A compromise is being worked on for two different family leave bills in Olympia.
A Democratic bill is sailing through the Washington House, mainly because the Democrats are the majority party there.
However, the Senate Republicans put their own family leave bill on hold, not even voting it out of a committee despite having the votes to do so. Instead, the Republican-controlled Senate has settled for moving a bipartisan bill that merely says having a law with reasonable family leave would be good for Washington.
All this means family leave is in the negotiations stage in Olympia.
Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, is the sponsor of both the original Republican family leave bill and the follow-up “placeholder” bill.
“We are negotiating, trying to figure out if there is path forward,” Fain said.
Both Fain and Sen. Karen Keiser, D- Kent, said the both sides agree a family leave law is the goal of both sides, but details need to be hammered out. Keiser is a co-sponsor of the “placeholder” bill and the prime sponsor of another stalled Senate family leave bill that is a clone of the House Democrats’ bill.
“There are significant differences in the details, but not in the overall goal,” she said.
Both voiced optimism that the two sides can reach an agreement by mid-April. “I’m encouraged because the business community has come forward in a positive way on this issue. … We’re not deadlocked. We are moving,” Keiser said.
Keiser hoped the family leave negotiations will be resolve by mid-April so the issue won’t be overshadowed by the Legislature’s five years of trench warfare on funding schools to comply with a 2012 Washington Supreme court ruling to improve education in the state. The education issue dominates Olympia’s politics and is expected to be more or less deadlocked through special sessions extending into the summer because of huge fundamental differences between Republicans and Democrats.
The family leave bills are prompted by 2016’s passage of Initiative 1433, which increases the state minimum wage to $13.50 and mandates sick leave for employees. The initiative passed by a 57-percent to 43-percent margin.
The Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce has been monitoring the discussions, waiting to see what develops before taking a position on what the two sides offer, said Austin Neilson, government affairs director for the chamber. The chamber is using the Association of Washington Business for guidance, and the AWB has taken no position pro or con on these bills, other than seeking an exemption for businesses with extremely few employees.
Keiser’s bill and the House Democrats’ bill by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, calls for:
Fain’s original bill, which is essentially the GOP’s beginning bargaining position, would have:
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