2014 Legislative Session Overview
Issues ranging from wages to liquor dominate the WRA’s member-approved priorities By Bruce Beckett, WRA director of government affairs
In January, 2014, the Washington state Legislature will convene for its regular 60day short session. The primary purpose of the short session is to make adjustments to the two-year budget adopted in 2013. During 2013, the Legislature required three special sessions to complete the two-year spending plan, finally concluding work at the end of June. Unlike in recent years, the Legislature will return this January without any major economic or spending surprises to respond too. Accordingly, the two-year budget does not require a complete rewrite. Although doubtful, many lawmakers are hoping for an early adjournment. Short sessions tend to be very intense. Legislators typically introduce the same number of bills as during a long session. And the bills introduced during 2013 are still, “alive.” So Olympia will have a large volume of legislation and policy issues to go through. An interesting element entering this session is what we will term, “legislative fatigue.” Instead of ending in mid-April, last year the Legislature remained in session until the end of June, and then got called back in October to enact tax breaks and workforce training programs to entice Boeing to build its 777X airplane in Washington state.
Current make-up of the Legislature House of Representatives Democrats continue to hold a 55-43 majority in the 98-member House of Representatives. Although no seats changed parties during 2013, the House has a handful of
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new members who have been appointed to fill vacancies. The House continues to be led by longtime Speaker Frank Chopp and Majority Leader Pat Sullivan. Republican Dan Kristiansen took over leadership of the minority Republicans during the 2013 session. Senate During 2013 two Democrats, Sen. Rodney Tom and Sen. Tim Sheldon, joined with 23 Republican senators to form the Majority Coalition Caucus, or MCC, to lead the Senate. The unique coalition, that only had a one-vote margin to work with, was successful in defending against general tax increases and working with both sides of the aisle to develop a two-year spending plan that invested $1 billion more in education. The Majority Coalition Caucus gained an important new seat in the Senate when Rep. Jan Angel (R) defeated appointed Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D) in the special election in the 26th District. Angel’s election gives the MCC a 26-23 margin in the 49-member Senate. Although the Legislature does not have to make major adjustments to the two-year budget, the debates over how to allocate resources will take time and in some cases are contentious. Entering this session, the debate over new funding for transportation projects appears to be the highest profile issue facing lawmakers. During 2013, a number of proposals were debated to raise about $10 billion to fund new transportation infrastructure and maintain existing infrastructure. The House passed a new funding package during the special sessions, but the contention over the Columbia River Crossing derailed the bill in the Senate. Members from both chambers and both parties have been working during the interim to come to an agreement, even holding, “listening sessions,” around the state. Gov. Inslee has made transportation a priority and linked its successful passage to the state’s efforts to secure the new Boeing 777X manufacturing plant.
2014 Legislative Session Overview What’s in store for the restaurant industry during the upcoming legislative session?