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Office Hours

Posts tagged: Washington Legislature

Washington state getting more serious about creating a one-stop business portal

Each week during the legislative session, OfficeHours will focus on a single piece of legislation, seeing how it would affect state businesses and considering the bill's chances of going forward.

This week's bill is HB 1757, introduced by a bunch of legislators including Marcus Ricelli, who represents Spokane's Third District.

The companion Senate bill is SB 5718.

It would create a one stop business portal to simplify business interactions with regulatory bodies (like revenue, L&I and Employment Security).

The language of the bill is revealing, at least about the state's foot-dragging effort in this arena.

In 2006 the state legislature adopted a bill requiring the creation of the business portal. “But it has not been developed,” the bill's analysis notes.

That same summary says: The bill outlines “high-level technology architecture and implementation steps to achieve a single online place for businesses to accomplish their state business in a way that is consistent and efficient for both business and government.”

The bill further requires the office of the chief information officer to provide the economic development committees of the legislature with a plan for establishing  performance  benchmarks  and measuring  the  results of implementing a one-stop integrated system for business interactions with government.

This is a goal that Washington failed to execute so far, but which  Oregon has recently completed.
Here's the Oregon summary of its portal, called Business Xpress.


  

Vancouver Democrat introduces bill to allow sales of wine growlers

Today's Olympia update. A bill submitted in the Washington House would allow beer or wine retailers in the state to sell growlers of wine.  A growler is a container or pitcher provided by the seller or the customer.

Introduced by Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, HB 1742 reads this way:

Licensees holding either a license that permits or a license with an  endorsement  that  permits  the  sale  of  beer  to  a  purchaser  in  a container supplied by the licensee or a sanitary container brought to the premises by the purchaser and filled at the tap at the time of sale  may similarly sell wine to a purchaser in such a container.

A Feb. 12 hearing has been set with the House  Committee on Government Accountability and Oversight. Wylie is the vice chair of that committee.

   
 

Proposed B&O tax break for startups advances

Legislation that would exempt new Washington-based businesses from the state's B&O tax in their first year of operations has cleared a key Senate committee.

Senate Bill 6327, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, advanced with a “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Economic Development, Trade and Innovation Committee. It's now waiting for consideration by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Under the measure, news businesses with fewer than 25 employees would enjoy the exemption for two years, plus a 50 percent reduction on their B&O tax bill in their third year of operations.“This measure would make it clear to entrepreneurs inside and outside of the state that legislators want our small-business employers to succeed and that Washington is open for business,” said Padden.

Legislative analysts predict the exemption would cost the state about $2.9 million in lost tax revenue in 2013 and $10.6 million in 2014.

The state's business-and-occupation tax, often called a gross-receipts tax, is heavily criticized on both sides of the partisan aisle because it targets gross revenue rather than profits. The rate differs by industry but all companies are given an exemption on their first $250,000 in revenue each year.

Padden and other backers argue that giving new companies a break could help business startups survive those critical first years in Washington, which currently has the nation's second-highest rate of startup failure.

Washington looking at allowing craft distilleries to sell at farmers markets

This may be the year Washington legislators give a thumbs-up to the idea of craft distilleries selling booze at farmers' markets.

Until recently, Washington had just one craft distillery, Dry Fly Distilling, of Spokane. That number has grown in recent years. With the growth has come the desire by those companies to use farmers' markets to reach more customers. Wineries and beer brewers are already allowed to sell at markets.

The current bill working its way through the current legislature is SB5650.  It authorizes licensed craft distilleries to apply to the liquor control board for an endorsement to sell their own bottled spirits markets.

The spirits must be produced in the state of Washington in order to be sold at markets.

The step in the process is a public hearing on the bill on Tuesday (Jan.31) before the Senate Committee on Labor and Commerce and Consumer Protection. The hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. in Olympia in Senate Hearing Room 4 of the Cherberg Building.

For more information on the bill, here's the legislative history and summary.

State House passes 2 aerospace-related bills

OLYMPIA — The House has passed two bills requested by Gov. Chris Gregoire meant to shore up the state’s aerospace competitiveness.

