Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Orwall’s Mar 15, 2017 Legislative Update: Town Hall / Equal Pay / Human Trafficking / Levy Cliff / Business Licenses

 Town Hall this Saturday!

I hope you can make it to our 33rd District Town Hall
this coming Saturday, March 18th from 10 AM to noon
at Kent City Hall, 220 4th Avenue S, Kent, WA 98032.

Equal Pay Passes!

Last Wednesday, on International Women’s Day, the House passed the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, which prohibits pay secrecy policies, allows discussion of wages, and prohibits retaliation for asking for equal pay.

Many women are taking home smaller paychecks and they don’t even know it because their employers actively discourage—or outright ban—workers from discussing wages among themselves Keeping women in the dark about pay differences limits their ability to negotiate for higher pay. This bill will hold employers accountable and make it harder to discriminate against women.

This is the third year in a row the House has passed a version of this legislation. I’m hoping the third time’s the charm and the Senate finally sends it to the governor’s desk.

Washington passed equal pay protections in 1943. We haven’t touched that law since then and have fallen behind.

You may find this hard to believe but our neighbors in Idaho have better equal pay laws than we do. The Dakotas, New Hampshire and even Tennessee, among many other states, have better equal pay protections in place.

We’re due for an update.

Helping victims of human trafficking

Sadly, our community has one of the highest rates of trafficking.  We know the mean age is 15 years old and that 80% of the victims were abused as children.  Washington has made progress in the fight against human trafficking, but we can do more.

I sponsored two bills this session to strengthen our state’s human trafficking laws:

HB 1079 protects victims by allowing criminal no-contact orders against their traffickers, who often use threats or coercion to manipulate their victims. HB 1079 passed the House and awaits a hearing in the Senate.

To help victims move on and remove barriers to finding a job or housing, HB 1112 allows survivors to have their prostitution convictions vacated.  SB 5272, the companion bill to HB 1112, is the bill that  progressed.

Schools can take a breather

In an effort to lessen the negative impacts from the Great Recession on school budgets, in 2010 the Legislature gave local school districts some additional leeway to raise local levies to help make up for state funding shortfalls, but this additional flexibility is set to expire this year. This issue is commonly referred to in Olympia as the “Levy Cliff.”

Last week, on an 87-10 vote, the House of Representatives passed ESB 5023 to fix the looming “levy cliff” crisis facing public schools next year. Without this bill, school districts have been forced to write budgets for the upcoming school year that include teacher layoffs and other reductions in spending.

The levy cliff bill extends temporary levy provisions for one year and avoids a $358 million cut to local schools. It ensures that school budgets won’t be cut while the Legislature continues to work on an education funding solution.

There’s a lot more work to do. Agreeing on a compromise for the final deal to fully fund education will require tough decisions from both sides. But we’ll get there. I believe we all want to do the right thing by our children and our school districts.

Click on the Google map below for a breakdown of how much each school district stood to lose if the Legislature did not approve a levy cliff fix

Small business licensing simplified

Many small businesses in Washington state operate in multiple jurisdictions. For some, such as those that make deliveries, that means acquiring a business license in each of the cities or towns in which they operate—even if it’s a single delivery.

This often translates into hours of paperwork and research to maintain compliance.

Wouldn’t that energy be better put toward growing business operations instead of government bureaucracy?

I’m proud to report that I was one of the 96 votes that sent a bill to fix this issue over to the Senate.

HB 2005 will create a streamlined process for small businesses to receive a city’s license from the Department of Revenue, increasing compliance and saving time, without burdening city and town governments.

I hope our colleagues in the Senate also support this bill and deliver it to the governor’s desk.

As always, thank you for your interest in your legislature. Don’t hesitate to contact my office if you need more information on any of these issues, or if you have feedback for me.