How our lawmakers voted

At this legislative session’s fourth week, state lawmakers in both chambers took time for lengthy floor debates week to pass several bills.

The Senate debated a new Business and Occupation tax increase on Jan. 29, working through some two-dozen amendments offered mostly by Republicans. The amendments, which would have exempted an array of different businesses from the additional tax, were voted down, and the bill — SB 6492 — passed on Jan. 30 with 28-21 party-line vote.

Also on Jan. 29, House members spent all afternoon debating HB 1110, which would impose new low-carbon fuel standards. The bill did pass the House last year but failed to advance in the Senate. House Majority Democrats last week brought the bill back and sent it straight to a final floor vote without allowing amendments. The bill passed along partisan lines by a 52-44 vote. House majority leader Rep. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington), who voted for the bill last year, was among the four Democrats who voted against it this time.

How local lawmakers voted

Senate Bill 6492, Addressing workforce education investment funding through business and occupation tax reform

Passed the Senate on Jan. 30 by a vote of 28-21

This bill would replace the Business and Occupation (B&O) tax surcharge to fund aid for college students that was enacted last year. Instead of surcharges, it proposes an increase in the general service business and occupation tax rate from 1.5 percent to 1.8 percent for businesses with gross income in excess of $1 million. It would also impose a separate additional 1.22 percent surcharge on large advanced computing businesses.

The effect of the bill would be to replace surcharges on about 80,000 businesses in the state with a larger tax increase on about 16,000 businesses. The new tax would be collected starting in April of this year.

Proponents of the bill said that last year’s enactment of B&O tax surcharges was intended to make a dramatic investment in higher education, but that the program is too complicated to administer and doesn’t generate enough money. This bill, they said, would provide critical funding for state financial aid programs, ensure educational opportunities for students across the state, and encourage expansion of high demand programs.

Opponents said the bill is not a practical model for most businesses and could increase healthcare costs, because independent health care practitioners are not exempt from the proposed increases. They also said that not all higher education institutions would receive benefits under this bill.

The bill was sent to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) Yes

House Bill 1110, Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation fuels

Passed the House on Jan. 29 by a vote of 52-44 (two members excused)

This bill would direct the state Department of Ecology to impose low-carbon fuel limits on gasoline and other transportation related fuels with a “clean fuels” program. Under the bill, carbon emissions of transportation fuels would have to be reduced to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028 and 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035. The mandatory program would begin Jan. 1, 2021.

Proponents said low-carbon fuels benefit air quality by reducing particulate matter emissions, preventing unnecessary deaths and protecting the vulnerable.Clean fuel standards provide incentive for electric vehicle infrastructure that is otherwise expensive and difficult to build out, they said.

Opponents argued that the bill would harm Washington residents by raising gas prices, which are already among the highest in the nation, and raising other costs, including food prices, while not really helping the environment.

The bill which also passed last year n the House but did not move in the Senate, was sent to the Senate Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee.

Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) Yes

Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) Yes

Senate Bill 6037, Concerning business corporations

Passed the Senate on Jan. 24 by a vote of 32-14 (three members excused)

This bill would require that public companies in Washington state must have gender-diverse boards of directors by Jan. 1, 2022. The requirement would be met if individuals who self-identify as women comprise at least 25 percent of the directors. If a public company does not meet the requirement it would have to prepare a discussion and analysis of its plans to attain gender diversity and deliver that information to its shareholders.

The bill would also makes other changes to align the Washington Business Corporations Act with the American Bar Association’s 2016 Model Corporation Act.

Proponents during committee testimony argued that lack of diversity remains a problem and there are complex and consistent barriers for women to join corporate boards. They said this bill will encourage boards to look more broadly to fill board vacancies.

Opponents did not testify.

The bill was sent to the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

Sen. Van De Wege Yes

House Bill 1793, Establishing additional uses for automated traffic safety cameras for traffic congestion reduction and increased safety

Passed the House on Jan. 30 by a vote of 56-40 (two members excused)

This bill would establish a pilot program through the end of 2021 to expand the use of automated traffic safety cameras in or near downtown areas of cities with populations greater than 500,000. Violations to be recorded by the cameras would include: Stopping when traffic is obstructed; stopping in intersections or crosswalks; stopping or traveling in a restricted lane; and stopping or parking at locations restricted for emergency response vehicle entry or exit.

Proponents said this bill would help manage busy, congested streets.

Opponents pointed out that another bill is moving through the Legislature right now that would allow cameras to be used for general law enforcement purposes, including traffic management.

The bill, also passed last year, but did not advance in the Senate, has not been referred to the Senate as yet.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes

House Bill 1847, Addressing aircraft noise abatement

Passed the House on Jan. 30 by a vote of 58-37 (three members excused)

This bill would expand the dimensions of noise impact areas for the purpose of abating aircraft noise in areas surrounding an airport. It would extend these areas to 10 miles (instead of 6 miles) beyond the paved north end and 13 miles (instead of 6 miles) beyond the paved south end of any runway.

In committee testimony, proponents said that since air traffic has become concentrated in various zones around the country, the FAA will soon be expanding their own mitigation zones. This bill would ensure that the state does not have mitigation zones that are smaller than what the enhanced federal FAA zones will be.

No opponents testified.

The bill has not yet been sent to the Senate for further consideration.

Rep. Chapman Yes

Rep. Tharinger Yes.