2018 Legislative Session Recap

Last night, March 8th, the 2018 legislative session came to an end.  Thanks to the involvement of affiliates, the construction labor lobby team, contractor partners, and our allies within the legislature, this session has been a very successful one for our members.

Leadership
Under great pressure to demonstrate that they know how to govern the new Democratic majority this session has provided some outstanding leadership at every level in both chambers.  Starting with Senator Karen Keiser and Representative Mike Sells, both as Chair of their respective labor committees, we saw a surge of legislation managed and prioritized expertly as they dealt with five years of built up labor policies.  Both members were champions of our legislative priorities and advocated for them after they were passed from committee and advanced to the chamber floor.  House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson were under even greater pressure to manage the backlog of bills that collected to compete for limited floor debate time.  In both cases, with the help of members including Senator Marko Liias, Representative Timm Ormsby, Senator Steve Conway, Representative Beth Doglio, Senator Steve Hobbs, Representative Marcus Ricceli, Senator Curtis King, and Representative Melanie Stambaugh, all of the below priority bills were passed.

While the above mentioned elected officials provided excellent leadership and cooperation concerning our Building Trades Legislative priorities, we cannot forget the outstanding work and effort provided to each of them from their respective staff. Many of them through their work ethic would be welcome additions on any of our construction projects, their dedication, innovation and commitment to providing the necessary resources to the elected officials resulted in outcomes that will greatly benefit our members for years to come.

Partners
Many of the priority bills passed this session received a significant bi-partisan vote and were moved more quickly due to collaborative work with business stakeholders.  The Mechanical Contractors Association worked with the Building Trades, in some cases testifying side by side in support, to advance multiple priority bills.  The Associated General Contractors also worked closely with our lobby team through testimony and securing votes.  The National Electrical Contractors Association helped work two priority bills, as did the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association.

HB 1723 Hanford worker health—sponsored by Representative Larry Haler
Senate: 35 to 14       House: 74 to 21

The Hanford energy worker occupational disease bill, signed into law Wednesday, creates a “presumption of causation” in state law, which assumes that some Hanford workers who become ill are sick because of the many chemicals that pollute the site.

This means Hanford workers, including contractors and subcontractors, who have become ill will not have to prove the exact chemical or toxin that caused their illness.  An estimated 1,500 chemicals have been found in Hanford’s underground tanks that are vented into the air above ground.

Hanford workers are now able to file or refile for workers comp benefits and their case will considered under the umbrella that the worker is presumed to have worked in a contaminated environment that could have caused their illness. Claims can be filed anytime within the worker’s lifetime because the effects of exposure may take years to develop. While many worked on this issue, Randy Walli and Nickolas Bumpaous of UA Local 598 championed this from the start. This is an extremely gratifying success as injured and ill Hanford site workers for years will benefit from this piece of Legislation.

SB 5493 CBA prevailing wage—sponsored by Senator Steve Conway
Senate: 32 to 15       House: 70 to 28

This bill in its current form has been in the making for five years and represents a considerable victory toward the improvement of our state prevailing wage system.  With this law, the current survey system will be replaced with the straight adoption of CBA rates where they exist (the vast majority of the state).  We will no longer need to invest resources in the blitz to report wages and the same relief will be felt by contractors that have been party to the surveys.  L&I will also be able to redirect their resources from the costly process and spend more time focused on enforcement instead.

Our office is currently developing a letter that will be sent to all affiliates with information on the transition to this new system and what may be needed from the labor side.

HB 1849: Apprenticeship Utilization—sponsored by Representative Mike Sells
Senate: 37 to 12       House: 97 to 0
Here we have the first compliance bill passed since the apprenticeship utilization law came into effect in 2005.  The law includes the use of an incentive/penalty on contracts awarded based on AU performance.  The tool is somewhat experimental and will require monitoring as it phases into implementation, but it is a step in the right direction and HB 1849 adds further value through clarification of AU performance reporting.  The responsibility of awarding agencies for reporting AU to L&I is detailed and the law flags the contractor portal of the L&I website as a place for contractors to report apprenticeship hours.  Data collection will be key to next steps establishing penalties if the incentive/penalty system under HB 1849 does not produce results.

