2022 SESSION ENDS – NOTHING EARTH SHATTERING FOR DENTURISTS
With the 2022 Legislature still meeting virtually, it was difficult to get a lot of issues brought forward. To this end, we were unable to get a bill introduced that would require stand-alone dental plans to allow denturists in network. However, we did work with several legislators who have promised to bring forward this issue next session.
In addition, we will have an opportunity in 2023 to discuss the dental Medicaid program to see if we can provide more money specifically for dentures to help increase the number of lifetime dentures a patient can have, particularly if they are younger when they receive their first denture under Medicaid.
Both of these issues will require grassroots work this summer and fall so hopefully you are all ready to meet with your legislators!
Below is a full list of bills WDA tracked this year and where they ended up. Bills that did not pass are listed last.
Supplemental budgets passed in final hours of 2022 legislative session
Lawmakers passed the state’s supplemental budget and transportation funding plans in the final hours of the 60-day legislative session, which adjourned at midnight on March 10.
tate of Reform has a good round-up of the Supplemental Operating Budget, noting the spending plan adds $5 billion to the 2021 operating budget, bringing total spending to $64.1 billion over the two-year budget. In the final negotiations, majority Democrats prioritized spending on pay raises for state employees, increased rates for child-care providers and rental assistance, among other items.
Lawmakers also passed the Supplemental Transportation Budget. Breaking precedent, the majority party crafted and passed a 16-year, $17 billion package. Instead of relying on gas tax or bonding, it relies on additional revenue from the state’s new cap-and-trade program, a one-time $2 billion fund transfer from the general fund-state, increases in various fees and federal dollars.
For the denturist community, several items of interest were included in the budget. The first provides funding to the Department of Health to provide project staff to reduce the current backlog and complete credentials within seven calendar days of receiving a complete application.
The second provides general fund dollars for completion of the DOH computer upgrade rather than relying solely on provider fees for this project. In addition, one time funding is provided for the Center for Health Workforce Studies to develop a program to track dental workforce trends, needs, and enhancements to better serve the increasing population and demand for access to adequate oral health care. WDA will need to make sure that Bates is connected with the UW on this study to ensure access to denturists is required. I will also be reaching out to find out how we can get involved in this. One time funding is also provided for a report on strategies to support and transform the education and training of the dental hygiene and dental assistant professions because of the lack of people in these professions right now. A report must be submitted to the Legislature by December 1, 2022. Bills that passed which expand apprenticeship and CTE training dollars could benefit our program at Bates and we will need to take a deeper look.
In 2023, lawmakers will convene for 105 days to craft the two-year budgets.
WDA LEGISLATIVE VICTORIES!!!
Even though WDA did not have any direct, denturist related bills during this short virtual session, we did participate in coalitions to defeat bills that would negatively impact employers. These bills include:
HB 1837 – Ergonomics: Once again, your grassroots efforts helped stop a bill that would have allowed L&I to adopt rules setting standards for repetitive motion injuries that in previous iterations cost business over $700 million to implement. Consistent calls and emails helped us stop this bill from coming up for a vote in the Senate.
SB 5801 – Making Employers Pay if they Lose Workers’ Compensation Appeals: This bill also failed to come up for a vote on the House floor before the deadline Friday night. While it didn’t warrant the grassroots approach, the business community worked hard with friendly legislators to stop this bill which would have stifled employers from appealing workers compensation claims by forcing them to pay if they
OTHER GENERAL SMALL BUSINESS NEWS!
Capital gains income tax passed by Legislature thrown out by court
In early March, a Douglas County Superior Court judge tossed out the capital gains tax lawmakers passed in 2021.
In his written ruling, Douglas County Superior Court Judge Brian Huber upheld opponents’ argument that new tax was a tax on income, which violates previous state Supreme Court rulings and the state constitution because it is not a uniform taxation on property.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he would appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, noting that there was a lot at stake for funding early learning, child-care programs, and school construction.
The measure imposes a 7% tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and assets exceeding $250,000. It was projected to generate $415 million in 2023, the first year the tax would be collected.
ESD lays out new timeline for long-term care program premium collection, program implementation
The Legislature passed the Washington Cares Act (WA Cares) in 2019. The Act created a long-term care program funded by payroll premiums. As the program’s implementation neared this year, lawmakers and the public questioned the viability and need for the new state-run program.
