Monday, January 5, 2015

Chamber Announces 2015 Leg Agenda

The Washington State Legislature convenes January 12, for a regular session scheduled to end April 27.  No one is betting they’ll make that date given the $2 billion budget shortfall currently forecast as well as the burden of an additional $2 billion to meet the class size demands of I-1351 recently passed by voters.

Nonetheless, legislators will grapple with many issues addressing needs of all constituents.  The Chamber is prepared, thanks to the work of its members who volunteer for the Government Affairs Committee, as an active advocate for local businesses.  Here is our Agenda for 2015:

2015 Legislative Agenda

The Legislature should strive for the creation and retention of private sector jobs by adopting a sustainable budget that prioritizes spending and implements spending controls and reforms that will provide long-term financial stability, while at the same time adopting legislation that will streamline regulatory policies that positively impacts the economy, promotes job growth, enhances the business climate and closes our education and workforce  gaps in the globally competitive environment.

Improve the business climate and increase the number of jobs in Pierce County.

The Chamber supports the following principles:

Legislation that positively impacts the economy, promotes job growth and enhances the business climate so that all Pierce County businesses can continue to be successful and globally competitive.

Support Military-Community compatible land use proposals to support the military mission of defense installations identified in such documentation of the 2005 BRAC Report and the upcoming JBLM Joint Land Use Study (JLUS).  In continuing support for the Washington Military Alliance, the Chamber supports continued funding for the Department of Commerce’s Military Sector Lead and policies that recognize military bases as economic and service centers within our region.

Permitting and Regulations - Regulatory reform efforts that decrease duplication, increase predictability and decrease the cost of permitting and regulations.

I-937 – Reasonable changes to I-937 that support Pierce County businesses and/or utilities and their previous investments made to comply with the Initiative. Support policies that incentivize and further the safe, reliable and efficient use of electricity and natural gas transportation in Washington State to ensure that these alternative fuels are taxed in parity with traditional transportation fuels.

Pass a transportation funding and expenditure package, together with reforms, that will complete Pierce County transportation projects that have already been pledged, are currently in design or scheduled for construction and projects that improve freight mobility and system reliability.
Top Priority Project
SR 167 – Full funding to complete construction of SR 167.

Other Priority Projects
  • Local roads, arterials and transit – Support local transportation infrastructure investments in Pierce County that improve freight mobility and systems reliability for workers.
  • JBLM – I-5 Corridor, SR 512/I-5, Cross-Base Highway (I-704). East Pierce – SR 162/410 Corridor Study
  • Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) – Support legislation that encourages the use of multimodal commutes including the continuation of the CTR credit for businesses that provide benefits to their employees to ease traffic congestion.

Washington has been a leader in delivering effective medical care. We are home to provider organizations that have developed innovations that have improved life expectancy and the quality of life worldwide. As implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues, the legislature should make every effort to build on those strengths while expanding options for consumers and avoid all efforts that would impose duplicative governing structures or mandates and restrictions on the ability of providers to care for their patients, regardless of their income status.

Support policy that will encourage or expand medical services, especially in rural areas of the state so that specialty services not readily available in the region, like telemedicine, and preserve Association Health Plans (AHPs) as a viable market option.

Support policies and investments  that maintain and enhance jobs in Pierce County and that directly support local flexibility in workforce development and job training programs through entities including workforce development councils, school districts, community-based institutions, community and technical colleges, UWT,  the other four-year colleges and apprenticeship programs.

Boost student success and employability by legislation that promotes, expands and emphasizes job training in high demand fields - especially science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula.

Veterans - Support policies that facilitate the employment for and transitioning of military personnel, veterans and military spouses and their children into a civilian environment by: the adoption of policies including, but not limited to, those that grant college credits for previous military work, training or experience; making it less cumbersome to obtain professional certificates and/or licensure    for demonstrated equivalent ability or competencies, and encouraging skills translation portals; and supporting positive military child education initiatives.

Support policies that encourage innovative learning models, like Charter Schools, and provide the greatest student achievement and performance-based management policies for teachers and principals. Funding investments should be made in programs that have demonstrated an ability to enhance student learning that are coupled with clear expectations of outcomes and performance measures. Expand science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs at all levels of K-12 education.

