Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Well, it has been a very hectic and very LONG week. With the first round of committee action behind us, most of our days (and some of our nights) are spent on the House floor as we debate and vote on legislation. Out of the mass of bills passed, there were some good ones, some bad ones, and then some that made you look up at the Speaker of the House and say, “Are you kidding me?”
One of the good ones was House Bill 1467. This bill clarifies the definition of a “well” under the Water Well Construction Act so that if you're insert a soil probe up to ten feet into the soil to measure moisture content or get a soil sample, it will NOT be considered a well. While that may seem like common sense to you and me, there are those in the Department of Ecology that think otherwise.
Another good bill is House Bill 1498. This bill will exempt free meals given to restaurant employees from sales and B&O tax. Current law allows the state to collect taxes on meals that restaurants give to employees, even though the meals are free. A lot of our smaller “mom and pop” restaurants do this a lot as a way to help out employees and help them make the most of their limited lunch breaks. We don't feel the state should harm this practice by collecting taxes on something given freely and in good faith.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
House Bill 1832 would protect workers at Sea-Tac International Airport from losing their jobs when new contractors take over. New contractors who provide services within the airport would be required to retain employees for 90 days and if the performance of employees is satisfactory, the new contractor would be required to keep them on the job.
I'm calling this the Permanent Employment Act. Any new contractor coming in and taking over the business or operations of another contractor would be required to retain these people even if they change the nature of work as long as it is considered somewhat similar to what the previous work entailed. So if Burger King leaves and KFC comes in – same workers.
This is prime example of state government telling the private sector what they can and cannot do with their businesses. The bill passed mainly along party lines, 52-44, with four Democrats voting with Republicans against the measure.
Another doozey of a bill is House Bill 1489, which says you can no longer use fertilizers containing phosphorous on your lawns. The the bill contains an exemption for establishing new turf, or if the soil tests show there is a significant lack of phosphorous, or if you're using the fertilizer on agriculture lands or interior plants. But there is no exemption for city parks, golf courses, private or public soccer or football fields.
Some legislators were calling this the “Idaho Economic Development Act of 2011” as folks living along the border will just go across state lines to by fertilizer. But the fact is, there's no way for a retailer to know if you're buying the fertilizer for your lawn or for “agriculture lands” or for “indoor plants.” With no way to enforce this law, why pass it? Frankly, this was one of the more ridiculous things I've seen come out of the House since I've been here.
THEY SAID WHAT?
Talk about a perfect example of what's wrong in Olympia. During a recent episode of TVW's Inside Olympia, a lawmaker from Seattle, Rep. Reuven Carlyle, was talking about the budget and said: “We must have a tax policy to meet our spending policy.” In other words, “Here's what we want to spend, now, which taxes can I raise and by how much in order to spend this money?” – Good grief! Haven't the people been taxed enough? How about setting priorities and living within existing revenues?
My good friend and seatmate Sen. Mark Schoesler was also on the show and responded: “We cannot raise taxes enough to meet their spending patterns.” – Amen, Sen. Schoesler! Kudos! Perfect response.
Of course, it didn't end there. Rep. Carlyle then said: “There are those of us with the burden of governing and there are those who elect not to engage.” Yes, we elect not to engage in your tax-and-spend shenanigans.
Well, that's it for this week. Until next time…