Olympia Update: Important successes for the business community

By: Brad Boswell, Contract Lobbyist Posted: 03/06/2019

Successes include approval of changes to condo liability law and an advance toward multi-family tax exemption


Halfway through this year’s legislative session in Olympia, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and our regional business community have made progress on our legislative priorities. We’ve also passed two big cutoff deadlines: the first policy committee cutoff and the first fiscal committee cutoff.

Key successes include the Senate's unanimous approval of some changes to Washington's condo liability law. The Seattle Times recently covered how these changes would help address the shortage of affordable homeownership options in our region. Senator Jamie Pedersen’s bill, SB 5334, the main vehicle for these changes, was voted off of the Senate floor by a 49-0 vote last week. The bill would modify warranties for condo construction, requiring breaches of warranty to be significant and capable of causing injury or impairing building function. The bill has been referred to the House for consideration and is currently before the House Committee on Civil Rights and Judiciary.

Two other bills concerning condo liability – Senator Mike Padden’s SB 5219 and Rep. Tana Senn’s SHB 1576 – are also advancing. Senator Padden’s bill, SB 5219, exempts condominiums with less than seven units from the warranty provisions in the Washington Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act. SB 5219 was placed on second reading in Rules and can be pulled to the floor at any time for a vote. Rep. Senn’s SHB 1576 requires a board of directors to get approval from a majority of unit-owners before initiating an action for defects. SHB 1576 passed out of the House yesterday by a 94-4 vote.

Other successes include advancing a bill that would enable cities to extend the multi-family tax exemption, another policy that helps address housing affordability. Senator Guy Palumbo’s SB 5363. SB 5363 passed out of Senate Ways and Means on Friday, March 1.

Finally, two bills for restrictive scheduling, SSB 5717 and SHB 1491 did not pass before a cutoff and are likely dead for the remainder of the year. These bills would have required covered employers to provide written work schedules at least 14 days in advance and to compensate employers for any schedule changes after the advance schedule was provided.

Last week also saw a great deal of discussion and debate about transportation issues. Senator Hobbs’ comprehensive transportation package comprised of three bills (SB 5970, authorizing bonds for transportation projects, SB 5971 generating revenue for transportation projects, and SB 5972, a transportation spending bill) received initial public testimony last week.

This Senate Transportation Committee hearing brought out stakeholders from a wide variety of industries for over three hours of comment and discussion. There was generalized support from local governments and the development sector around the proposed spending projects, and there was notable opposition from the business community around the carbon fee and other aspects of the revenue portion. Click here to watch the hearing. 

Dominick Martin, the Chamber’s vice president of external relations, testified before the Senate Transportation Committee earlier this year to express the Chamber’s support for a new transportation package and desire to be involved in any planning of future transportation projects. Hobbs’ transportation package was voted out of the Senate Transportation Committee today along party lines, but passing a large transportation package is expected to involve many alterations and be a multi-year effort.

Also last week, both the Senate and House Transportation Committees had public hearings on proposals that would reduce car tab fees, cutting funding for Sound Transit 3 projects. Rep. Mike Pellicciotti’s HB 2123 would reduce car tab fees and discount Sound Transit’s leases on state land, but Sound Transit estimates the discounted leases would only account for about a quarter of the lost revenue resulting from tab reductions.

Chamber President and CEO Marilyn Strickland sent a letter to the House Transportation Committee urging the Committee to oppose the legislation because of its impact on ST3, a message reiterated in my testimony on behalf of the Chamber at last week’s public hearing.

Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976, which would reduce the cost of car tabs to $30, gutting Sound Transit’s funding, also had a public hearing. I signed in on behalf of the Chamber to oppose the initiative. As an initiative to the legislature, if legislators do not take action, I-976 will be sent to the ballot for voters’ consideration.

March 13 is the deadline for most bills to pass out of the house of origin. Bills introduced by representatives must be passed out of the House and bills introduced by senators must passed out of the Senate.

We’ll have another update then to take stock of the bills that make it through that cutoff, and what is likely dead for the year.