Support the state constitutional requirement for provision of basic education for all children so that an appropriate allocation of resources and any corresponding expectations that come with such funding - such as local control by the principal, performance reviews, higher pay for positions of higher demand, etc. to comply with the Supreme Court’s McCleary decisions.

Support Capital and Operational funding and expenditures that increase economic development opportunity and training capacity in secondary and post-secondary education and the connectivity between them and that create jobs in Pierce County.

Wage and Hour Reform / Mandatory Paid Time Off
Support reforms to the minimum wage laws, like adoption of a training wage, that promote job growth and benefit business in Pierce County – especially reforms to the automatic minimum wage accelerator.

Encourage the greatest possible consistency between state and federal wage laws - limit more restrictive state-based standards. Oppose localized minimum wage laws and mandatory paid leave proposals and support appropriate state-wide reforms in such areas that encourage the growth of current and the location of new businesses in Pierce County.

Environment and Climate Change
Washington’s share of the world’s GHG emissions is less than three-tenths of one percent (.003), causing a negligible impact on climate change. State policy makers should not be more aggressive than their counterparts in other states by adopting climate change-related policies, especially in the land-use and transportation areas, that will adversely impact the construction industry and our transportation infrastructure. Enactment of any such additional policies to directly or indirectly regulate GHG emissions threatens investments, especially capital investments, in Washington’s economy.  Support policies that improve and incentivize use of alternative fuels and the infrastructure necessary to supply those fuels in Washington. Efforts to impose GHG policies that go beyond those required by the Clean Air Act, like carbon tax schemes and other GHG  pricing mechanisms, will be opposed Environmental Regulatory Reform. State government land use and environmental review processes should be streamlined to the fullest extent possible to eliminate unnecessary delay, duplication, and expense. Policies should place greater emphasis on providing technical assistance to the regulated community to increase voluntary compliance with existing regulations without increasing reliance on jurisdictional or enforcement authority.

Support efforts that expand upon Washington’s current innovation sectors; encourage, incentivize and support research and development for new and emerging technologies that reduce GHG and create  jobs in Washington.

Government Efficiency
Workers’ Compensation - L&I efficiencies
Allow for the “right-sizing” of Washington’s broad statutory definition and coverage of “occupation disease” by:
·         restoring the original intent of the law that the system cover work-related exposures and conditions;
·         expand the use and administrative simplicity of the claims resolution settlement option;
·          enhance appropriate claims management authority for retrospective ratings groups and self-insured employers:
·         address the high incidence and cost of occupation disease claims and the extremely complex process for calculating benefit levels 

Support objective and independent hearing reviews and appeals without agency intervention wherein all agency hearings and appeals will be addressed by an administrative law judge assigned through the Office of Administrative Hearings or a separate independent state agency and not within the agency being reviewed. 
Unemployment Insurance - Preserve previously adopted legislative changes   and oppose increasing unemployment insurance rates, encourage the adoption of cost controls within the unemployment insurance system, avoid benefit enhancements and eligibility standards and support the maintaining of reasonable reserves and like efforts to reduce the cost to business.

Oppose fund transfers from dedicated funds and accounts to the general fund or unrelated programs and purposes.

Tax and Fiscal Policy
Support efforts to achieve a balanced state budget while promoting economic development opportunities, job growth and strengthened competitiveness

Reduce and Simplify the Tax Code
Support tax code administrative simplification that reduces administrative costs and tax burdens to Pierce County’s businesses. Require cities with license requirements to participate in the master business license application and reduce regulatory red tape and paperwork burdens that face businesses

Taxes and Fees
Retain, extend and expand tax incentives that benefit the economy and support job growth in Pierce County and support  legislation that positively impacts the economy, job growth and Pierce County businesses like permanently extending the expiring (12/31/14) high technology research and development B&O and sales/use tax incentives, making tax-increment-financing an available economic development tool while preserving property tax principles and proposals that would allow entity-owned recreational boats from out of state the same privileges as boats from out-of-state owned in an individual capacity.

Update:  Jan. 16, 2015

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