Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Wednesday, March 13, marked the end of the floor cutoff date – meaning it was the final day for us to pass House bills over to the Senate. This year, cutoff was one of the more interesting days on the House floor we have had since session started.
House Democrats were adamant in getting a universal background check bill passed for firearms purchases—even if the sale was between family members or friends. Despite having a majority in the House, they didn't have the votes to pass the bill. Unfortunately, House Democratic leadership made it very apparent we weren't voting on anything else until they had enough votes to pass it. Gov. Jay Inslee and even Vice President Joe Biden were calling members trying to use their influence on members from both sides of the aisle. The arm twisting didn't work. After almost nine hours Democrats informed us we were adjourning for the night. Of course the silver-lining is a number of bad bills, particularly legislation that was passed out of the labor committee, ended up dying. Yes, bad gun legislation killed poor labor bills that criminalize work.
Bad bills that were defeated
House Bill 1440 would have made it almost impossible to be an independent contractor in Washington. The proposed bill states any independent contractor hired by an employer for a job is an employee of that company and the burden of proof is on the employer to prove otherwise. Basically, employers are presumed guilty and must prove their innocence to the Department of Labor and Industries in order to avoid additional premiums, penalties and maybe even an audit. This is a great example of why I am saying Olympia is criminalizing work.
House Bill 1023 would require apprenticeship utilization on all public works projects. This bill would have given an advantage to Seattle-based businesses over businesses in Eastern Washington.
House Bill 1025 would extend prevailing wage requirements. Another huge cost increase to businesses and taxpayers during a time of economic uncertainty. Prevailing wage increases the cost of public works projects by nearly 40 percent. We can't afford this in eastern Washington as we are finding out with our school construction projects.
Bad business bill, even by the president's standards
The other highlight of floor action, at least for me, was my speech on House Bill 1473. House Democrats introduced this bill that would require any business that makes a payment of $600 or more in a year for construction services to report the payment to the state Department of Labor and Industries. House Republicans vigorously argued the new reporting requirement would add an unnecessary burden for businesses. The identical language of the bill was originally included in President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act, but later stricken. In fact, he sent out a press release stating:
“We are pleased Congress has acted to correct a flaw that placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses. The administration remains eager to work with anyone with ideas about how we can make health care better or more affordable for all Americans.”
Despite our opposition, and President Obama's acknowledgement this policy is bad for small businesses, majority Democrats in Olympia passed the bill on a party-line vote, 51 to 47, with four Democrats voting no. Click “Manweller on HB 1473” to watch my floor speech.
There are a number of bills Rep. Judy Warnick and I have either prime-sponsored or co-sponsored that are important to our district, and have passed the House unanimously or close to it. Below is a summary of some of those bills making their way through the Senate.
House Bill 1068 – is my bill that would allow, but not require, the Kittitas County TV Reception Improvement District to provide an excise tax exemption to television owners receiving satellite television service. It passed the House of Representatives and is moving in the Senate. I introduced this bill after it was brought to my attention TV reception districts were able to charge excise tax for television service that was not being provided. The bill would allow the board of a TV reception district to exempt a television owner from the excise tax if the owner subscribes to satellite television service.
House Bill 1416 – would make numerous changes to Local Improvement Districts (LIDs) that have been created by irrigation districts. This piece of legislation would modernize irrigation district statutes that have been in operation since 1929. There are 400,000 acres of irrigatable land in Irrigation District 13 and 70,000 acres in the Odessa sub area, so it is critical we update our irrigation and water laws.
House Bill 1558 – would extend a tax exemption on bee food, and provide an additional exemption from the sales tax with a certificate. I don't need to tell you the importance of beekeeping to our district and agriculture in general.
House Bill 1419 – would expand the membership of the Washington State Horse Park Authority. The board informed us they needed more people to help manage and promote the horse park so they can continue to attract visitors from around the Northwest, which helps with the numerous other recreational activities in our region.
House Bill 1552 – would address scrap metal theft, a huge problem in our area. It would offer some relief to all the farmers and ranchers in Eastern Washington who have been suffering from metal theft. There is nothing more frustrating that getting up in the morning and seeing that a drug addict has striped your fences, stolen irrigation pipes, and vandalized agricultural equipment.
If you would like more information on these issues or anything else before the Legislature pleas do not hesitate to contact me.