The following newsletter was sent to subscribers to Sen. Padden’s newsletter, Jan. 31, 2019. To subscribe to Sen. Padden’s newsletters, click here.
First bill of the year clears the Senate, torrent to come later
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Wednesday, the Washington Senate passed the first bill of the session, delivering to the governor’s desk a bill that fixes problems with Initiative 940. This issue has been a front-and-center concern for more than a year, and a personal priority of mine.
But you might wonder – we’ve been in session for nearly three weeks now, and we’re only getting around to passing our first bill?
This is how our part-time legislature works. When we return to Olympia to start a new legislative session, our work begins with committee hearings. We listen to testimony on issues that will come to the floor in the weeks ahead. This week I’ll tell you about two of those – an effort to fix a law that discourages condo construction, and a protest by cosmetologists that certainly ruffled some lawmakers’ hair. We’ll be hearing more about these as the session progresses. As always, we look forward to serving you in Olympia.
Senator Mike Padden
A bad-hair day for the Legislature
When majority Democrats in the Senate proposed banning booth-rentals in beauty parlors, they weren’t expecting the state’s hairdressers to descend on the Capitol en masse. Hundreds of them came to Olympia Monday to protest SB 5326, which would require cosmetologists to work as employees, rather than as independent contractors.
The bill is part of a long-running effort by organized labor groups to all-but eliminate independent contracting in Washington. Proposals like these are trouble for those who find they can make a better living working for themselves. Cosmetologists told the committee that independent contracting offers them a living wage and the freedom to set their own hours. Traditional employment does not.
Several came from our area – like Megan White, owner of Beauty by Megz in Spokane Valley. You can see her testimony above, and read about it here.
When the public expresses outrage, lawmakers take notice. The bill’s sponsor, stung by the criticism, promised she would drop the ban on booth rentals when the measure comes up for a vote. Yet her bill still would impose heavy employment taxes on independent cosmetologists – and to beat arguments that the bill discriminates against women, barbers may be added. Legislation of this type shows disrespect for the hardworking people of Washington by limiting their choices.
Condo reform a solution to state’s affordable housing shortage
As house prices soar, you might think Washington residents would turn to more-affordable condominiums. But just try to find one.
New condo construction is at a near-standstill largely because Washington law offers an incentive for homeowners associations to file lawsuits for construction defects and other, more subjective issues. Some major insurance companies have stopped selling liability insurance for new Washington condo projects. One developer even told the Senate Law and Justice Committee that he has been advised he faces a 90 percent probability of a lawsuit for any new project he builds.
This is why I have introduced SB 5219, which would exempt projects of 6 units or less from the onerous warranty provisions of state law. I also am a co-sponsor of SB 5334, which takes a different approach, clarifying and limiting the circumstances under which a lawsuit can be filed.
These bills came before our committee this week, and they prompted thoughtful discussion of the importance of homeownership in building strong communities. In many areas, rising rents and a lack of affordable housing forces people to live far away from their place of work. This isn’t just a Seattle issue. A 1-percent vacancy rate in Spokane Valley leaves first-time homebuyers with few options, and has made condo liability reform a top legislative priority for the city, said deputy mayor Pam Haley.
Condos should be an important element in new housing construction for our state. They provide an affordable homeownership option and allow young families to build equity and net worth. In this state, aside from a few high-end condo projects for the wealthy, all we see being built these days are apartments. But in Vancouver, B.C., twice as many condos are being built as apartments. That by itself presents a clear argument for reform.
I-940 fix finally passes, the right way
At long last, the Legislature finally fixed Initiative 940 and did it right. On Wednesday, the Senate passed House Bill 1064, which clarifies the new rules for use of police force that voters approved last fall. Last year, our colleagues attempted to pass a similar bill in a way that evaded constitutional requirements, cut voters out of the process, and undermined the people’s ability to submit initiatives to the Legislature. I was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that challenged this improper action. The Supreme Court agreed with us, and sent the Legislature back to square one.
Now the Legislature is playing by the rules. It passed the new bill unanimously, exceeding the constitutional requirement for a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to amend recently-passed initiatives. You can read more about this issue here.
The changes to I-940 are important, and they have the support of law enforcement and initiative sponsors. These changes will provide a more-objective standard for law enforcement officers who must make life-and-death decisions in a split second. The bill also establishes new training and certification requirements. Just as important as these changes, however, is the lesson for lawmakers — the Legislature is not above the law.
Thanks to Saraiah Charbonneau and Emmalee Beck for serving as Senate pages!
Last week I had the honor of hosting two young women as Senate pages. They are Emmalee Beck of Colbert (right) and Saraiah Charbonneau of Spokane Valley. Beck is an 8th grader at Mountainside Middle School, daughter of Todd and Kimberlee Beck. Charbonneau is in the 10th grade at East Valley High School, daughter of Richard Fermo II and Shanandoah Charbonneau.
Both of them got a chance to see the Legislature in action, and even participated in the flag-bearing ceremonies that open each day’s floor sessions. If you know of a youth age 14 to 16 who would appreciate an opportunity to participate in the Senate page program, more information is available here.
We’re in Olympia for the duration. If you have a question or concern about state government, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We are here to serve you!
Phone: (360) 786-7606
Street address: 106 Irv Newhouse Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia, WA 98504