HB 1673: Contractor training—sponsored by Representative Beth Doglio
Senate: 31 to 17       House: 63 to 35
This bill requires new contractors bidding on public works to complete a training on prevailing wage law as a part of the responsible bidder statute.  A contractor is exempt from the training requirement if they have had a contracting business license for three years or more and performed work on three or more public works projects.  The curriculum for this training will be developed by L&I and can be conducted by other organizations if the materials and content are approved by L&I.

The goal of this legislation 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.  Additionally, a universal training will make it harder for contractors to claim ignorance of the law and make it easier for L&I to identify willful misconduct.

HB 1672: Recovering wages & PW determinations—sponsored by Representative Noel Frame
Senate: 38 to 11       House: 98 to 0
This legislation ensures that a worker is still able to recover any wages owed to them despite the amount of time that it may take to get a final prevailing wage determination.  The law (39.12.015) provides for an avenue for agencies, contractors, workers, and other interested parties to be able to ask questions of L&I through their Industrial Statistician when they need a prevailing wage determination.  This process is separate and apart from filing a wage complaint, and by its nature is less adversarial.  Unfortunately, some of these tend to take quite a bit of time through the various levels of due process and could end up in the courts.

Meanwhile a worker’s 3-year statute of limitations could run out by the time a final decision is rendered and they are unable to recover their lost wages if the decision was in their favor.  This law puts that clock on hold and allows the determination process to work as designed without the possibility of the process timing out the ultimate remedy.

Finally, while the work for the 2018 Legislative Session has been completed, we are already in gear for the 2019 Session. Just as we celebrated a huge win with the CBA Prevailing Wage Bill (5493) for about five minutes then went right back to work that evening, we now focus on 2019, 2020 and beyond.

Many thanks to the Building Trades Lobbying team of Neil Hartman, Billy Wallace, Josh Swanson, Cody Arledge, Tim Herbert, Matthew Hepner, Nickolas Bumpaous, Michelle Frisk, Leanne Guier, Nathe Lawver, and Gordon Baxter. Your cooperation and efforts served our membership extremely well. These legislative victories belong to all of you.

 

 

 

Legislative Week in Review (February 19)

This week the Building Trades testified in public hearings on SSB 5493 (CBA prevailing wage) and 3SSB 5576 (apprenticeship utilization) in the House of Representatives.  SSB 5493 has already been passed out of the House Labor and Workforce Standards committee and the apprenticeship is scheduled for executive session on Monday, February 26th.  House bills 1672 (statute of limitations & wage recovery) and 1673 (contractor training) were both passed out of their senate committees and are headed for the Rules committee.

All four priority bills are on track for passage at this time.  In addition to work on the four priority bills and our ongoing meetings with legislators this week, the Building Trades have been working to promote the Washington State Convention Center financing bill, nonrural data center legislation and continue to engage in the MVET/Sound Transit funding discussions.

Nonrural Data Centers
HB 2673/SB 6703: providing a tax preference for nonrural data centers.

Data centers are the cornerstone of Washington’s digital economy and have proven to be very beneficial for construction jobs for years.  Recognizing the critical nature of internet infrastructure and sound economic development, state law provides incentives for data centers. However, under current law, these incentives are restricted to rural counties.  The proposed bills would open the door for construction of mid-sized data centers in new markets such as Puyallup, Tukwila and Lynwood.  Roughly calculated, a single center of this type represents 220,000 workhours in construction.

MVET Calculation and Keeping ST3 Whole
The issue of an acceptable “fix” to the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) calculation contained in the ST3 ballot initiative continues to be a point of controversy during this session.  The Building Trades are speaking to all parties in this discussion and have made our position clear: we are not opposed to the rebate IF the funding for the ST3 package is backfilled by some other mechanism to ensure that the full, voter-approved package can be kept on track and financially whole.

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

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 (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 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 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.