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Legislative Session Update: Week Two

With Jim Hedrick, WA State Lobbyist and Spokane Regional Advocate

Throughout the year, GSI advocates on behalf of the Spokane regional business community at the local, state, and federal levels. The 2022 legislative session began on January 10. This year’s session is the second in the two-year biennium and will last for 60 days, making it a “short” session. During this session, GSI works with partners and collaborates with Jim Hedrick, WA State lobbyist, to help advocate for Spokane regional issues and to address business climate concerns. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be keeping you in the loop with regular session updates. If you have questions, please contact Jake Mayson, Director of Public Policy.

Traditionally, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is one of the busiest days on the Capitol Campus, with busloads of constituents traveling from every corner of the state to meet with their legislators. This year, the Senate and House quietly passed resolutions honoring Dr. King as the capitol remains closed. While there may not be constituents on campus, the public has been turning out in droves virtually for contentious issue areas. On Monday, January 17, 4,858 people signed in on 5217 (Kuderer, D-48), which except under certain circumstances, bans the manufacture, possession, distribution, import, transfer, sale, offer for sale, or purchase of an assault weapon. Were this not a virtual session, this hearing would have undoubtedly overwhelmed the hearing rooms and capitol campus with 166 people signing in to speak on the bill. SB 5568 (Kuderer, D-48) was also heard in the Senate Law & Justice Committee on Monday, January 17. The bill restores local governments’ ability to enact laws and ordinances restricting the open carry of weapons at any public meeting; any building or facility owned or operated by a city, town, county, or other municipality; or any permitted demonstration within their respective jurisdictions.

In 2000, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) adopted specific workplace ergonomics regulations requiring employers to reduce worker exposure to hazards that cause or contribute to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. But Initiative 841, passed by the voters in 2003, repealed the existing ergonomics regulations and prohibited L&I from adopting similar regulations or otherwise regulating working practices to prevent musculoskeletal disorders. L&I retains general authority to enforce against ergonomic-related workplace hazards under the general duty clause of the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA). HB 1837 (Bronoske, D-28), heard Tuesday, January 18, repeals the restriction on the regulation of work-related musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomics. The committee heard from a variety of workers who have experienced job-related repetitive motion injuries. The bill is opposed by the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Association of Washington Business, and the Food Industry Association.

The House continued the fast-tracking of their long-term care fix on Wednesday, January 19. On two bipartisan votes, the House passed HB 1732 (Sullivan, D-47) delaying implementation of Washington Cares until July 2023 and HB1733 (Paul, D-10) establishing exemptions for certain veterans, spouses, and registered domestic partners of military service members, nonimmigrant temporary workers, and employees who work in Washington and maintain a primary residence outside of Washington. House Republicans attempted to bring up their own long-term care bills through procedural motions, including a bill that would repeal the underlying program, but motions failed. Several Republican amendments were offered, including one that would require voter approval, but all were rejected or ruled out of order. Both bills now go to the Senate where they are scheduled for a hearing and may be passed as soon as next week.

On Wednesday, January 19, the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee heard one of the labor community’s priority bills, HB 1868. Chair Sells devoted the entire two-hour hearing to this legislation for which 49 people testified and 2,291 people registered their opinions with the committee. The bill, sponsored by 42 of the 57 House Democrats, requires the Department of Labor and Industries to regulate and enforce hospital staffing committees and establishes minimum staffing standards for specific patient units. It also amends the meal, rest breaks, and overtime provisions for health care employees and includes a private right of action for violations. The bill is strongly opposed by hospitals.

The Senate Labor, Commerce & Tribal Affairs Committee heard SB 5517 (Keiser, D-33) on Wednesday, January 19, concerning the employment of individuals who lawfully consume cannabis. Under the bill, employers are prohibited from refusing to hire a prospective employee and terminating a current employee due to a positive cannabis test. Exceptions are provided for the following: where compliance would cause an employer to lose a monetary or licensing-related benefit under federal law; where inconsistent or otherwise in conflict with an employment contract, a collective bargaining agreement, or federal law; and where a position of employment is funded by a federal grant. The states of Nevada, New York, and Maine, the cities of New York and Philadelphia, and the District of Columbia have adopted laws prohibiting, with various exceptions, refusal-to-hire or pre-employment marijuana drug testing.

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