Ergonomics measure closer to coming up for House floor vote
State Director Patrick Connor reports from Olympia on the small-business agenda for the legislative week ending February 4
Week 4 of the 2022 session of the Washington State Legislature
Thursday, February 3, was Policy Cut-Off I, the deadline for most bills to pass from a policy committee either to the Rules Committee or a fiscal committee in their house of origin. Basically, Senate bills had to be approved by a Senate policy committee, and the same for House bills in House policy committees. Legislation deemed “necessary to implement the budget” (NTIB) is exempt from this cut-off.
As a result of Thursday’s deadline, about 40% of bills NFIB has been tracking appear to be dead for this session.
- House Bill 1838 and Senate Bill 5727, the Gov. Jay Inslee’s salmon recovery plan – These companion bills, which would have required a 250-foot buffer along shorelines, both sides of rivers, streams, creeks, and around lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water, failed to move out of either agriculture committee. Unless somehow included in the House or Senate budget proposal, making one NTIB, both bills are dead. NFIB opposed the bills.
- SB 5722, Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in buildings – This bill would require greater energy efficiency and other decarbonization efforts for commercial and multifamily structures between 20,000 and 50,000 square feet. The bill passed the Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee. It is being heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee today. NFIB opposes the bill.
- HB 1688 and SB 5618, Balance billing – HB 1688 already passed the House Health Care & Wellness Committee. The House Appropriations Committee was expected to approve Friday, February 4. Since that version is moving toward a floor vote, the Senate companion did not advance from the Senate Health & Long-Term Care Committee. The bill would harmonize existing state law with newly enacted federal legislation protecting patients from unexpected “out of network” charges. NFIB supports HB 1688.
- HB 1076, Qui tam – This bill from last year to allow bounty-hunting trial lawyers and labor organizations to sue employers over alleged violations of nearly a dozen workplace safety and health or worker rights laws is still in House Rules but could be scheduled for a floor vote at any time. NFIB opposes the bill.
- HB 1750, agricultural overtime – Not surprisingly, the House labor committee refused to pass this bill that would have allowed agricultural producers a 12-week window during harvest when overtime would be waived. Other states that have enacted agricultural overtime laws include this provision. Washington does not. NFIB supported the bill.
- HB 1763 and SB 5627, video taping independent medical examinations (IMEs) – HB 1763 passed the House labor committee, but the Senate companion failed to move from the Senate labor committee. Employer groups, including NFIB, oppose this legislation. It would allow a worker to have a person of their choosing record a medical examination ordered by the state Department of Labor & Industries as part of the workers’ compensation claims process. In other types of insurance claims, videotaping an IME can be ordered; however, those are done by professional videographers following strict guidelines in order to be admissible in the case. Doctors who perform IMEs have already indicated they would be unwilling to continue conducting these examinations under these new circumstances.
- HB 1837, Ergonomics – This bill is still in House Rules, and could be sent to the floor as early as next week. The state’s employer community remains united in opposition to this repeal of Initiative 841. If passed, this legislation would allow L&I to once again issue rules restricting the types and duration of repetitive activities a worker can perform during a shift, as well as mandate use of costly equipment or modifications at workstations. NFIB strongly encourages members to contact their state representatives directly, or through this Action Alert, asking them to vote NO on the bill.
- SB 5649 and 5959, Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) – NFIB continues to monitor the progress of SB 5649, which would allow a worker to take additional leave following the death of a family member for whom the worker had been providing care. SB 5959 is a recent introduction in response to revelations that the state Employment Security Department outspent the funds available for PFML benefits – by perhaps as much as $200 million. SB 5959 would provide $125 million from federal COVID relief funds to backfill the PFML account, and direct future marijuana taxes to keep the fund solvent. This bill was heard in the Senate Ways & Means on February 4. NFIB is monitoring both bills.
- SB 5801, loser pays for workers’ comp appeals – The Senate labor committee approved SB 5801, sending it to Senate Rules where it can be scheduled for a floor vote. The bill would require a State Fund employer (small businesses) to pay not only their own legal costs for appealing an adverse decision from the state Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, but their opponent’s costs as well. This could pose an insurmountable financial barrier to small employers seeking an impartial hearing before a court of law. NFIB opposes the bill.