One bill establishes three grant programs: one for high schools to prepare students for jobs as entry-level aerospace assemblers, another for skills centers to have enhanced manufacturing skills programs, and another for high schools to create specialized courses in science, technology, engineering, and math.

That measure passed on a 77-18 vote today.

Another measure requires the Professional Educator Standards Board to revise certification and certificate renewal standards for elementary teachers and secondary science and math teachers to include knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering, and math.   

That bill passed on a 93-2 vote. Both measures now head to the Senate for consideration.

Amnesty on business taxes reaps close to $30 million for Washington’s general fund

Every little bit helps. Cash-strapped Washington state will collect up to $30 million — and potentially more —  in back taxes through an amnesty program that ends April 18.

More than 7,000 companies statewide have applied for the amnesty. About 4,200 of them are still being reviewed for eligibility.

So far 174 Spokane County businesses have been approved or are under review, said Mike Gowrylow, spokesman for Washington’s Department of Revenue.

The Legislature approved the one-time amnesty in last year’s session. It allows businesses to pay past-due state or local taxes without extra fines or penalties. Payments must be made by April 30.

The state has approved more than 1,400 businesses so far. Another 1,300 applications have been denied. Denials occur if the company has filed bankruptcy or if an owner has been assessed a penalty for tax evasion or been prosecuted for failing to pay taxes.

Of the total money raised, about $3.9 million will go to cities and counties; that money comes from previously unpaid local sales or use taxes. How much will go to Spokane governments is not yet known, he said.

To be eligible, businesses must have outstanding past-due taxes incurred before Feb. 1.

When the program started, the state said 50,000 businesses, about 10 percent of those registered in Washington, owed past-due taxes. Those businesses owe about $183 million in back taxes, according to Gowrylow.

Washington Policy Center sets 12 Eastern Washington ‘wake-up’ breakfasts

The Washington Policy Center, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization with offices in Spokane and the Tri-Cities, announced plans today to host 12 Wake-Up Call Legislative Forums around Eastern Washington during the 2011 Legislative Session.

The free breakfast events will give citizens an opportunity to get an update on what’s happening in Olympia and be connected live via videoconference to lawmakers to offer feedback.

“Eastern Washingtonians often feel left out of the legislative process, and we’re trying to change that with these special events featuring state and Eastern Washington policymakers,” Washington Policy Center President Dann Mead Smith said in a press release.

The events begin at 7 a.m. and feature a presentation from WPC and a question-answer session with lamakers in Olympia. The series kicks off Jan. 18 in the Spokane Valley. See the list below.

There will be three breakfast events in Spokane and the same number, on a rotating basis, in Yakima, Wenatchee and Tri-Cities. The dates are:

·         Spokane: Jan. 18, Feb. 15, March 22 – at the Quality Inn Hotel Spokane Valley

·         Yakima: Jan. 25, February 22, March 29 – at the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce

·         Wenatchee: Feb. 1, March 1, April 5 – at Banner Bank (501 N. Mission)

·         Tri-Cities: Feb. 8, March 8, April 12 – at Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce

The lineup of guests from Olympia include Attorney General Rob McKenna, state Auditor Brian Sonntag and others.  To track the guest list and get more information go to the WPC site.

State Revenue Dept. offering amnesty to tax-delinquent businesses

Last weekend’s one day special session in Olympia produced a first-ever amnesty offer for Washington businesses who are delinquent on back taxes. 

Administered by the state Department of Revenue, the program is expected to generate $24 million for the state and nearly $4 million for local government.

The deal applies to state business-and-occupation and public-utility taxes and state and local sales and use taxes.  It’s open to registered and unregistered businesses and gives the option of payment without penalties and interest.

Qualifying taxpayers can apply for the program from Feb. 1 to April 18, and must pay back taxes by April 30. The revenue department plans having application procedures ready by mid-January.

To get information, go to http://dor.wa.gov/amnesty or call 1-800-647-7706.

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