WRA Government Affairs: working for you

WRA Government Affairs: working for you https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/washingtonstatecapitol2-468x198.jpg

By Stephanie Davenport, contributing editor

A few months ago you should have received the 2015 edition of the WRA Legislative Review. In that issue, you can read about how we just ended the longest session in the history of our state. You can also read about the many pieces of state legislation that were set to impact our industry this year. If you did not receive a copy of the latest Legislative Review, you can see it online here: wra.cc/wamag16.

During the session the WRA achieved key outcomes on a number of priorities:

  • No new capital gains, street utility or carbon taxes.
  • No increases in B&O taxes or surcharges on B&O taxes (with the exception of elimination of the preferential rate on royalties for franchisors).
  • No new utility taxes.
  • Defeated proposals to impose new health care mandates on employers.
  • Passed new enforcement and licensing resources to assist the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB).
  • Educated lawmakers on the importance of promoting tourism, setting the stage for further legislative action in 2016.

However, the hospitality industry faces all kinds of challenges that continue to progress even when the legislature is not in session. Our Government Affairs team works all year-round to protect and represent the needs of our members. As we speak, local businesses are facing:

Minimum wage increases: By the time you are reading this the WRA will have held a series of webinars to inform members of how the WRA plans to tackle this critical issue in the upcoming year. This is likely the biggest issue for many of our members. Minimum wage increases are being introduced on a city-by-city basis in Washington: SeaTac, Seattle and Tacoma have all moved forward with proposals. Discussion is happening within the Spokane and Bellingham city councils. Public perception and support from lawmakers, as shown by polling data, signals that there will be an increased minimum wage for most of Washington. And it is highly likely that a proposed increase will make the ballot. The WRA Government Affairs team is working to change the conversation so neighborhood restaurants are involved in the crafting of a statewide solution to increasing the minimum wage. At both the local and state level, the WRA GA team is working for the best outcome on this issue for the hospitality industry.

Liquor regulations: On September 16, the WRA held its first Alcohol Summit in order to get direction on the future of alcohol beverage regulation in Washington. For two years, the WRA has been in vocal opposition to rules proposed by the LCB that appear to violate Initiative 1183. The most recent decree from the LCB will set up a system of uniform quantity discounts for spirits, and strict rules around when and how those volume discounts can be calculated. Businesses will be prohibited from taking advantage of product promotion and pricing specials, specifically “family plans” or establishing a customer relationship beyond a single, one time order. The WRA will be challenging the latest rules in court. This is the second time WRA has asked the court to overturn rules that violate the law and impede restaurants and bars from legally acquiring product to run their business.

Paid leave mandates: Paid leave ordinances have also been passing in Washington, on a city-by-city basis. SeaTac, Seattle and Tacoma have all implemented new laws. Spokane is currently in the process of adopting new rules. Each set of ordinances is very different with some requiring as little as three days off and others requiring a lot more. Current paid leave laws in Tacoma are changing the way businesses can operate within the city. For full details about what you need to do as a Tacoma citizen visit: http://wra.cc/tacoma16.

New federal overtime laws: The U.S. Department of Labor, acting on an order from President Obama, proposed increasing the minimum salary for employees to be considered exempt from overtime to $50,440 a year, or $970 a week—a substantial increase over the current levels $23,660, or $455 a week. But that’s not all. The proposal also left open the possibility that the DOL could institute a “duties test,” rigid guidelines that define the types of employees who must be paid overtime. More than 1,500 restaurant operators and the National Restaurant Association submitted comments outlining their concerns about the proposed revisions. The national arm of the restaurant association is working hard to ensure that the voice of hospitality is considered when these laws are drafted. On a federal level, the hospitality industry also faces impacts from new health care mandates and scheduling restrictions.

To keep current on all of these issues you can subscribe to both, the Washington Restaurant Weekly and/or Hot Off the Grill, which you can read about below. During the month of October, the GA team is traveling around the state connecting with members, letting you know what we faced this year and getting key feedback from you about what is critical to success in your business.

At this date, three of our regional meetings are still upcoming. We will be in Bellevue, October 19; Seattle, October 20; and Vancouver, October 26. If you would like more information about these meetings, please contact Shannon Garland, GA administration, at ShannonG@warestaurant.org or 360.956.7279, ext. 139.

What we have learned from past meetings has shaped our legislative agenda, and we would love your participation. In November, after all of the meetings have concluded, we will be sending out a special Hot Off the Grill (HOTG). The HOTG is our e-newsletter that goes out weekly during the legislative session and gives members insight into all that is happening on the Hill. During the interim, we send out the HOTG on an as-needed basis to keep you up-to-speed. If you would like to subscribe to the HOTG, you can contact Stephanie Davenport, communications manager, at StephanieD@warestaurant.org. n

Paid Leave: Tacoma

wra.cc/tacoma16

(Source: Washington Restaurant Magazine, October 2015)