2016 Washington State Legislative Wrap-Up

Date: April 06, 2016

NFIB/Washington State Director Patrick Connor reports from Olympia.

The 2016 legislative sessions will be remembered much more for history-making vetoes and overrides than for any bills helping or harming small business.
In a curious attempt to force the Legislature to approve a supplemental budget in overtime, Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed 27 senate bills at 10 p.m. on the last day of the regular session, then immediately called the Legislature into special session.
It took 20 days for lawmakers to negotiate and approve a $191 million supplemental budget, a spending increase of just 0.5 percent to the roughly $38 billion biennial operating budget adopted last year. All 27 vetoes were then unanimously overridden by the senate; the House also overrode the vetoes, but with some representatives voting against the motions. Gov. Inslee is certain to make history for the number of vetoes issued and the number of vetoes overturned – all in a single year.
In the midst of this historic, and rather absurd, bit of political theater, NFIB won a few victories and suffered the occasional defeat as it fought to promote and protect our members’ right to own, operate and grow their businesses.
  • 80 days in session – 60 day regular session plus 20 day special session
  • 93 bills tracked; supported 40 (43 percent), opposed 30 (32 percent), monitored 23 (25 percent)
  • Defeated 29 of 30 bills we opposed, a 97 percent success rate killing bills harmful to small business
  • The state director and NFIB members testified at least 50 times on bills and issues important to small business
  • 24 NFIB members serve in the Legislature, including current and former members
  • No tax increases targeting small businesses. We are pleased to report that the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) again held firm and the supplemental budget required no general tax increases
  • NFIB named to task force on local B&O taxes, business licensing. Thanks to House Finance Committee Chairwoman Rep. Kristine Lytton and NFIB member Sen. John Braun, the Legislature passed and the governor signed House Bill 2959, establishing a task force to recommend ways to streamline and consolidate local business and occupation (B&O) tax administration and local business licensing processes. Lytton announced the plan during NFIB’s Small Business Day in January. NFIB is specifically named as a task force member, guaranteeing The Voice of Small Business will be heard on this issue
  • No minimum wage increase; no paid sick and safe leave mandate. Despite pressure from the Washington Restaurant Association and Association of Washington Business, the senate was unwilling to approve a statewide minimum wage hike and paid leave mandate, due to NFIB’s opposition. Those groups sought a legislative referendum phasing-in a $12 statewide minimum wage, along with 24 hours of paid leave, as an alternative to an initiative expected to qualify for the November ballot that would ramp up to a $13.50 statewide minimum wage, with a paid sick leave mandate.
  • No pregnancy accommodation mandate. Democrats introduced bills to require employers to accommodate a workers’ pregnancy, and any pregnancy- or childbirth-related condition, or be sued under the state law against discrimination.  Based on data showing 90 percent or more of employers already make accommodations when requested, NFIB and House Republicans drafted an alternate bill identifying the rights and responsibilities of employers and their workers needing these accommodations.  The senate unanimously passed a bill based on NFIB’s draft.  Unfortunately, the House amended that bill, this time exposing employers to litigation not just from an aggrieved worker, but from the Attorney General as well.  NFIB opposed the House version, which died when the legislature adjourned.
  • Food trucks. Due to NFIB’s opposition, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) was forced to negotiate substantial changes to HB 2443, its bill to require plan review for all food trucks purchased out-of-state. Ten drafts later, NFIB and L&I finally reached agreement on language requiring plan review only under certain conditions. An advisory committee will review the requirements to further reduce the list over the next year. L&I credited NFIB’s work for winning legislative approval of the bill.
  • No two-thirds vote requirement for tax hikes. Unfortunately, the MCC was unable to convince any Senate Democrats to join them in passing SJR 8211, a proposed constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote of both the House and senate to increase taxes.  The legislation failed on party lines, 26-23; 33 votes, a two-thirds majority, were necessary for the resolution to pass.
  • Little progress on health insurance cost increases. NFIB also engaged on bills that would allow employers to reimburse workers who purchase their health insurance in the individual market, which federal rules now prohibit; limit health insurance cost-sharing changes during the plan year; and others to study cost-drivers in the health care system. The governor’s veto of a bill establishing a task force on patient out-of-pocket health care costs was overridden. NFIB may be named to that panel representing the state’s business groups.
For more information about these or other legislative issues, please contact Washington State Director Patrick Connor at 360-786-8675.

Related Content: Small Business News | Washington

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