Dear Friends and Neighbors,
SPECIAL TO OUR CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE
Last Wednesday, April 29, legislators were called back to Olympia into special session to complete the unfinished work of negotiating and passing a two-year state operating budget for the 2015-17 fiscal cycle. Lawmakers passed several bills on Wednesday and then were released into what is known as a “rolling session.” This means that we essentially “roll” from one floor session to the next each day, but lawmakers are not on the floor. They've gone home while budget negotiators meet in Olympia to try to find agreement on the three budgets: operating, capital and transportation.
If and when agreements are reached on either the budgets or legislation that enable passage of the budgets, lawmakers will be called back to Olympia to take votes on the House floor. The Senate is also in the same type of rolling session.
As I mentioned earlier, I'm very disappointed the Legislature did not finish its business within the allotted 105-day session. The primary reason we are in a special session is because Democrats and the governor insist on raising taxes by as much as $1.5 billion, even though the state is bringing in an additional $3 billion — nearly a nine percent increase in revenue — and a record increase for the state — because of an improved economy in the Puget Sound region.
A large portion of the Democrats' tax increase proposal is targeted against employers. They want to increase the business and occupation taxes on service businesses and travel agents by 1.8 percent. This would especially hurt our local small businesses and increase unemployment across the state.
As I explained to Austin Jenkins on TVW's Inside Olympia program last week, many of the other counties outside of Puget Sound still have high unemployment. People cannot afford tax increases. The Legislature doesn't need to make this problem worse!
Let's also make this point very clear. With a nine percent increase in revenue, we don't need tax increases to balance the state budget. It's a matter of setting priorities — needs versus wants. Both budgets direct nearly a billion-and-a-half additional dollars toward K-12 education, which should satisfy the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision requirements.
Special sessions last 30 days. It's my hope budget negotiators will finish their business sooner than later and provide a compromise agreement that can gain a majority of votes in the House and Senate before the end of the special session.
I invite you to watch my TWV interview here for a more detailed explanation of why we are in a special session and what needs to be done at this point.
Aside from the budgets, we did accomplish many things during the 2015 regular session. Many bills are now going to the governor after being passed during the regular session. Below, I would like to highlight four good business bills of interest that won legislative approval and will soon become law.
Contact my office with your questions, comments and suggestions about the budget proposal or any other matters relating to legislation and state government. It is an honor to serve and represent you!.
Good for business bills
More than 2,400 bills were introduced in the Legislature during the 2015 regular session. Of those, 309 passed both the House and Senate and were sent to the governor. The following are four of those bills that will be good for business and good for Washington:
- House Bill 1043 – Self-storage facilities: This bill lets owners of storage units send email notifications to renters of storage units when they're behind on their storage payments by 14 or more days. In this age of text messages and email, relying on regular mail could be an obsolete strategy for many who are on the move or relocating. This bill would be helpful to both the owner and occupant as a good alternative to the postal service. Email notice may be used if the occupant expressly agrees to it; the rental agreement specifies in bold type that notices are given by email; the owner provides an email address from which notices are sent and directs the occupant to modify his/her email settings to allow email from that address; and the owner notifies occupants of any change in the email address prior to that change. Signed by the governor April 17.
- House Bill 1749 – Contractor registration: This bill will make it easier for homeowners to make improvements to their property for the purpose of selling it. The measure ends the requirement for homeowners working on their house to register with Labor and Industries as a contractor in order to “flip” it. No longer will homeowners have to worry about steep fines for failing to register as a contractor. Signed by the governor April 22. Read more about this bill here.
- House Bill 2040 – Increasing veteran employment: This bill is aimed at starting a campaign for businesses to increase the number of veterans employed around the state. Known as the “One business, one vet” bill, the measure will partner the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), Employment Security Department, and the Department of Commerce with local chambers of commerce, associate development organizations and businesses to initiate a demonstration campaign to increase veteran employment. Signed by the governor April 22. Read more about this bill here.
- Senate Bill 5510 – Simplifying calculation of worker compensation benefits: This bill requires the Department of Labor to convene an industrial insurance benefit accuracy working group by Aug. 1 to work on improving the accuracy, simplicity, fairness and consistency of calculating worker compensation benefits. The intent is to reduce confusion among employers and increase accuracy. This bill has been delivered to the governor.
Contact my office for more information on these, other business-related bills, or any legislation.
In your service,