Sine Die 2016!

Sine Die 2016! https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/WA-Capital-Building.jpg

The 2016 Legislative Session adjourned for the final time last week.The legislature had been called back into session to complete the 2016 supplemental budgets. While passing the 2016 Supplemental Budget and the Supplemental Capital Budget, the legislature also overrode all 27 of Governor Inslee’s vetoes, and there were no new taxes adopted. Below is a recap of key legislation from the 2016 session and important liquor news updates.

Hot Off the Grill newsletters like this one will now be sent on an as-needed basis. If you would like any information from past editions, email StephanieD@warestaurant.org. Due to the extended session, a detailed legislative review, that includes summaries of all key legislation from this session and election updates, will be published later in the year.

Liquor in the Legislature
Early in the session, the liquor distributors introduced companion bills, House Bill 2577 and Senate Bill 6324, to grant authority to the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) to allow for differential pricing of spirits to on premise licensees (restaurants, bars, taverns and hotels). In promoting their bill, distributors claimed that the outcome of the bill would be to restore their ability to offer lower prices to on-premise licensees. The bills initially attracted bi-partisan sponsorship as a result.

The LCB has adopted rules prohibiting differential (or channel ) pricing, and WRA/WLA has filed a legal challenge arguing that the LCB does not have the authority to regulate market pricing for spirits. The bills, if passed, would have effectively granted authority to the LCB to regulate such pricing – and provided no guarantees that any such action by the LCB would lead to more favorable pricing or terms for on premise retailers. When WRA/WLA pointed that issue out in both hearings, and in meetings with the bill sponsors, support evaporated and the bills failed to move out of either the House or Senate committees.

Minimum Wage
Towards the end of the regular session, intense work was underway between the proponents of I-1433 (the labor-backed, $13.50 minimum wage initiative) and WRA/WLA, and another business association, to explore the possibility of a compromise.

Although that work continued into the special session, in the end, no package emerged that could pass the Legislature. On March 8, WRA/WLA filed Initiative 1518 (I-1518) to provide the business community and our members with an alternative to the labor-backed initiative. I-1518 would increase the minimum wage to $12/hour over four years, require employers to provide paid sick leave benefits in a manner modeled after the Tacoma and Spokane ordinances, and allow for a modest training wage for first-time employees.

I-1518 is currently under review by the Attorney General’s office for ballot title and summary drafting. To qualify an initiative for the November ballot, about 250,000 signatures of registered voters must be turned in on petitions during the first week of July.

Tourism
As the session drew to a close, our tourism coalition efforts focused on advocating for interim funding to continue a bare-bones marketing presence while the industry and the legislature continue negotiations on long-term funding for statewide tourism promotion. With many groups vying for limited funds, our request, while small, ultimately was unsuccessful.

The good news is that discussions surrounding the long-term funding of tourism marketing in Washington have been elevated to a new, more substantive level since January, and we are headed in a positive direction to find a solution this interim.

WRA/WLA has received commitment from legislative leadership to work with our association and the Washington Tourism Alliance on this issue prior to the next legislative session.

Music Licensing
On March 29th, Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1763 into law. This important piece of legislation will dramatically help restaurants, bars, and hoteliers in their interactions with music licensing companies.

Two important elements of this legislation:
*  The outlining of a code of conduct these companies must follow in interacting with you and your employees, including notice when arriving at your business
*  Companies must make available electronically a current list of their music licenses, adding accountability and clarity to which company owns which piece of music.

This law becomes effective January 2017 and will help hospitality businesses choose what to play and more easily comply with the law.