Legislative News: Second week of the 2017 Session

Legislative News: Second week of the 2017 Session https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/WA-Capital-Building.jpg

Today is the fifteenth day of the 2017 legislative session. The session is scheduled to go 105 days. For a schedule of hearings in the upcoming week you can visit: leg.wa.gov. The Washington Hospitality Association holds Government Affairs Committee (GAC) calls every Monday. If you would like to be a participant in the calls contact KatieD@wahospitality.org.

At this point in the legislative session, before the first cut-off which is Feb.17, bills are being introduced at a rapid rate. Your Government Affairs team is tracking more than 60 bills at this time. You can see a listing of those bills in this 1.20.17 report.

Paid Leave Legislation

Since the legislative session started, three bills have been introduced that propose to make a statewide paid leave policy. One of the bills, House Bill 1116, had a hearing this week and Julia Gorton, State Director of Government Affairs, testified at the hearing.  This bill, and its companion Senate Bill 5032, would create a policy that gives employees 26 weeks paid time off. Compensation calculations within the bill are complicated. Leave is financed through a payroll tax on both employers and employees.

The third bill, Senate Bill 5149, would provide 12 weeks paid time off. Compensation is phased-in up to 67 percent of the employees salary which aligns with Unemployment Insurance coverage. Leave is financed through an employee payroll tax. Hearings have still not been scheduled for this bill.

Additionally, there have been discussions about a fourth bill being introduced that would provide further options. However, this legislation has not been introduced yet.

The current proposals have very different elements such as funding mechanisms, time allotted and compensation levels. You can see a detailed summary of the differences in this paid leave comparison chart. However, all the policies give paid time off for employees to care for:

  • Their own serious health condition;
  • Bond with a child (birth, adoption, foster care)
  • Care for a family member with a serious health condition;
  • Qualifying military exigency

Tourism Legislation

This summer the Washington Hospitality Association participated in a stakeholder group that resulted in House Bill 1123 (HB 1123) and its companion Senate Bill 5251 (SB 5251).  HB 1123 is scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 25 at 8 a.m. in the House Committee on Community Development, Housing & Tribal Affairs at 8 a.m. You can help by contacting legislators within that committee to thank them for their support of tourism in Washington state. You can find a list of legislators here. You can also make sure to talk to your legislator on this important topic at Hill Climb 2017.

HB 1123 establishes a tourism marketing authority through the state that is funded 2:1 by private employers and the state. Roughly $5 million dollars would be allotted to tourism out of the  general fund budget. A work session on tourism was held Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee. You can watch the work session on TVW here. There is still a lot of discussion regarding the funding mechanism in the legislation. The Washington Hospitality Association is working hard to find solutions with other stakeholders and the business community.

Currently, state tourism is not funded by the state budget. Washington is the only state in the U.S. not to have public funding source. Increased tourism promotion helps all Washington business. For every $1 spent in Washington tourism promotion $25 is returned in new visitor spending. However, this could be significantly more. In Oregon, for every $1 spent $237 is returned in new visitor spending. A tourism authority is beneficial to Washington’s citizens and businesses.

Don’t forget to Register for Hill Climb

Hill Climb and Taste Our Best is Feb. 6, 2017. Your decision to attend Hill Climb is perhaps the most important decision you will make this year and its free.  Learn more…