Our .09% rural sales tax credit extension bill, a major WSAC priority, continues to move forward. HB 1267 has passed out of the House unanimously and is expected to be heard in the Senate shortly. In the meantime, we continue to work with the state auditor to come up with consistent and clear reporting standards that make it easy for both local and state officials to track and report projects.
SB 5059, the prejudgment interest tort liability bill we have opposed because of its hit to our risk pools and ability to get insurance, did not pass out of Ways & Means before the fiscal cutoff and is dead for the remainder of this Session. We also oppose HB 1025, a police misconduct bill that would allow counties, as employers, to be sued for police misconduct. Our main objection to this bill is our inability to take preventative measures or otherwise remedy bad behavior because counties generally do not directly oversee law enforcement. Thus, we get the tort liability with little ability to fix problems. Recent tragic events nationally in Nashville, and locally in Sunnyside, illustrate the need for both accountability and remediation with policies, and we want to work on solutions that prevent tragedies, not result in court action afterward. This bill is currently awaiting full House action on the Floor, and we will see if it gets out before the cutoff of March 8.
There are numerous bills each Session that we monitor and ask for technical changes on so that their provisions are workable, irrespective of the policy. This year that includes some miscellaneous election and employment bills. Changes to the Voting Rights Act are proposed in HB 1048 and SB 5047. We have supported access to voting and the general policy aims of these bills but have operational concerns. While we would still like some changes, the sponsors and stakeholders have addressed our biggest concerns from last year, and the bills are much better for us to implement. Both of these bills are awaiting full Floor action before cutoff on March 8.
We also worked on a union reporting bill, HB 1200, which would have employees report new hires and all-employee contact information routinely to unions (where applicable) so that unions would have the most up-to-date information on their membership. We support unions’ ability to be in contact with their membership, but we asked for and got more workable reporting timelines on this bill. We also got changes to bills dealing with when and how we provide copies of employee files (HB 1320 and SB 5061) so that these bills’ new provisions would work with other requirements we already face (such as the Public Records Act), but more changes are needed to make them work for us. Versions of each of these bills are expected to continue progressing beyond cutoff, although the employee files bills face strong opposition from private business employees (they do not keep the same records as government employers), and so it is unclear in what form they will pass (if any). We will continue to work on these to make sure they function as smoothly as possible for counties.
WSAC, Policy Consultant