A successful legislative session ended with great news for hospitality businesses in Washington state, and the lodging industry has a lot to look forward to in 2022. Here are some of the most important wins from the short 60-day session for lodging operators. Meanwhile, previous efforts to establish funding for tourism promotion are bearing fruit in 2022. Learn more about the new State of Washington branding below.

Below is a summary of the 2022 legislative session wins for the lodging industry. For properties with restaurants, you can read the complete 2022 Session Review from our government affairs team.

Legislative wins for lodging

The Legislature adopts a new two-year operating budget in odd-numbered years. The budgets adopted during the even-numbered years typically only make minor adjustments to the already-approved budget. However, with state revenues higher than expected, additional money from the federal government and the overall growing need for more pandemic relief, the 2022 legislative session provided a unique opportunity to secure additional relief funding from the Legislature. And that’s exactly what our government affairs team did.

Here are the highlights of the major budget investment wins from the 2022 legislative session.

  • $15 million in Hospitality Business Grants is specifically reserved for hotels that were impacted by the eviction moratorium and suffered losses such as unpaid stays, legal fees and room damage.
  • $200 million will provide unemployment insurance relief through ESSB 5873. This bill extends last year’s relief by capping the social tax at .5%. Similar to last year, ESD will reissue rate notices to take effect prior to first-quarter payments. The bill also provides relief to small businesses with fewer than 10 employees, capping their social tax calculation at rate class 7.
  • $7 million in relief by reducing liquor license fees (3SHB 1359) for restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, distilleries, wineries, breweries, plus additional licensees from April 1, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2023.
  • $20 million is for a grant for the Washington State Convention Center.
  • $20 million will provide for additional Working Washington grants, specifically for businesses and non-profit organizations in the arts, heritage and science sectors, including those that operate live entertainment venues.
  • $20 million was added to the Working Washington grant program, directed at businesses that sustained losses due to the pandemic. Eligible businesses must have 2019 gross revenues under $5 million. Of the total funding, $12 million is directed at qualifying businesses who maintained operations throughout the pandemic, $8 million is directed at qualifying businesses to reopen.

 Defeated bills

Every legislative session, our government affairs team works with lawmakers to secure funding and policies that benefit our industry. But equally important is their work to defeat legislative proposals that would be costly for hospitality businesses. Several bills were introduced this session that would have had a negative impact on our industry.

Your input and response to action alerts made a huge difference and helped defeat multiple bad bills this year.

Defeated EHB 1837 – Ergonomics
This bill would have lifted the 20-year prohibition on the Department of Labor and Industries’ ability to adopt rulemaking on ergonomics in the workplace. Legislation was passed in the early 2000s to adopt an ergonomics rule and it ended up costing businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to implement. In 2003 there was an initiative to overturn the rule and it was passed by the people of Washington. This legislation, as amended, directly targeted the initial implementation at janitorial/custodial services like housekeeping and room attendant jobs in the hospitality industry. While we were already opposed to the bill, we certainly take even more issue with being targeted while we are still struggling for survival due to the pandemic.

Because of you and your engagement in our action alerts, we were able to defeat this piece of legislation. Thank you!

Defeated SB 5513 – Expanding flexibility of existing lodging taxes for affordable workforce housing
Local governments attempted again to raid needed local tourism funding for general government purposes and again we were able to block their attempts. We worked with the sponsor of the bill to identify other funding sources (contained in SB 5868), to protect local tourism funds, and that bill ended up passing. SB 5658 expands the use of a local taxing option for economic development for the infrastructure for affordable workforce housing.

Defeated SHB 1763 – Independent medical examinations
This bill would have allowed an employee undergoing an independent medical exam to record their meeting with a provider on behalf of their workers’ compensation representative. Patients are prohibited from recording appointments with providers in the medical system. This piece of legislation failed to make it out of the House before the House of Origin cutoff.

Defeated SSB 5835 – Relating to workers’ compensation
This bill would have removed the wage calculation requirement that an injured worker is married to receive additional benefits when they are receiving payments for permanent or temporary disability. SB 5835 failed to make it out of the Senate.

