Statewide Business Group Pushes Diverse Legislative Agenda During Short Session

“As the Washington State Legislature scrambles into its 60-day session this winter, business groups are trying to push their agenda items through the cacophony of post-Initiative 695 politics.Ensuring transportation funding, controlling business taxes, maintaining uniform property taxes, reforming the state’s unemployment insurance system and holding down the cost of health insurance are all among the top issues on the year 2000 legislative agenda of the Association of Washington Business.The focus of the association’s pro-business agenda is to maintain Washington’s economic competitiveness, according to AWB President Don Brunell.“Washington State must become more attractive to employers in order to ensure healthy economic growth and jobs for our citizens,” Brunell said. “Our state must encourage business development and re-engineer the way state government does business – become more flexible, more business-friendly, more efficient and more focused on customer service.”Key policy objectives of the AWB legislative agenda include:Endangered Species Act and Salmon ListingState Recovery Plan: Support an organized, balanced and rational state-led recovery plan that relies on incentive-based programs to minimize the impact on the state’s economy while achieving effective salmon recovery.Shoreline Management Act Guidelines: Support amendments to the state Shoreline Management Act that clarify legislative intent. Define the appropriate process, substance and timing of rules governing shoreline master programs.Protect Economic Growth: Protect against net loss of economically productive land by expanding urban growth boundaries through the addition of new land of similar size and zoning to replace any land restricted by the state Growth Management Act for habitat protection in response to ESA listings.WaterTMDL Program Development and Funding: Support continued state management and funding of the federal Clean Water Act Total Maximum Daily Load program with the objectives of having federal agencies reach consensus on water quality and salmon recovery; having federal agencies recognize state and local programs; having additional federal funds available for the state TMDL program; and ensuring that added state resources come from the state General Fund, not from permit fees.Water Resources: Establish water policy that ensures enough water for a growing economy, recognizes existing water rights and acknowledges that water rights are property rights.Health CareAdvocate reforms that correct the problems paralyzing Washington’s individual health insurance market while protecting group markets from adverse impacts, and promotion of fiscally responsible and appropriate budget and policy measures for state-sponsored health plans, opposing costly mandated health benefit requirements and retaining managed care.Regulatory ReformStrengthen legislative oversight; clarify agency review of existing rules; require state agencies to rely on explicit rule-making authority consistent with legislative intent; clarify agency use of interpretive and policy statements; strengthen technical assistance and safe harbor protections; extend regulatory reform requirements; prevent agencies from imposing rules on private employers not imposed on public employers; and restrict agencies from imposing rules that exceed federal standards.Unemployment Insurance ReformRevise tax triggers and indexes for benefits and taxes; reform the benefit system to more accurately correlate with employment history; revise distribution of taxes; ensure employer taxes stay in step with those of other states; and improve accountability.Workers’ Compensation ReformExpand employer options for management of claims; increase accountability and individual responsibility; achieve greater equity in determination of benefits; keep Washington industrial insurance taxes competitive; and enhance accountability.Nuisance Law ConflictClarify that in order to constitute a legal nuisance, environmental releases must be unauthorized and proven to cause damage.Priority policy objectives for the AWB during this legislative session include:- Workplace Safety- Local Governmental Regulatory Reform- Liability Reform- Employment Litigation Reform- Housing Availability and Growth Management- Aquatic Land Management and Sediment Cleanup- Charter Schools- Appointed Insurance Commissioner- Transportation- Encouragement of Free Enterprise- Municipal Tax Fairness- Property Tax Reform- Property Tax Assessment ReformMulti-Year policy objectives for the AWB consist of:- Workforce Training- Tax Appeal Reform- Sales Tax “Add-Ons”- Reduce the B&O Tax Burden- State Budget- Government Performance and Accountability- Reasonably Available Control Technology- Education.Additional information about the AWB agenda is available at”