Problematic bills for employers survive legislative deadline
As the Capitol gets back in rhythm following a bit of deadline-related chaos, business lobbyists find themselves navigating through a large mass of surviving high-priority legislation.
A wide variety of issues have consumed business meetings where stakeholders work to negotiate legislation that is beneficial and economically viable. Although many issues are raising concerns, paid family leave, collective bargaining, marijuana, workplace discrimination and cap-and-trade legislation dominated the building’s business discussions last week.
House Bill 2005, Paid Family Leave: Advocates and business stakeholders continue to disagree as the bill's proponents push for concepts previously found in HB 3031, the now dead paid leave bill, rather than using HB 2005 as the starting place. The most concerning issue for businesses is the request for a minimum of six months of paid maternity or paternity leave. Stakeholders have struggled to compromise on many issues, and if a solution is not found by the end of this session, proponents have said they will put it on the 2020 ballot.
HB 2020, Cap and Trade: April 15 saw significant debate in the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction as members discussed a newly proposed bill, HB 3425. It would provide a credit for certain low-income households to offset the expected increase in gas prices if the cap-and-trade program were to be implemented. This credit would be given to individuals who are at 100 percent of a county’s median income or less.
Democratic legislators applauded the bill, noting that it addressed many of the concerns raised from citizens during the road show earlier in the year. Republican legislators were less than impressed. Sen. Cliff Bentz, a longtime rival of the proposed cap-and-trade legislation, questioned the its purpose. He reminded the committee that one of the program's main goals is to reduce the use of fossil fuel vehicles on the road and that a credit would not address that goal.
Sen. Michael Dembrow, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction, said in his newsletter that he hoped to have a final set of amendments ready to move on Earth Day, April 22, but since then an agenda has been sent out cancelling Monday’s meeting. The cap-and-trade discussion appears on hold while the revenue conversation has taken priority these past couple of weeks.
HB 2016, Collective Bargaining: The Senate Workforce Committee held a public hearing Thursday, April 18, on HB 2016, the hotly contested “Janus fix bill.” HB 2016 would grant paid time for union representatives to do union work, require public employers to deduct union dues and fees from employee pay, and make it easier for employees to opt in to union membership. Public employers have expressed significant concerns that this bill opens the door to increased worker leave and makes it harder for employees to opt out of union membership. Many also addressed the issues in the bill related to union access of employee emails, stating concerns with public record requests and privacy.
The public hearing filled the entire two-hour meeting, leading Chair Sen. Kathleen Taylor to extend the hearing an extra 15 minutes so the final panels could speak. Republican committee members expressed significant concerns with email privacy issues and opt-out limitations. A work session is expected to be scheduled soon so committee members can air their concerns.
Senate Bill 379, Marijuana: Opponents have worked hard to shut down SB 379, which looks to prohibit the implementation of marijuana-related workplace policies. This bill presents a significant safety hazard for a variety of professions and could lead to employer liability issues. It is unclear whether the bill will be scheduled for a floor vote, and stakeholders are keeping a close eye on it.
SB 726, Workplace Discrimination: This session’s major workplace harassment bill has been scheduled for a vote Monday morning, April 22. Businesses and public employers have been concerned about whether the individual liability portion of the bill will reemerge when moved to the House, but Taylor recently sent written confirmation to stakeholders that it will not be addressed this session. The removal of personal liability is a major win for businesses.