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Session Nearly Over
March 2, 2020

On day 50 of 60, lawmakers are racing to the finish line with budget matters taking much of the focus. Legislators started the session with a correction to a new B&O tax passed last session as a "workforce education investment" surcharge used to fund higher education. Finding the 2019 bill impossible to implement, the Legislature expanded the surcharge to all services.

The State Senate has proposed a supplemental budget of $53.6 billion, and the House's version is $53.7 billion. Both exhaust an unexpected $1.5 billion in new revenue with details to be hammered out over the next week and a half.

The Good News:

Per the settlement of BIAW's lawsuit last summer against the Dept. of Labor & Industries (L&I), which prevented the agency from raiding the Workers' Compensation Fund to implement the Governor's Clean Energy Bill, the agency has worked with lawmakers to fund the program elsewhere. The monies are currently included in both the House and Senate versions of the budget.

SB 6317/HB 2894, Concrete Pumping: The Dept. of Revenue (DOR) issued guidance over the summer that would require concrete pumpers to pay sales tax even if their concrete would be resold as a part of the whole building, which amounts to double taxation on the product which previously did not exist. There was very little notice to the industry and DOR delayed implementation unless the legislature acts and tells it to continue to collect these taxes when the final building is sold.

HB 2673: Reduce Redundancy for Housing: Washington must streamline and integrate the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the Growth Management Act. HB 2673 streamlines SEPA and comp planning: A project that complies with the underlying comp plan would be categorically exempt—this is how it should work. Doing this eliminates costly SEPA paperwork, studies, and appeals, and would quicken the housing production pace.

The Bad News:

HB 2550, Net Ecological Gain: This legislation has been converted to a study bill within the proposed House budget. The concept of net ecological gain is defined as a standard for a land-use permit, development project, policy, plan, development regulation, or activity in which environmental impacts caused by the development are outweighed by measures taken consistent with the mitigation hierarchy. This legislation would greatly expand the authority of agencies and local governments, which fundamentally flawed and constitutionally questionable—requiring mitigation for more than the impact would have negative effects on housing costs and property rights.

BIAW's Advocacy Team successfully stopped more bad policies, but we anticipate they will be revisited in the next session:

SB 6053, Wage Liens: This bill would allow employees to file a lien for unpaid wages against an employer's personal or business property along with the property of any officers of the company. There is currently a system in place in Washington for employees to file wage complaints with the L&I. This system mostly avoids the need for aggrieved workers to hire attorneys. Instead, it is meant to be accessible and straightforward. If it's not meeting this goal, then L&I should look inward to improve its system rather than creating an expensive mess that benefits no one but the plaintiff's attorneys.

HB 2564, Mandatory Safety Training: This bill would require employers working in construction to send all of their workers to Occupational Safety and Health Administration training at the employer's cost, including wages while they attend. BIAW worked with the sponsor and instead will support a safety module about suicide prevention.

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