Legislative Week in Review (January 8, 2018)

Off to a Running Start

The first week of the 2018 legislative session has been a busy one, and the newly formed Democratic majority in the Senate is already working in our favor.  Thanks to the direction of the new Senate Labor & Commerce Committee chair Karen Keiser, Wednesday saw public testimony on the historically important workers’ comp bill for Hanford Workers (SB 5490) directed by UA 598’s Nickolas Bumpaous.  Meanwhile the original version of the bill (HB 1723), sponsored by Representative Larry Haler received early floor action and passed out of the House with a healthy majority of 76 to 22 Thursday.

Thursday marked Building Trades day in the Senate when Karen Keiser held public hearings on five of our priority bills:

  1. SB 5493 Establishing prevailing wage rates on collectively bargained wages (Conway)
  2. SB 5576: Apprenticeship utilization (AU) compliance and implementation (Keiser)
  3. SB 5492: Contractor training requirement (Conway)
    • Requires training for contractors bidding on public works under responsible bidder criteria—Allows for grandfathering of experienced contractors
  4. SB 5491: Wage recovery and prevailing wage determinations (Hasegawa)
    • Freezes the statute of limitations for the recovery of wages when a prevailing wage determination is in process
  5. SB 6126: Electrician apprenticeship (Saldana)

Testimony was kept to a minimum under Keiser’s direction, with the exception of the electrician’s bill that was effectively coordinated by Matthew Hepner with the Certified Electrical Workers of Washington.  Chris McClain with Ironworkers L86 and Michele Frisk from the Ironworkers District Council joined the Building Trades in testifying on the remaining package of four bills and were accompanied by the complete crew of IW apprentices from L86 as part of the apprentices political training.

In the House of Representatives, building trades legislation is on fast track for passage.  All bills passed out of the House last year and will be voted on again on the floor next week without the need for additional public hearings.

The Building Trades were also present to share public comment on the newly released, joint-agency underground economy benchmark report that was discussed in a work session of the House Labor and Workforce Standards Committee.

In addition to testimony this week we have been continually meeting with legislators from both sides of the aisle on our legislative agenda/priorities and building relationships.

Capital Budget

Negotiations have begun anew on the capital budget vs Hirst decision debate.  For those unfamiliar, just search ‘Hirst’ online.  Last session Republicans drew a line in the sand and said they would not vote on a capital budget until the legislature passed a bill making changes to a legal decision regarding water rights.  The good news is that the Senate has reached an arrangement on a Hirst bill which should be able to pass the House and lead to passage of a capital budget.

Sound Transit

The ST3 funding debate is a priority this session for Democrats, specifically the MVET calculation issue from last year.  The building trades participated in a high level strategic discussion with stakeholders in advance of session.  We are confident that a deal can be struck where, even with passage of an MVET altering bill, other legislation can accompany that move that will keep the voter-approved package whole and on schedule.  Members will be kept updated and may be asked to weigh-in on issues of alternate funding solutions.

 

Legislative Week in Review (January 15, 2018)

A Capital Budget Passes

The most notable victory this week was the late-night passage of the capital budget Thursday.  The contentious water rights issue that had been holding up the budget was resolved and passed as part of a package arrangement.  The water bill (SB 6091) allows limited drilling of new wells while local working groups develop plans to govern future water usage. The plans must ultimately be approved by the state Department of Ecology.

Passage of the capital budget means jobs and renewed market stability, it also means that one of the greatest uncertainties of the session has been dealt with and proves that the current legislature can work together and get the job done.  This collaboration is a good sign for our bills moving forward.

Building Trades Bills Progress in the Senate

On Monday the Senate Labor Committee passed the following bills on to the Rules committee:

  1. SSB 5576: Apprenticeship utilization (AU) compliance and implementation (Keiser)
  2. SB 5492: Contractor training requirement (Conway)
    • Requires training for contractors bidding on public works under responsible bidder criteria—Allows for grandfathering of experienced contractors
  3. SB 5491: Wage recovery and prevailing wage determinations (Hasegawa)
    • Freezes the statute of limitations for the recovery of wages when a prevailing wage determination is in process
  4. SB 6126: Electrician apprenticeship (Saldana)

The number one priority Building Trades bill, SB 5493 that replaces prevailing wage surveys with the adoption of CBA rates, is scheduled to be passed out on Monday the 22nd.  The bill required some extra work, but responsiveness on our part means that SB 5493 will receive at least one republican vote out of committee.

