January 30, 2013 Print

What's hot today at the legislature - January 30, 2013

Prevailing wage, minimum wage, racial tribalism, and representation are all topics for public hearings today in Olympia.

Prevailing wage requires taxpayers to pay more and service recipients to get less. So it's no wonder, in a session where balancing the state budget is on everyone's mind, prevailing wage reforms keep working their way to the surface.

There are three relevant bills up this morning in the House Labor Committee. HB 1249 would exempt fire repair projects from prevailing wage, HB 1254 would reduce a paperwork burden on employers related to current enforcement of prevailing wage by the Department of Labor and Industries, and HB 1255 would exempt school construction from prevailing wage where the local district is relying on state financial assistance. The first and last of these bills would directly save the state money.

On the Senate side, the bill to allow a training wage--a slight exemption to the state's highest-in-the-nation minimum wage--is up for a hearing this afternoon. SB 5275 is the companion to HB 1150, which was heard yesterday. Creating a training wage would make it easier for employers to hire young people or others who lack work experience.

This afternoon's House Government Operations and Elections hearing will hear two bills that deserve a full public debate. The first is a so-called state voting rights act, HB 1413. In reality, the bill would allow for all kinds of lucrative lawsuits if voters in certain jurisdictions failed to elect people with the "right" skin color or ethnic heritage. We wrote about the same bill last year. More interesting is HB 1121, which would cut in half Washington's current legislative districts when it comes to electing House members. Making House districts smaller would mean House members actually being closer to the people, which is, after all, the whole idea of a "lower house" in a bicameral legislature. The bill comes from the oddest of pairings: far-left Rep. Hans Dunshee and Hillsdale-grad (and former Freedom Foundation intern) Rep. Hans Zeiger.

Meanwhile, we're still analyzing the proposed voting rights act to determine whether the state could be sued for having two House members named "Hans"....


Trent England

Executive Vice President

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