Hot off the Grill: Week 3

Hot off the Grill: Week 3
Monday marked the start of the fourth week of the 2016 legislative session. These first weeks of session have been very busy due to the enormous amount of proposed legislation. The first cut-off date is February 5 and after that the amount of bills will decrease. The next cut-off date is for fiscal committees.
Below is an overview of some of the issues that topped the list of priorities this week. If any of the issues from past editions are not listed below and you would like to know more, you can check on our bill tracker (to the right).
The WRA/WLA team advocates for you on a wide variety of issues. Some of the hearings the team will be involved with this week will cover issues such as liquor, non-competition clauses, tourism marketing, pregnancy accommodations, sales and use taxes. To get a more in-depth perspective on what the GA team is handling you can become a Government Affairs Committee member!
It’s easy to participate in a weekly GA teleconference, get the inside details and give us your important insight. Just email to participate; any WRA/WLA member can join.
For any questions about this newsletter, or for general questions about the Hot Off The Grill,
Minimum wage – a bill comes forward
Yesterday, there was a hearing in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor on Proposed Substitute Senate Bill 6087 which addresses increasing the minimum wage. This is an altered version of the original bill put forth last year by Senator Hobbs (D-44). The GA Team for the WRA/WLA testified in favor of the bill at the hearing. The legislation would:
  • phase-in an increase to the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020;
  • following the phase in period, include increases yearly with the CPI as the current state minimum wage does;
  • mandate paid leave to the amount of one hour per 40 hours worked;
  • does not preempt current local level wage policies but doesn’t allow for future local ordinances.

The hearing was dominated by unions, activists and business groups opposed to bill.  From the union and activist standpoint, they don’t want any solution less than the initiative they filed In January. The other business groups simply oppose any change to the minimum wage. Our associations and the large grocers were the only groups that voiced support. Everyone providing testimony was given one minute to speak.You can see our testimony at the hearing here.

During the first week of the 2016 session the SEIU/UFCW backed coalition, Raise Up Washington, filed a statewide initiative to raise the minimum wage and mandate paid leave benefits. You can read the full text of the initiative here. The filing prompted significant discussion among legislators and advocates about a statewide solution at the state level.
By July 3, Raise Up Washington must gather around 300,000 signatures of registered voters to qualify for the ballot.
Tourism marketing gets a hearing
Yesterday, the WRA/WLA team also testified in support House Bill 2552, sponsored by Rep. Condotta (R- 12). The legislation would create the Washington Tourism Marketing Authority as a public body to manage financial resources for state tourism marketing. It also creates a business and occupation tax credit for businesses who contribute to a state tourism marketing fund.
Washington is the only state in the nation that does not invest in state-level tourism promotion and loses market share and visitors to neighboring states. Tourism is a $16.4 billion dollar industry in Washington that annually generates $1.8 billion dollars in tax revenue and supports more than 150,000 jobs.
Music licensing returns
Last session, Rep. Van de Wege (D – 24) introduced a bill which would regulate music licensing companies: House Bill 1763. Restaurants and bars may be familiar with these national licensing groups if they play recorded music or have live bands perform in their establishments.
The bill lets restaurant owners know what their responsibilities are and requires licensing companies to give notice and lists of music so bars and restaurants can choose what to play. The WRA testified in support of this bill several times last year. This session this bill is moving again and the bill has progressed to the House Rules Committee.
Hill Climb & Taste Our Best – a success
More than 200 restaurant and hotel owners and operators came to Olympia this year for Hill Climb and more than 400 people participated in Taste Our Best. Every year the event grows and is more impact. We owe a huge “thank you” to everyone who joined us. We would love to know what you thought of the event. You can give us your feedback online here.
Washington depends heavily on the hospitality sector as it pays more than $811 million in sales and B&O taxes alone, yet the hospitality industry survives within tiny margins. The bottom line of every hospitality business is effected by changing regulations. This year we were successful again at delivering that message to state lawmakers!
If you would like more information about the 2016 event or how to participate next year contact the WRA’s Kaare Ness