Labor Bills Take Center Stage in Washington State Legislature

Date: February 14, 2017

Dear NFIB/Washington Member,

Week Five was another busy one for NFIB in the Washington State Legislature. Next Friday is the deadline for policy committees to approve bills originating in their respective chambers, so there was a rush to hold public hearings on as many bills as possible this week, in advance of voting on them next week. This was excellent timing to hold our annual Small Business Day at the Capitol. Special thanks to those of you who were among the 40 or so small business owners participating in this year’s event. It was a full program, and NFIB members and staff testified on four bills that day.

Labor issues were front and center this week. Monday the Senate Commerce, Labor & Sports Committee heard seven bills related primarily to public-sector union transparency and member rights. NFIB supported them all, and testified in favor of requiring recertification elections every four years. Wednesday, the committee considered a Right to Work bill. Big Labor bussed in some 1,100 people to oppose the legislation. NFIB was the only business organization to testify on the bill. We joined the Freedom Foundation and Washington Policy Center to make the case for worker rights (audio is available here). We understand that the Washington Retail Association was the only other business group to sign in supporting the bill, but without testifying. While the state patrol escort after our testimony was unnecessary, the senate office building was on “lock down” due to disruptions from organized labor during the hearing.  On Small Business Day, our testimony opposing SB 5555, limiting employer requests for job applicant salary history, led to agreement on an amendment permitting employers to request the information, but not requiring applicants to provide it. If adopted, the amendment would allow us to be neutral on the bill. Several Small Business Day participants signed in opposing other bills on the committee’s agenda, as well as opposing HB 1116, a paid family medical leave payroll tax, heard in the House Appropriations Committee later that afternoon.

On the health care front, NFIB’s opposition to expanding the state’s high-risk pool resulted in two amendments to HB 1338. One limited the pool’s extension to five years, the other added intent language to evaluate alternative funding sources. Currently, small business owners, their employees, and the self-employed purchasing health insurance in the individual, small group, and association health plan markets pay nearly 75 percent of cost to operate the high risk pool. That amounted to some $34 million in 2015.

Finally, our Small Business Bill of Rights Inventory bills, SB 5230 and HB 1352, both gained ground this week. The Senate Ways & Means Committee unanimously advanced SB 5230 to the Senate Rules Committee without recommendation. HB 1352 was heard in the House State Government, Elections & IT Committee Friday. Leadership Council member Kerry Cox joined state director Patrick Connor testifying in support of the bill, which lead sponsors NFIB member Rep. Andrew Barkis and Rep. Mike Chapman introduced at the start of the hearing. Kerry’s testimony was excellent. The bill is scheduled to be approved by the committee in executive session next week.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions.

Best regards,

Patrick Connor

NFIB/Washington State Director

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