Third-Party Administrator Tax Bills HB 2355 & SB 6062

Our office has been engaging on these bills that have been introduced at the request of the Insurance Commissioner’s office.  The goal of the proposed legislation is to stabilize the individual health insurance market in Washington. The legislation would create a state-based reinsurance program to stabilize or reduce individual market premiums by reimbursing health insurers for high dollar claims in the individual market.

The bills impose a tax on all health insurers subject to state insurance law and third-party administrators, regardless of whether the plans are insured or self-funded.  We are asking members to check with their health trusts, identify the costs and seek feedback on the proposed legislation.  The bill has been moving extremely rapidly through the House of Representatives, bypassing the usual stop in the House Appropriations committee given its $200 million fiscal note.  We have shared our concerns over the financial impacts of these bills with leadership and will continue to engage through session.  Again, for those who have not yet done so, please request input from your trusts on these bills.

 

Legislative Week in Review (January 22, 2018 and January 29, 2018)

Half Way There

The last two weeks have been busy.  The Democratic control of the Senate has meant that a large backlog of bills are moving in a wave to be heard on the floor, and our building trades bills are among them.  Senator Keiser’s Labor and Commerce Committee has heard and passed out more than 140 bills.

A Victory for Hanford Workers

The highlight of last week was passage of the Hanford worker protection Substitute House Bill 1723 that creates a presumption of occupational disease for those working on the Hanford reservation.  The bill passed the Senate 35 to 14 and is on its way to becoming law on the Governor’s desk.  A bill signing ceremony is being planned to mark the occasion for this historic victory for Labor.  Once again, we would like to thank all of those that helped push this legislation and especially UA 598 and the members and family members whose willingness to speak out against the devastating effects of these chemical exposures made the urgency and gravity of these conditions clear.

Reinsurance Taft-Hartley Tax in Hand for Now

HB 2355 and SB 6062, bills reported on two weeks ago that threatened to add a bellybutton tax on Taft-Hartley plans, have slowed their progress thanks to the work of many affiliates.  It is this office’s understanding that HB 2355 has been placed on permanent hold for the session.  SB 6062 had a public hearing on January 25th in Senate Ways & Means where Chris McClain of the Ironworkers delivered powerful testimony in opposition to the bill.  That bill was changed on its exit from committee and has no funding, that means no tax on our plans, in the latest form.  Building Trades advocates will continue to monitor this issue and work with the bill sponsors, where we are able, to find a solution to the problem created for many in our state who stand to lose insurance coverage due to failures in the other Washington.

Continued Progress

The remaining priority bills for the building trades should be up for votes on the floor next week.  Due to the large number of bills in competition for floor time, the following versions have been chosen in either chamber as the final vehicle:

SSB 5493 Establishing prevailing wage rates on collectively bargained wages (Conway)

Construction CBA wage rates are adopted following an L&I prevailing wage survey in most state counties. Several other states utilize CBA wage rates to establish local wages for consistent public works construction bidding and this policy was suggested by the Washington Transportation Efficiencies Cost Study in 2013-14.

Because of the negotiations that take place between business and labor representatives, CBA figures offer the most accurate, market-determined value of the work being performed.  Substitute Senate Bill 5493 is the only common-sense proposal to ensure predictable wage rates for bidding contractors and to reduce administrative workloads for L&I’s understaffed prevailing wage division.

2SSB 5576: Apprenticeship utilization compliance and implementation (Keiser)

This bill will introduce a compliance mechanism for apprenticeship utilization based on an incentive/disincentive model.  It also clarifies AU performance data reporting responsibilities and protects subcontractors from being required to perform more than 15% apprenticeship hours.

SHB 1673: Contractor training (Doglio)

Under this law a minimum amount (no time specified) of department provided or approved course instruction would be required for contractors prior to participating on public works construction.  Complaints by some new contractors suggest public works project wage and certified payroll requirements can be complicated.