- HB 1614 and SB 5533, online marketplaces / organized retail theft – HB 1614 is in the House Rules Committee and can be scheduled for a floor vote at any time. The Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee did not advance the companion bill, which NFIB testified against during public hearing. The bill does little more than add new reporting requirements, including disclosure of banking information and tax documents, onto small businesses selling through online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, OfferUp, and the like. The bill provides no new resources to law enforcement to investigate or prosecute these crimes. NFIB opposes HB 1614.
- SB 5781, increasing penalties for organized retail theft – The Senate Law & Justice this week approved SB 5781. NFIB supports this bill.
- SB 5944, organized retail theft task force – Unfortunately, this bill to authorize the state patrol to lead a new, interjurisdictional task force specifically addressing organized retail theft died at committee cut-off. NFIB supported the bill.
- HB 1810, Right to Repair consumer electronics – As we reported previously, this bill would require manufactures of certain digital devices, including cell phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers, to sell tools, parts, instructions, and related items needed to repair these devices to the device owner or repair shops. Trade secrets, including intellectual property, are specifically exempted from this sales requirement. The bill passed the House Appropriations Committee this week and was sent to House Rules. However, committee Republicans basically locked up, voting no on the bill. They cited Apple’s concerns about the possible exposure of intellectual property to repair shops and individuals fixing their products. Apple is also opposing the bill to maintain its near monopoly on the sales and repair of its devices only through its chosen network of company owned or Apple-certified facilities. It looks like this has become a Big Business vs. small business issue with House Republicans siding with Wall Street, while House Democrats are supporting Main Street. NFIB supports the bill.
- SB 5909, increasing legislative oversight of governor’s emergency powers – This bill received a mixed response during public testimony late last week, but passed the Senate State Government & Elections Committee on Wednesday. If enacted, House and Senate leaders would have additional authority to terminate a governor’s order prohibiting activities, and to end a state of emergency after 90 days, when the Legislature is not in session. This modest change would have little practical effect. NFIB is monitoring the bill.
Tax & Fiscal
- HB 1819 / SB 5960 and HJR 4208 / SJR 8213, business personal property taxes – The House package to increase the business personal property tax exemption to $100,000 fell victim to the clock this week. County assessors, who opposed the bill, and the state Department of Revenue, were unable to provide complete, accurate cost estimates for potential revenue losses to local governments, or possible tax shifts to other taxpayers. Senate companion bills were introduced late in the process, but referred to the Senate Ways & Means Committee, so are technically still alive until Monday, February 7. But, prospects of this legislation passing this year are dim. NFIB will continue working with sponsors and stakeholders to bring forward a revised proposal next year.
- HB 1957, small business disaster assistance – The House passed HB 1957 unanimously this week, 96-0. It will be sent to the Senate for further consideration. The bill creates an account to provide emergency assistance to small businesses affected by natural disasters. The fund would be administered by the state Department of Commerce. The amount of funding is subject to appropriation by the Legislature. NFIB supports the bill.
- HB 2031 and SB 5873, PFML and UI tax relief – Given the revelations about ESD overspending the PFML account, the House labor committee refused to hear HB 2031. The Senate Ways & Means Committee amended SB 5873 to eliminate the bill’s proposed PFML payroll tax reduction. The Senate bill now includes only the reduction to the social tax increases for unemployment insurance scheduled for 2022 and 2023, as well as the cap on the social-tax modifier benefitting small businesses employing 10 or fewer workers. NFIB supports the bill.
Monday, February 7, is Fiscal Cut-Off I, the deadline for bills with a tax or budgetary impact to pass their chamber’s fiscal committees (House Appropriations, House Capital Budget, Senate Ways & Means, House or Senate Transportation).
Both chambers will be on the floor full-time from Tuesday, February 8, through Tuesday, February 15. The 15th marks the House of Origin Cut-off.
Prior Legislative Updates
- January 28—Governor Signs Bill Delaying WA Cares Payroll Tax
- January 21—House Approves Delaying WA Cares Payroll Tax
- January 14—Ergonomics is Back! Bill Would Repeal Initiative 841
- January 7—Pre-Session Glance