By Carolyn Logue,
CA Logue Public Affairs
Hopefully you are all getting the ability to get back to work and try to salvage what is left of the remainder of the year. I wanted to give you a quick update on what I am watching and things that are happening right now. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like more information.
: We are hearing that we may see the Legislature come back in for a special session. August is being discussed but we don’t have any specific dates yet.
- STATE BUDGET: This week we were able to see the projected revenue forecast. As of this point, we have a projected $4.5 billion hole in the 19-21 current biennium which ends June 30, 2021. This is a significant problem that will require the Legislature to come back in and address during a special session. Most likely this session will be held in August. They will need to address in order to not only ensure a balanced budget for the remainder of the biennium (Washington State is constitutionally required to have a balanced budget) but also to avoid a bow wave of spending into the 21-23 biennium which is currently projected to have a $4.3 billion deficit. Until the Legislature meets, the Governor announced today that state employees will not all receive the 3% raises set to go into effect on July 1. In addition, taking a page from the Great Recession, the Governor has asked agencies to start implementing an aggressive employee furlough program. This would require state employees to take a certain number of days off during a week or month in order to avoid straight up salary reductions and layoffs.
As a result of the budget crisis, we are seeing proposals from legislators regarding tax
increases. Former House Speaker Frank Chopp has put forward a proposal to raise
taxes for programs through a head tax on large businesses and a capital gains tax. We
are not sure if proposals like this will be dealt with during a special session but will be
on the table for the 2021 regular Legislative Session.
- UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: Our association joined about 20 other organizations asking the Employment Security Department for details about the unemployment insurance fraud and what is happening with our state’s unemployment insurance program and trust fund. At this point, the UI trust fund has dropped from $4.6 billion to $3.1 billion which means it is still one of the most healthy in the country. It has also been determined that almost all of the fraudulent payments came from the federal PUA funds and not our state trust fund. We are now waiting to hear a formal response with details regarding what the trust fund and UI program/taxes will look like going forward.
We are closely watching the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the workers’ compensation system. Some legislators have brought up making COVID illness a “presumptive” illness so that they automatically qualify for workers’ compensation. The employer community is very concerned about this because this is a community spread situation and not one that can easily be pinned on whether or not the person got the illness at work. This is particularly concerning for businesses that had to remain open before the information regarding masks, etc.. was available. We anticipate this to be discussed during any potential special session.
SHARED WORK FOR UI:
Employment Security is encouraging employers who are not able to bring employees back full time to look at utilizing the Shared Work program. This will be way to keep trained employees attached to your business while you are coping with the economic downturn.
: Linked here is the latest update for businesses on the Governor’s coronavirus.org site. This is where you can find the updated guidelines for each of the Safe Start phases. You can also find links to additional information on resources and help. If you have any questions, please let me know. I can work to find the best people for you to talk to.
STATE BUILDING CODE UPDATE:
The Washington State Building Code Council met last week to discuss whether or not to extend the delay of building and energy code updates beyond November 1st. Despite active support from industry members, the Council ultimately voted to retain the effective date at November 1st, 2020
WASHINGTON STATE ENERGY STRATEGY COMMITTEE:
The Washington State Energy Strategy Committee has been holding webinars and meetings to discuss updates to the State Energy Strategy. Last updated in 2012, the Washington State Department of Commerce is looking to provide an updated report in 2021. For information and to see proposals that have been put forward, please go to this link.
CLEAN BUILDINGS INITIATIVE:
Among the energy programs being discussed at the state level, included in this is the implementation of HB 1257, the Clean Buildings bill that passed in 2019. This bill requires the Department of Commerce to establish a State Energy Performance Standard for covered buildings by November 1, 2020. It also requires the Department to establish energy benchmarking requirements for covered commercial buildings and also establish a Natural Gas Conservation Standard. The state energy performance standard being adopted is the ANSI/ASHRAE/IES standard 100-2018 for energy efficiency in existing buildings. To see copies of the rules and links to webinars and workshop dates, please go to this link.
DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY GREENHOUSE GAS ASSESSMENT FOR PROJECTS RULE:
Next week the Department of Ecology will be hosting a virtual meeting regarding their proposed greenhouse gas assessment for projects rule. There are stakeholder concerns regarding the scope of this rule and how it would impact emissions of indirect projects. While not nearly as broad as the clean air rule that was overturned by the courts, the hope is that Ecology will engage with stakeholders to try and be more specific and to stay within the scope of the authorizing statutes. One suggestion being made is to limit the geographic scope of the rule. For more information and to register to attend the webinar, please follow this link. I will be attending this webinar as well.
- NEW FALL PROTECTION RULES: The Department of Labor & Industries has finalized adoption of updated fall protection rules. The purpose of this rulemaking is to revise the L&I’s standards regarding fall protection requirements and references and incorporate them into a new chapter, chapter 296-880 WAC, Unified Safety Standards for Fall Protection. In June of 2013 and October of 2015, L&I received notification from the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) relating to fall protection standards. The latest notification advised the department that DOSH needed to amend L&I’s fall protection rules in Chapter 296-155 WAC in order for them to be at least as effective as those administered by OSHA. This rulemaking incorporates changes to the rules to make them at least as effective as OSHA, as required by the Washington State Plan.
In addition, this rulemaking incorporates fall protection requirements from multiple
DOSH rules into chapter 296-880 WAC, Unified Safety Standards for Fall Protection,
applicable to most industries. During public meetings held in the fall of 2016 through
the summer of 2019, stakeholders supported the creation of a unified fall protection
rule and believed it will be easier to implement and help protect workers from fall
hazards. By creating the unified fall protection rule, some existing requirements were
changed to ensure alignment and consistency and references to the existing
requirements are updated.
The links below provide additional information about this rulemaking:
The effective date of this rule is October 1, 2020.