Washington 2015 legislative session is humming along, and the endgame is quickly coming into focus as cutoff dates pass. The list of important and viable bills grows shorter. The Washington Business Alliance (WaBA) tracks bills which impact PLAN Washington, the policy framework for making Washington a top 5 state by 2025 in six critical areas: economic development, education, environment, governance, health, and transportation.

Last Updated: March 6th, 2015 — 10:06 AM

Accelerating New Technologies. Innovation is one of the main components of economic growth. Washington has certainly benefited from innovation that is classified as “high tech”– think software and cloud computing. But, we shouldn’t limit our innovation, rather we should invest in research and development across many sectors. The bills below address high-tech innovations, while also targeting manufacturing and agriculture.

➔ HB 1670: Funding Agricultural Innovations

  • Expands the definition of “life sciences research,” making agricultural crop and animal science research eligible for additional funding.

➔ SB 5665 & HB 1769Extends high tech R&D tax credit

  • Reinstates tax preferences for high-technology research and development.

➔ SB 5701 & HB 1764Composites

  • Creates a B&O tax credit for advanced composite manufacturing and wholesaling

Encouraging Small Business Growth. Small and startup businesses have a higher failure rate than their larger and more mature counterparts. But those that survive have very high rates of job creation. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that companies with fewer than 100 employees accounted for 57 percent of gross job creation between 1992 and 2010. The bills below help small businesses compete.

➔ SB 5339 & HB 1861:  Small Business Tax Relief

  • Creates a small business B&O tax deferral program

Spurring Rural Economic Development. Too often, economic strategies fail to account for the different drivers of growth in rural vs. urban areas. When this happens, the result often breaks against rural interests. These areas can benefit from legislation that leverages rural assets into the development of key, traded-sector industry clusters.

SB 5698 & HB 1823: Value-Added Agricultural Products

  • Extends food processing tax exemptions

SHB 1381: Job Retention in Rural Areas

  • Extends a variety of tax preferences related to aluminum smelter manufacturing & wholesaling

Expanding STEM opportunities. In order for our children to have the best chance at success, our public education system needs to align with the economic opportunities available in our state. Across the country, and in Washington especially, curriculum is lagging behind the realities of the American workforce. The bills below focus on bringing some much needed coursework into Washington’s classrooms, namely computer science.

HB 1813 & HB 1445: Computer Science in K-12

  • Establishes a grant program to bring computer science into more K-12 schools, and allows computer science to be counted as a college entry language requirement and

SB 5312: Teacher Training

  • Expands the conditional scholarship for teacher training in math and science to a broader group of subjects, including special education, bilingual education and computer science
  • Passed out of the Senate; Referred to the House Education Committee on Feb. 25th.

SSB 5082: STEM in K-12

  • Establishes a grant program to increase introductory K–12 STEM programs in schools

Demand-Driven Workforce Development. Too often, higher education is narrowly defined as a four year degree. Yet, many college graduates face dim employment prospects, while positions in lucrative industries that require vocational training go unfilled. While college may be the best choice for some, we should also make room for alternative higher education pathways that lead to high-paying jobs.

SSB 5230: Workforce Training Programs

  • Creates Invest in Washington, which incentivizes businesses to invest in employee training programs

SHB 1038: Apprenticeships and Public Works

  • Outlines requirements for apprenticeship utilization for public works projects and offers tax incentives as an incentive for compliance

SB 5619 & HB 1705: Funding Adult Basic Education

  • Provides a regular and reliable source of funding for adult basic education

Low Carbon Prosperity. In Washington, the largest source of carbon emissions is transportation. Transportation is vital to our state’s economy, as well as the national economy. It is imperative to find some win-win policies that reduce emissions while also maintaining the vitality of our transport network. We must also reexamine our current investments in carbon reduction, in terms of their efficiency and impact on the economy.

SB 5735: Diversifying the Green Economy

  • Includes Carbon Reduction Investments within the definition of eligible renewable resources that must be invested in under I-937.

SB 5700: Developing Clean Energy

  • Extends tax preferences for biofuel, biomass, and energy conservation

The Kitchen Sink Approach to Renewable Energy. Nuclear energy is potentially one of the safest, most efficient alternatives to carbon-intensive energy sources. Even though nuclear energy is carbon-free, it only makes up  4.1 percent of Washington’s electricity consumption. Demand for energy is expected to grow in Washington and across the United States, as much as 28 percent by 2040. Smart investments in this energy source needs to be part of Washington’s environmental and energy strategies.

