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Laws And Litigation
Legal Issues for Business

The 2014 state legislative session ends March 13 and lawmakers are running out of time to pass bills from the opposite house. Here’s a look at a few of the discussed issues that have a potential impact on businesses:

House Bill 1313 would require employers with five or more employees to provide a minimum number of sick leave days (five, seven or nine, depending on workforce size.) The bill passed in the House and at press time was scheduled for a hearing Feb. 26 in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor. Washington Policy Center, which opposes the bill, estimates that the mandate will cost employers in the state $442 million.

A similar bill, HB-2238, would have required employers with 24 or more employees to provide up to three weeks of paid vacations to employees working 20 or more hours a week. The bill died in committee. Both HB-1313 and HB-2238 were co-sponsored by Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), who represents the 23rd Legislative District. read more »

 

Replacing the state gas tax with a road usage charge would mean all drivers would pay the same rate per number of miles driven, regardless of what type of vehicle they drive. (Tim Kelly Photo)Driving vehicles that get better gas mileage — whether all-electric cars, hybrids, or regular sedans, pickups and SUVs manufactured to meet higher fuel-efficiency standards — seems obviously beneficial.

However, the positive formula of people buying less gas to drive the same number of miles has a consequence for the public roads system, which is funded and maintained by the per-gallon tax motorists pay at the gas pump. read more »

 

At the invitation of co-chairs Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46th Dist.) and Rep. Hawkins (R-12th Dist.), I had the opportunity to make a presentation March 3 before the House Open Government Caucus on ways the Legislature could accommodate remote testimony and improve its public notice process.

In a bit of irony, when my plane landed in Seattle I saw that I-90 was closed. It was against the backdrop of this headline from KING 5 News that I made my remote testimony pitch: “No estimate when I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass will open.”

Even when there are no snow-related issues in the Cascade Mountains, getting to Olympia to provide testimony can sometimes require a full day of travel for many Washingtonians read more »

 
Legal Issues for Business

Voters made recreational marijuana legal in Washington state, but local zoning laws and other obstacles are making it hard for start-up businesses in the potentially lucrative new industry.

A business called Land of Lizards is among dozens of Kitsap County applicants for state licenses to grow and/or process marijuana that would be sold to licensed retail outlets. The application lists a business address on Lumsden Road in the Port Orchard Industrial Park.

That area just west of State Route 16 meets siting standards set by the state Liquor Control Board, which created rules for implementation of I-502, the marijuana legalization initiative approved in a statewide vote in 2012. The industrial park also is one of the areas open for I-502 businesses under zoning approved by the Port Orchard City Council. read more »

 
Legal Issues for Business

With the dust barely settled after a controversial minimum wage of $15 an hour was approved by voters in SeaTac, the idea has spread to Seattle and Olympia. While some Seattle public officials are floating a similar increase for their city, state legislators and the governor are trying to get support for a significant increase statewide.

House Bill 2672 proposed to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour over three years, while Gov. Jay Inslee in his state of the state address suggested a hike between $1.50 and $2.50 an hour. The state’s current minimum wage is $9.32, which is the highest in the country and more than $2 above the federal minimum wage.

With employee costs accounting for 60 percent to 70 percent of overhead for many businesses, the proposal has met stiff opposition. The restaurant and retail industries would be especially affected, as two of the industries that tend to pay lower wages. read more »

 

The U.S. Justice Department and the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are both reportedly investigating Seattle-based assisted living giant Emeritus Corp. for possible Medicaid fraud.

ProPublica reports federal investigators are looking into allegations of improper Medicaid billing, as well other company business dealings.

Earlier this month, Emeritus (NYSE: ESC) announced it was merging with Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living Inc. in a $2.8 billion deal.

Emeritus is the 16th-largest public company based in Washington state, according to Puget Sound Business Journal research.

 

Jessyn FarrellDemocrats in the state House are signing on en masse to a bill that would increase the state minimum wage, already the highest such wage standard in the country, to $12 an hour by 2017. Even as the measure makes its debut it has a deathly pallor.

Opposition in the Senate seems likely to write a quick end to the bill, if it gets that far. And there is at least one telling indication that it may not. For an idea that has pushed into the spotlight by a national campaign from labor and activist organizations, and buoyed by a first-of-its-kind vote in the city of SeaTac last year for a $15 minimum wage, the sponsorship list is a bit weak. It carries only 32 sponsors — 18 short of the number required for passage in the House. Nearly all backers come from safe Democratic districts in the urban Puget Sound area. read more »

 

A presentation on “The Supreme Court, Corporations and You” will be offered March 18 in Bremerton. A series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions have established corporations as persons and equated money with speech. Featured speakers will be U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Fran Korten, publisher of YES! Magazine, Kitsap Sun editor David Nelson and attorney Michael Stowell.

They will discuss the impacts of these decisions and the grassroots response. Each speakers will talk for 10 to 15 minutes, and they will dialogue among themselves and field questions from the floor.

The presentation will be from 7-9 p.m. in the Bremer Student Center at Olympic College, 1600 Chester Ave. in Bremerton. read more »

 

U.S. regulators will propose rules before President Barack Obama leaves office requiring vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems in new cars, which advocates said may aid safety more than seat belts and air bags.

“Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at a news conference Feb. 3. “The potential of this technology is enormous.”

Technology companies including Cisco Systems Inc. are among those vying to build the architecture for the connected car of the future. Google Inc. and Tesla Motors Inc. are among companies looking at employing automated systems that could be precursors to self-driving cars. read more »

 
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