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WashingtonVotes NEWS:January 23, 2015

Minimum wage, worker benefits, collective bargaining openness set for committee action next week

With session entering its 12th day, lawmakers continue to introduce bills, proposing over 1,200 to date, while spending much of their working days in committee meetings and hearings. So far, the House has passed 14 bills out of committee, dealing with topics ranging from anti-freeze products to locksmith services.

Senate committees passed 23 measures, including SB 5064 providing for earlier quarterly revenue forecasts and SB 5063, the “Kids First Act,” to require that two-thirds of future increases in state spending goes to funding public education. The committee-passed bills were referred to the Rules Committee, which schedules legislation to be voted on by the full Senate.

The House Labor Committee will consider wage and benefit issues next week, beginning with a public hearing on HB 1355, to increase the state minimum wage from $9.47, the highest in the nation, to $12 per hour over the next four years. A similar bill failed in committee last session. The Senate version of the bill, SB 5285, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

The minimum wage hearing is scheduled for Monday, January 26 at 1:30 pm. House Hearing Room B in the John L. O’Brien Building in Olympia.

Mandatory paid sick and safe leave for workers, HB 1356, is also on the committee’s agenda for Monday. The bill would allow employees to claim at least forty hours of paid sick or safe leave per year if they work more than 240 hours per year. Committee passage of these bills is scheduled for Thursday, January 29 (8:00 am, House Hearing Room D, John L. O’Brien Building.)

Also on Thursday, the House Labor Committee will hear HB 1273, a proposed family and medical leave entitlement. The bill would require employers to pay a new tax for each employee to fund paid leave to care for family members with a serious health condition or to recover from a personal serious health condition. The Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor will hear public testimony on SB 5329, a bill to open now-secret collective bargaining talks between the Governor and union executives to the public. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, January 26 (1:30 pm, Senate Hearing Room 2, J.A. Cherberg Building in Olympia). Last summer Governor Inslee held a series of closed-door meetings with union executives to add over $500 million in new pay and benefits for state workers. The bill would require that future collective bargaining meetings be conducted through a fair and open public process.

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