SB 5091: Nuclear Energy as Alternative Energy

  • Includes nuclear energy in the definition of a “qualified alternative energy resource” within the law that requires utilities to offer customers the option to purchase alternative energy resources

SB 5113: Adoption of Nuclear Energy

  • Requires the Department of Commerce to coordinate and advance the siting and manufacturing of small modular reactors in the state

Innovative Public Finance Mechanisms. Innovative public finance mechanisms take advantage of available private capital and promote outcome-based spending. Aside from providing much needed capital, the involvement of the private sector add a new layer of accountability to public spending and can also generate valuable information about the effectiveness of programs.

SHB 1501: Innovative Public Financing

  • Authorizes private financing (through social impact bonds) to finance prevention-based social service programs, particularly programs that reduce recidivism

Accountability & Transparency. In order to get the best use out of public funds, we need to understand the impact of public spending. Increasing accountability can be done, in part, by quantifying the impact of spending measures and making them easily accessible to the average citizen.

SB 5915: Fiscal Impact Statements

  • Requires OFM to produce dynamic fiscal impact statements (when requested) that estimates the net fiscal impact of a bill, including behavioral changes that may have an impact on the state economy

SB 5944: Evaluating State Spending

  • JLARC must regularly review and make recommendations on the termination or continuation of certain state spending programs, based on performance statements.

Alternative Healthcare Delivery. It goes without saying that healthcare contributes to quality of life. Recently, substantial changes have taken place in healthcare, but innovative healthcare delivery has been left out of the conversation. Rethinking health care delivery and the role of mid-level practitioners can lower healthcare costs and increase access to healthcare.

SB 5175 & HB 1403: Telemedicine

  • Requires health insurance carriers, including state employee insurance and Medicaid, to reimburse for healthcare delivered via telemedicine under certain circumstances.

SHB 1340: Alternative Health Care Delivery

  • Allows the Department of Health to approve pilot projects that teach new skills to health care personnel, use existing skills in new settings, accelerate training, or train persons whose skills or license are not recognized in Washington.

Transportation Electrification. Electrification is the future of transportation. Though consumers, the built environment, and automakers have yet to fully respond to the emerging opportunities, EVs are projected to make huge gains in the coming years as alternative fuels become more popular. Here in Washington, we can speed up this process through legislation that sets up infrastructure for EVs and makes them more attractive to consumers.

➔ SB 5445 & HB 1925Incentivizing EV Purchases

  • Extends tax exemptions for the purchase of electric vehicles, capping the exemption at the first $60,000 of the purchase price

➔ HB 2087Encouraging EV Purchases and Investing in Infrastructure

  • Extends EV tax exemptions, capping the exemption and the first $35,000 of the purchase price, and directs DOT to create a pilot program to provide one-time loans and grants for EV charging infrastructure

➔ SB 5325 & HB 1396Alternative Fuels for Commercial Vehicles

  • Creates a sales tax exemption for commercial vehicles exclusively powered by clean alternative fuel

➔ SB 5444Investing in EV Infrastructure

  • Establishes an EV infrastructure bank

➔ SB 5446 & SHB 1929EV Infrastructure and the Built Environment

  • Creates rules and incentives for buildings to accommodate EV charging infrastructure

➔ SHB 1853Incentivizing EV Infrastructure

  • The Utilities and Transportation Commission must encourage EV infrastructure when setting rates for gas and electrical companies

Major Infrastructure Investments. Lawmakers must settle on a compromise to fund transportation infrastructure improvements. To keep economic growth humming along, the state needs an infusion of investment to finish major projects, as well as funding critical maintenance, operations, and preservation. The main priorities of a new transportation package should be freight mobility, safety, congestion relief — all of which spur economic development. Quality transit systems support all these priorities and is a key element of any well-rounded transportation funding strategy. Although passenger cars are driving less, freight traffic is increasing. We need to make sure that our infrastructure keeps pace, by investing in improvements to road, rail, and bridges that accommodate higher volumes of both passenger and freight traffic.. By 2040, freight volumes will increase by 45 percent. Forecasts suggest that Washington State’s surface transportation infrastructure in Washington is stretched thin and will become increasingly strained in coming years, from increased demand and underfunded maintenance. Making the right investments now can prevent this.

HB 1219: Investing in Critical Infrastructure

  • Expedites the process of replacing structurally deficient bridges (as of November 2014, 138 state-owned bridges were classified as structurally deficient).

HB 5990: Keeps Sales Tax Revenue on Transportation Projects within Transportation Account

  • Transfers from the general fund to the connecting account, state sales and use tax revenue collected on transportation spending.

SB 5272: Freight Movement

  • Designates certain portions of state route 128 and 193 as a heavy haul industrial corridor for overweight vehicles.

SB 5323: Reducing Congestion

  • Modifies and extends the commute trip reduction tax credit for employers