By Carolyn Logue, Lobbyist
The 2020 Legislative Session opened up last week with a bang. Almost 2000 bills have been introduced and another 1000 from last session started moving again, leaving those who follow the legislative process gasping for air as we try to chase down bill language and hearings. All of this as the legislature insists it will be done on March 16 within the 60 day constitutional timeline.
This year there is a new Speaker of the House after longtime Speaker Frank Chopp stepped down. Rep. Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma was sworn in as Speaker on the first day of session. She is the first woman Speaker of the House in Washington State’s history. It is still to be seen how she will manage floor action when all the bills currently in the hearing process make it to the floor of the House for votes.
For NWHPBA, it promises to be a slightly quieter year. So far there are no threats to woodstove emissions and we expect to retain at least $2 million for state changeout programs. But we will be busy working on several bills dealing with climate changes, watching labor bills and also ensuring that a bill on plumbing certification does not impact our industry if it passes. Here’s a quick run down on the priorities:
Climate Change and Energy:
Several bills have been introduced this year to further restrict air emissions from fossil fuels and deal with climate change. In addition, with the Supreme Court overturning the Governor’s Clean Air rules, we need to be vigilant about bills that will attempt to put these rules into place legislatively. NWHPBA is working against several bills that could possibly lead to more local natural gas bans or restrictions. On a positive note, we are also able to work on bill that recognizes the state’s forest products industry as part of the state’s climate response. This would be a good bill for wood pellet manufacturing and other wood product usage.
: Bills to eliminate the three day waiting period in workers’ compensation and limit the use of independent medical exams would increase the cost of workers’ compensation and put pressure on rates. Also moving are bills that would allow liens on businesses when there is a wage payment dispute and also require contractors to take on liability for the payment of subcontractor wages if the sub does not pay. In addition, we are closely watching and working on a bill regarding plumbing certification. This has been around for a few years and does not impact fuel gas piping. However, we need to ensure that it won’t be broadened if it moves through the system.
: Two big areas are under discussion in the transportation arena. The first, a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), is part of the Governor’s climate change agenda to address air emissions in the transportation sector. It would require specific fuel blends and a move toward electric cars. The current analysis indicates that this proposal could increase transportation fuel costs by 57 cents per gallon. Puget Sound Clean Air Authority has a proposal just for their four counties but is hoping the Legislature will move to implement LCFS statewide. The second issue in transportation is the $455 million hole in the Transportation budget left by the passage of Initiative 976 ($30 car tabs). The Governor and majority democrats in the House and Senate are hoping to plug the hole by “pausing” transportation projects until the next budget year. Minority Republicans have put forward proposals to set $30 car tabs in statute and instead divert sales tax from transportation projects back into the transportation budget rather than the state general fund.
State Building Code Council:
Two bills are moving that are supported by NWHPBA. One bill would delay implementation of the proposed Washington State Energy Code until there has been a more detailed review of the impact on housing affordability and discussion of alternatives to reduce costs. The second would require legislators on the State Building Code Council to be voting members in order to increase legislative oversight and input into the Council’s process and decisions. NWHPBA believes more legislative involvement would help avoid additional gas appliance issues similar to what we saw last summer and fall.
is a bill report with bill numbers and links of the bills we are tracking. If you have any questions or input on any of these bills, please let us know.