In light of the mounting uncertainty and questions of program solvency, the Legislature passed and governor signed House Bill 1732 on Jan. 27 to delay the program and premium collection until July 2023.
The state Employment Security Department is the agency responsible for administering the program. It created a website to support employers, which reads: “Beginning July 1, 2023, you’ll collect premiums from your employees the same way you do now for Paid Leave—we’ve updated the Paid Leave reporting system on our end so you can report for both programs at the same time.”
More information on premium calculation can be found here.
Bills that impact employers have mixed results
Though lawmakers were only in session 60 days, several bills that would impact employers were considered. Many bad bills died and a couple of good ones passed.
Some of the bills that would have negatively impacted employers include:
House Bill 1076: Modeled off California’s law, this bill would subject small businesses to third-party greenmail lawsuits alleging violations of more than a dozen workplace and health or worker rights and safety laws. Died in committee.
House Bill 1474: This bill would increase penalties for inadvertent errors in quarterly unemployment insurance reports. Died in committee.
Senate Bill 5130: This bill would effectively undo our state’s employment-at-will doctrine, exposing employers to litigation. The bill would also prohibit redaction of sensitive and personally identifiable information. Died in committee.
Bills that have a positive impact on employers are:
Senate Bill 5137: This bill would allow for a one-year suspension of the COLA (Cost-of-Living Adjustment) on workers’ compensation benefits. Died in committee.
Senate Bill 5873: This bill would provide a two-year reduction in the scheduled increase for the social tax component of Unemployment Insurance rates for the remainder of 2021 and 2022. Passed and signed by governor. Bill took effect March 11, 2022.
Bill to change disability wage calculation for married individuals dies in committee
Senate Bill 5835 would have eliminated the reference to marital status in the time loss and pension wage rate statutes, setting the floor for all workers without children at 65 percent. As written, the bill would:
- Provide the same percentages of the worker's wages to be received by an injured worker for a permanent total disability whether a worker is married or unmarried; and,
- Remove the requirement that an injured worker be married to receive an additional $10 per month when the worker is receiving the minimum monthly payments for a permanent or temporary total disability.
The change would have created a significant fiscal impact as the effective rate of pay across the system is approximately 63.3 percent.
While the bill advanced to the House Rules Committee Feb. 3, it did not receive a vote of the full Senate.
Attend Paid Family and Medical Leave stakeholder meeting April 5
The state Employment Security Department invites employers to attend a stakeholder meeting to discuss draft rules regarding the waiting period to access the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program. The group will also cover small business assistance grants.
The details of the meeting are as follows:
- When: April 5, 2022, 9 a.m.
- Where: The stakeholder meeting will be held via Microsoft TEAMS.
To get information on how to participate in the meeting, visit this website and click “+” in the “Upcoming meetings” section.
This is an opportunity for you to voluntarily provide testimony on proposed Paid Leave regulations at a public hearing that is required by law. The draft rules can be read here.
Potential data breach at state Department of Licensing
Officials this month said they flagged a potential data breach in January at the state Department of Licensing (DOL) that could have compromised professional license holders.
According to GeekWire: The state issues and processes about 40 types of professional and occupational licenses through a database called POLARIS (Professional Online Licensing and Regulatory Information System). Professionals in the database include real estate brokers, architects, geologists, tattoo artists, and others.
Information that may have been stolen in the breach could include social security numbers, drivers license numbers, and date of birth for people in the POLARIS database.
The state Cybersecurity Office reported that it began to see data on the “dark web” last month that suggested DOL was hit by a data breach.
Redistricting plan challenged
The Commission is tasked every decade with redrawing legislative and congressional districts based on population increases and migrations, ensuring nearly equal numbers of residents in each of the districts.
The newest redistricting plan was submitted Nov. 15, 2021, and was immediately met with skepticism. Allegations of deal-making and lack of adherence to the Public Open Meetings Act led to a lawsuit by the Coalition for Open Government. The result of the challenge is the state Supreme Court was asked to resolve the questions surrounding the legitimacy of the plan; the court ruled that the plan “substantially complied” with statutory deadlines, and declined to adopt a new redistricting plan for the state.
This month, another lawsuit was filed, this time the charge is gerrymandering. As reported in The Washington Observer, “The lawsuit argues that the new 15th district is unconstitutional because it was drawn purely so that slightly more than half3 of its citizens of voting age are Latino, without any other compelling purpose.”
The maps of the legislative and congressional are available online.