 1 another big cut-off date passed. The WRA’s key bills are still moving through the process. You can see a calendar of all the 2015 cut-off dates here. The WRA continues to monitor more than 200 bills. You can see our positions and all the legislation we are tracking by clicking here.

Senate 12 Hour Budget Debate

Debate on the Senate’s budget began Thursday afternoon around 4 p.m. and did not conclude until after 4 a.m. on Friday. The budget, which appropriates about $38 billion without increasing taxes while devoting additional dollars to basic education, moved the day earlier on a party line vote. While the budget development began in a bipartisan effort, negotiations eventually ended, which set the scene for a very contentious floor fight. Before debate on the budget began, Senate Democrats proposed more than 70 amendments that would all need to be debated individually before there could be a vote on the full budget. The amendments were on a number of different policy and fiscal issues. Many of the amendments were designed to appeal to particular members of the Majority Coalition Caucus, in order to divide the group and disrupt passage of a budget. In response, the Majority Coalition Caucus amended the rules of the senate, so that budget amendments needed a super majority to pass. With emotions running high, debate began on the 70 amendments. In addition to the added length of time to debate every amendment, Senate Democrats demanded roll call votes for each amendment and every motion to every amendment, as opposed to a voice vote, causing the senate to work early into the next morning. After 4 a.m. on Friday, debate on all the amendments completed. Three amendments were approved, and the Senate is scheduled to return and pass the full budget on Monday.

House Budget

Last week in Hot of the Grill we outlined the House of Representatives 2015-2017 Budget Proposal. On Thursday, April 2, the House passed the first phase of their budget plan with 51 Democrats voting in support, and 47 Republicans voting against. House Bill 1106 outlined the proposed spending plan, however it did not include the revenue portion to support the $1.4 Billion dollar increase in spending. We likely will see the revenue bill next week. Click here to read last week’s summary of the House Budget proposal. 

WRA testifies in opposition to new tax hikes

This week, the Director of Govt Affairs Bruce Beckett testified in the House Finance Committee in opposition to House Bill 2224.  The proposal would raise $1.5 billion in new taxes through increased B&O taxes on services, a new capital gains tax, and increased tax on royalties. You can see Beckett’s testimony here. His testimony focused on how the capital gains tax is, in fact, a new tax on small business owners at the time they sell their business. While a large number of business organizations testified opposed to the new taxes, the hearing also included social service providers, education advocates and others in support of increasing revenues to the state. No action was taken by the House Finance Committee on the bill.

Minimum wage – state negotiations continue

One vehicle for increasing the minimum wage at the state level, House Bill 1355, sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, had a hearing last week on March 30. You can watch the hearing on TVW by clicking here. This bill has had an interesting history and has continued after a unique floor debate. To read about the debate click here. Currently, no changes to the bill have been made to include elements requested by restaurants. At this time state implementation of safe and sick leave policies are tied to these negotiations. The WRA is still consistently working to negotiate on HB 1355. Another bill, Senate Bill 6087, prime-sponsored by Senator Steve Hobbs, D-Snohomish, was recently introduced. It also aims to address the minimum wage increase but in a different manner, however the bill has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

Tourism bill continues to move forward

Senate Bill 5916, was heard Tuesday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee and was voted out of committee on Wednesday. It now awaits movement in the Rules Committee. We will continue to monitor its progress and hope to see movement again next week.

Liquor laws – negotiations continue

The WRA updated you on three liquor bills that could impact your business in the last edition of the Hot Off the Grill which you can read here

  • Senate Bill 5301, sponsored by Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, would remove the 17 percent fee on restaurants when they purchase from retailers.
  • Senate Bill 5400, sponsored by Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, would implement an additional fee on licenses and permits issued by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
  • House Bill 1124, sponsored by Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview, would permit the sampling of beer and wine.

These bills haven’t seen substantial changes this week but continue to advance through the process. The WRA continues to work on this legislation and will keep you posted on the progress of this legislation.

Music licensing

House Bill 1763, passed out of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on March 31 and is now in Rules. The bill would provide protection from harassment from music licensing reps and educate business owners on their rights when playing music in their establishments. The WRA testified in support of this legislation. The WRA will keep you updated on this issue as it moves through the process.

Local Government

Seattle Minimum Wage Changes take effect – on April 1, the first increase in minimum wage under Seattle’s ordinance took effect.  For more information please click here. There has been flurry of local and national media speculating on how businesses will be responding to the change as the law goes into effect. The WRA, the Seattle Restaurant Alliance and the Seattle Hotel Association are working to prepare and distribute guidebooks for complying with new law. Fortunately, the City of Seattle recognizes that much of the detail necessary for business to implement the law was very late, hence they will be focused during the first year on outreach and education instead of enforcement. For questions about the ordinance, implementation, and outreach you can contact Morgan Hickel, the SRA’s local government affairs coordinator, at

Tacoma merchants, including restaurant owners, recently met with $15 Now proponents to ask questions about their efforts for a ballot initiative as it’s become clear the group intends to file and, based on public comments, is not interested in working with business or elected officials on a compromise. The News Tribune, Tacoma’s primary newspaper, has printed two stories on the issue in recent weeks, raising awareness among businesses in Tacoma.  WRA is working with the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce and Tacoma area members on strategies to address the initiative, should it get filed.  You can read nire about it here. For more information on how you can be involved please contact Samantha Louderback, the WRA’s local government affairs coordinator, at

GAC calls If you would like to weigh-in on legislation or participate on the WRA Government Affairs Committee, you are welcome to join our weekly calls every Monday at 10:30 a.m. For call-in information, contact the WRA’s Shannon Garland via email or at (360) 956-7279.