This legislation represents a common-sense approach that helps those new to public works contracting avoid penalties and instead allows the Department of Labor & Industries to focus on willful violations.  The training could improve outcomes for new contractors and the industry as a whole.  As a comparison, California and New Mexico currently require contractor certification for those bidding on public work.

HB 1672: Wage recovery and prevailing wage determinations (Frame)

This bill is modeled on similar provisions in Washington’s Wage Payment Act for minimum wage and overtime issues that provide for the statute of limitations clock to be stopped while the department is in the process of making a prevailing wage determination.  Some projects raise prevailing wage coverage and classification questions that current law (RCW39.12.015) provides agencies, contractors and interested parties the option to seek guidance from L&I prior to initiating an enforcement action.  HB 1672 would ensure that, while L&I are involved in this decision process, the ability for the worker to recover lost wages is not affected by a time delay.  This same legislation passed from the floor last year with a 98 to 0 vote.

 

Legislative Week (February 5, 2018) and a Day in Review (February 12, 2018)

Last week was one of floor action and all Building Trades bills have passed in at least one form.  The highlight came today when our top priority, SSB 5493 the CBA prevailing wage bill, passed from the Senate with a vote of 32-15.  We continue to have strong support from our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle on this historic legislation, while also picking up Republican votes from senators King, Fain, Miloscia, Zeiger, Fortunato, and O’Ban.  The remaining three priority bills passed the House last week as follows:

EHB 1849: Apprenticeship utilization   Passed 97-0
This bill introduces a compliance mechanism for AU based on an incentive/disincentive model.  It also clarifies AU performance data reporting responsibilities and protects subcontractors from being required to perform more than 15% apprenticeship hours.  Under the latest version WSDOT is exempted from the new compliance language due to their excellent track record under their current three-strike policy.

E2SHB 1673: Adding training on public works and prevailing wage requirements to responsible bidder criteria   Passed 63-35
E2SHB 1673 establishes a minimum level of training prior to responsible bidder criteria for public works.  The goal is to ensure that the laws are being complied with from the start of a construction project rather than engaging in a costly legal battle to ensure that workers are paid appropriately.

HB 1672: Statute of limitations for wage recovery  Passed 98-0
This legislation ensures that a worker is still able to recovery any wages owed to them despite the amount of time that it may take to get a final prevailing wage determination.

In addition to priority floor action last week:

  1. We have been talking with lawmakers in support of 2SHB 2015, a bill that supports the early kick-off of construction on the Washington State Convention Center expansion.
  2. Engaged leadership on concerns brought by affiliates about HB 2338, a low carbon fuel standard that could threaten financing for the Connect Washington funding package passed in 2015. Representative Fitzgibbon, the bill’s sponsor, reached out to our team and met with us twice last week to discuss the bill.  Our conversations were productive and show great promise for working together in the future on jobs-positive environmental policy.
  3. Continued to offer support to affiliate lobbyists on a wide range of bill projects.

 

Legislative week in review (February 12)

With the completion of week six, all four Building Trades priority bills have passed from their ‘house of origin’ and been sent across to the next.  Senate Bill 5493 (CBA prevailing wage) has been scheduled for public hearing in the House Labor & Workforce Standards committee on February 19th and Senate Bill 5576 (apprenticeship utilization) has been scheduled for the same day in House Capital Budget.  Our office testified in support of House Bill 1673 (contractor training) on Thursday in the Senate Labor & Commerce committee and the bill is scheduled to be passed out of committee on February 19thHouse Bill 1672 (statute of limitations on wage recovery) was passed out of Senate Labor on February 15th.

We continue to work active bills and attend meetings with legislators on both sides of the aisle as session progresses.  Our bi-partisan approach this session and our ongoing work with state agencies, representatives from the signatory contracting community such as the MCA, NECA and SMACNA as well as work with the AGC have all proven effective so far.  To recap, our votes from the first half of session:

  1. HB 1672 (statute of limitations on wage recovery)  98-0
  2. HB 1849 (apprenticeship utilization)  97-0
  3. HB 1673 (contractor training)  63-35
  4. SB 5576 (apprenticeship utilization)  39-8
  5. SB 5493 (CBA prevailing wage)  32-15