Legislative News: Eleventh Week of the 2017 Session

Legislative News: Eleventh Week of the 2017 Session

Today is the 78th day of the 2017 session that is scheduled to last 105-days. April 4 is the next big cut-off. That is the last day to pass bills out of committee and read them into the record on the floor.

As of today both chambers and the Gov. have introduced their budgets. The negotiations on the budget will begin in earnest. Legislators will need to agree on a final budget before the current 105-day legislative session ends on April 23, or they will need to go into overtime special sessions to resolve their differences.

Several important bills are still progressing though the process. Want a quick refresher on how a bill becomes law? Click here.

Some bills considered necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) are immune to cut-off dates. These bills will be alive until the final budget, where they can be added and funded or not. As budget writers come together to find compromise the budget is a fluid document with bills and concepts be added and removed until the final product is released. Both of the proposed budgets are very polarized at this time and negotiations will likely be intense.

Budgets

Both plans would put about the same amount of new money into K-12 education in the next two years — about $1.8 billion. But, that is where the similarity ends.

Last week the Senate Republicans released their budget proposal. The Republican budget proposed:

  • Imposes a property tax swap, by establishing a statewide levy rate in exchange for local property tax levies that fund basic education ;
  • Adding $1.8 billion on the state basic education system including $493 million on implementing the K-3 class size reduction;
  • Rejecting new collective bargaining agreements and give flat raises of $500 per year for the next two years, spending only $240 million of the $1.7 billion proposed by Gov. Inslee;
  • Includes the existing exemptions for restaurants using flavor imparting products to cook; and
  • Includes a proviso that instructs the Department of Labor and Industries to consider how to include a teen wage in the new minimum wage.

Today, the House Democrats introduced their budget proposal. The Democrat plan would:

  • Enact a 7 percent tax on capital gains, affecting individuals and businesses in Washington, exposing our industry to a NEW tax resulting from the sale of your business, raising $715 million over two years;
  • Increase taxes on higher-grossing businesses to bring in about $1.2 billion in the next two years;
  • Create a 20 percent hike on B&O tax rates for service and retail sector businesses with gross receipts of more than $250,000;
  • Would end an exemption for online sales;
  • Fully fund all $1.7 billion in labor contracts proposed by Gov. Inslee.

Tourism
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. We are asking members to take action and ask their legislators to include tourism in the final budget.

You can take action easily by clicking here.

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 passed the Senate and a hearing in the House Committee on Higher Education and is awaiting a vote there. 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. This bill could help people within the hospitality industry move up the career ladder into family wage jobs. We will keep you up-to-date as this legislation progresses.

Paid Family Leave
The Washington Hospitality Association is working with legislative leaders regarding the future of this concept. Most recently, Sen. Fain (R) and Sen. Keiser (D) co-sponsored Senate Bill 5829 which is a “title only” bill, meaning the body of the bill is blank. You can hear Senator Fain discuss the legislation here. Other legislation that addresses ways to create the program have been proposed and the solutions within them differ greatly. For example, one version offers six months paid time off (HB 1116) while another offers 12-weeks paid time off (SB 5149). The title only bill allows for a solution to paid leave that is sustainable for both businesses and employers.

Liquor Legislation
Both HB 1893 and SB 5665 continue to move through the process. Both bills are in Rules. 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 this session, but as a tax 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 it should it start to progress.