The GSBA Blog

At Work for You in Olympia

by Matt Landers, Public Policy & Government Relations Director
| Mar 02, 2020
The first two months of the year are always a busy time for policymakers. With Washington nearing the end of its 2020 short session, the Legislature has been working at a feverish pace holding hearings and passing bills. GSBA strives hard to represent the voices and views of our diverse membership at all levels of government, with a strong and experienced advocacy team. Our contract lobbyist, Susie Tracy, is on the ground in Olympia working with legislators every day. Matt Landers, our Public Policy & Government Relations Director, works both in Seattle and Olympia, and across the Evergreen State. And of course, our President & CEO Louise Chernin is seemingly everywhere at once. The GSBA Policy Council, comprised of dedicated and passionate advocates, meets weekly to keep on top of the busy agenda.

IMG_9398With about two weeks left in the 2020 legislative session, GSBA is very happy with the progress of many of the bills that we have endorsed. We are most excited about the passage of HB 1687 - the Nikki Kuhnhausen Act - banning the use of panic defenses, where a victim’s identity is used to justify violent assaults against them. This bill is named for the young transwoman murdered last summer in Clark County, in an attack that police believe occurred after her killer learned of her gender identity. This bill has been approved by both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, and now moves to the Governor for his signature.

Several other LGBTQ-related bills are making good progress, including the HIVIMG_9464 modernization bill (HB 1551), prohibiting discrimination in healthcare (HB 2338), hiring an LGBTQ veterans coordinator in the Department of Veterans Affairs (SB 5900), establishing the Washington Office of Equity (HB 1783), and mandating comprehensive and inclusive sex education in public schools (SB 5395). HB 2201, which would prohibit transgender girls from participating in girls sports in public schools, thankfully never even recieved a hearing.

On the small business front, GSBA has had our eye on several bills, though they have not been as successful in 2020. The Small Business Bill of Rights (SB 5948), authorizing microenterprise home kitchens (HB 2777), and a property tax exemption to lower triple-net expenses (HB 2881) failed to make it out of committee this year, and GSBA is committed to supporting their reintroduction in 2021. 

IMG_9410The biggest business-related bill on our agenda this year is the proposal to authorize King County to enact a regional excise tax on businesses to fund solutions for the homelessness crisis. GSBA was cautiously optimistic about the initial proposal, as it improved on several of our biggest concerns from Seattle’s previous efforts at a head tax. It was a serious regional solution to a serious regional problem, businesses seemed to be involved in the crafting of the bill that would impact them, and care seemed to be taken to understand the realities of how small businesses - especially passthrough entities- actually operate. Our Board offered conditional support provided that a pre-emption clause was included to prevent double taxation. Since the original proposal was introduced, several more versions and rumors have surfaced, including a much higher rate (0.25% possibly up to 0.4%) and pre-emption has not yet been included. GSBA continues to monitor the negotiations and welcomes the opinions of our membership on this complex and nuanced policy that we can share with policymakers.

Other bills that GSBA has been supporting have included several gun control measures that continue to move along in the Legislature, anti-swatting legislation that increases punishments for false police reports, and bans on race-based hair discrimination.

If you have any questions about GSBA’s advocacy work, or want to share your views on a particular issue, please write to Matt Landers. As a membership organization, GSBA is committed to hearing and sharing your experiences. Learn more about our advocacy programs throughout the year, including ways to participate online and in-person, on our website.