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Work Rules For Teens Unchanged Senate Panel Refuses To Vote On Bill To Roll Back Restrictions

Supporters of a bill that would have rolled back restrictions on teen work hours say they are disappointed over its death at the hands of a Senate panel.

The Senate Committee on Labor Commerce and Trade refused to vote on the bill by Friday’s deadline, effectively killing any attempts to revise the controversial rules this session.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Barbara Lisk, R-Zillah, said she was surprised the Senate committee didn’t pass at least some version of it out of committee.

Lisk said families, not the state, should dictate appropriate work hours for teens.

“I’m not willing to say it is the duty of the state to interfere that deeply in teen lives,” Lisk said.

The bill targeted restrictions imposed on business by the Department of Labor and Industries two years ago.

The rules allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work up to 20 hours a week, in shifts of no more than six hours during the school year. They may work up to 28 hours a week if they get paperwork signed by school officials and parents. Teens who want to work more than 28 hours a week must obtain special permits from L&I.;

The rules also prohibit teens from working past 10 p.m. on school nights and past midnight on weekends. Businesses can write L&I; for permission to extend school night hours to 11 p.m.

Sen. Dwight Pelz, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce and Trade, said he personally supported an amended version of Lisk’s bill, but felt it didn’t have enough support among other Senate Democrats.

The amended version would have pushed back the quitting time for teens to 11 p.m. on weeknights and allowed them to work some longer hours than the rules currently allow, Pelz said.

The Senate panel’s decision came as no surprise to Mark Ray, who owns several McDonald’s restaurants in the Spokane area.

Ray said his restaurants have mostly stopped hiring teens because of the restrictions. He said L&I; effectively denied teens a chance to work.

“They only hurt the people they are trying to help,” Ray said. “It’s a very great disservice to all those whose lives are controlled by people who don’t know what they are doing.”

Ray said students who work often get better grades than those who don’t. “The bad students aren’t the ones looking for jobs,” he said.

L&I; spokeswoman Suzanne Taylor said the department’s rules are flexible enough to allow exceptions for parents and businesses who need them.

But some restrictions are needed for the safety of young workers, Taylor said.