Washington Legislative Week in Review


Special Session
There is renewed optimism that the Washington State Legislature will finish the special session within the 30 day schedule. Negotiations are close to being finished on two controversial issues: the debt limit and workers compensation.

A potential solution on the debt ceiling is being considered that would “split the difference” between the House and Senate positions on the levels of debt the state should take on.

The controversy over workers compensation concerns the Senate’s demand that injured workers be offered lump-sum settlements as an alternative to pensions. The House had been opposed to this proposal, but might now have the votes for lump-sum payments.

If the legislature is successful in completing its negotiations on these two issues, special session business can conclude. Business may need to conclude quickly, because Governor Chris Gregoire has indicated that she will not call a second special session and is preparing for a government shutdown in the alternative.

Collection Agency Provisions
Senate Bill 5956 received a hearing and passed out of the House Business & Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, May 17. The bill was introduced by the Washington Collectors Association and concerns the prohibited practices of collection agencies. The bill makes a technical correction to SB 5574, which passed earlier in the session and inadvertently deleted a small but meaningful portion of the Collection Agency Act. The omission of this meaningful language prohibits collectors from using landlines to contact debtors, which was not the intent of the bill.

Sunshine Committee
The Public Records Exemptions Accountability Committee (a.k.a. the Sunshine Committee) met on Tuesday, May 17 to consider a recommendation from one of the committee members that all bank and credit union exam reports be publicly available. The Association testified in opposition, expressing concerns on many levels and arguing that since the release of exam reports is prohibited under federal law, requiring the DFI to make these reports publicly available would likely end joint exams with the NCUA and increase costs and the regulatory burden to credit unions. After testimony from the DFI, the Association, WSECU and the Washington Financial League, the committee voted down the recommendation by a 7-2 vote.

Bank First Mortgage Income Tax Exemption
As anticipated, the Senate Ways & Means Committee brought SB 5945 up for a vote on both Wednesday, May 18 and again on Friday, May 20. No action was taken at either committee meeting. The bill finds a critical need to support public services, and that a number of tax exemptions no longer fulfill their public policy purpose of encouraging economic activity. One of the tax exemptions impacted by the bill is the tax exemption for bank income on first mortgages. The bill would limit the bank tax exemption for interest earned on first mortgage loans by making the exemption unavailable to large banks (banks with a presence in more than ten states), and would require a referendum for enactment. The failure to see repeated action on the bill may indicate a very close vote or struggle on this issue among committee members.

Posted in Advocacy News.