Defeated SB 5801 – Concerning attorney and witness fees in Industrial Insurance Court Appeals
This agency-requested legislation would have required employers who appeal an L&I ruling to pay for all attorney and witness fees on behalf of the employee if the court ruled in favor of the employee. This would have added barriers to an employer’s ability to appeal a decision. Currently, these costs are paid out of the medical and accident aid funds that are already paid by state-insured employers.

Defeated 2SHB 1076 – Allowing qui tam actions on behalf of the state
This bill would have allowed third-party “relators” to bring a lawsuit against a business for any alleged labor violation, rather than utilize the current Labor and Industries Agency – an entire state agency with an annual taxpayer-funded budget in the hundreds of millions. The bill stayed in House Rules Committee this year and no action was taken.

Defeated 2SHB 1850 – Consumer data privacy
Like the last several years, a consumer data privacy bill was introduced that would have impacted hotels that keep data on customers for any reason, like rewards programs. The House version differed from the Senate version and included a private right of action as well as significant fees that would have impacted our industry. We opposed the bill and it failed to pass this year. This policy will likely be introduced next year as well.

Defeated SB 5559 – Concerning verification for use of paid sick leave
This bill allowed employees to take more than three days of sick leave without providing a doctor’s note if the employer did not offer a health insurance plan as an employee benefit that paid at least 85% of the cost of the insurance.

Tourism returning to Washington with a new look

Destination branding for the State of Washington is returning for the first time since 2011. State of Washington Tourism Director David Blandford explained that the new branding will focus on the #TrueToNature theme and focuses on all areas of the state, emphasizing Washington’s natural beauty, creative culture and inclusivity.

If you want to help build on the brand that the tourism department is creating, you can visit experiencewa.com where they will have thousands of creative digital assets that you can use. Using the hashtag #TrueToNature for your own photos or posts will also allow the tourism agency to use them in their campaigns. The site will soon have a brand toolkit with shareable assets that organizations can use for their own marketing, and other tools and other images are already available.

You can learn more about their efforts at stateofwatourism.com and contact them via the industry portal for businesses here.

Amended bill wins

Most of our wins come in the form of bills we support that pass and bills we oppose that are defeated like those summarized above. Some of our wins, however, are bills that as introduced could cause a great deal of harm to our industry. Through active engagement with lawmakers, we’re often able to get amendments adopted to these bills that move us to a neutral, or even a support position.

In other words, sometimes bills pass that while they may not be exactly what we want, the outcome is much better compared to the original proposal.

Amended 2SSB 5649 – Modifying the Paid Family and Medical Leave program
As originally introduced, the bill made technical changes and modifications to the program that were supported by the Washington Hospitality Association. After the surprising news the first week of session that ESD provided to the Senate Ways & Means Committee, that the program would become insolvent unless an appropriation was made into the fund, we worked to insert significant accountability measures and oversight. The bill as passed will require an immediate actuarial audit, creates a temporary taskforce, establishes permanent actuaries inside ESD, and requires an in-depth audit to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.

Amended E2SSB 5600 – Concerning the sustainability and expansion of state registered apprenticeships
This bill aimed to increase the number of state registered apprenticeships and bolster the current programs. Despite our efforts, this bill failed to contain federal reciprocity upon final passage. However, significant changes were made to this legislation. If our federal program is approved at the state level, we have access to grant funding. The bill also includes an amendment that changes how a living wage is defined. Originally it said if you had a state-registered apprenticeship program you had to make sure that your apprentices earned a living wage before your program was approved. It is now defined as “working toward” a living wage. The association will continue to work with Labor and Industries to get the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship program approved in Washington.

Amended SHB 1794 – Reimbursement of fees if a paycheck is not accepted
This bill will require an employer to pay any fees that an employee accrues if their paycheck bounces because of insufficient funds. We were able to secure language that protects an employer if for some reason the financial institution makes an error. This bill passed with unanimous support.