In its first major floor action, the Republican House on Monday sent the Senate a bill to greatly expand the hours 16- and 17-year-olds can work during the school week.
The measure, HB1030, is expected to pass the Democratic Senate in some form. House Majority Leader Dale Foreman, R-Wenatchee, said he is optimistic the Senate would accept the bill because the House has backed off its initial proposal to simply repeal work rules as applied to 16- and 17-year-olds.
As amended, the bill would abolish a mandatory 10 p.m. quitting time during the school week and would expand the number of hours that could be worked on a night before school from the current four (six with special permission) to 10 hours.
The measure would require one day off in a seven-day week and would permit no more than 24 hours of work out of a five-day school week. The current weekly limit is 20 hours (28 with special permission).
The bill passed the House 70-26, with 11 Democrats joining a unanimous GOP bloc.
The work rules, imposed 18 months ago by the Department of Labor and Industries, have drawn widespread protest from teenagers and the industries that traditionally employ them, such as restaurants and movie theaters.
Employer after employer testified in committee that they have stopped hiring 16- and 17-year-olds because the restrictions and accompanying paperwork is too burdensome.
Backers of the measure argued that government has intruded too deeply into decisions that should be made by parents, the schools and teens.
“This bill still requires the state to issue work permits and requires approval of parents and the school. This bill does not say a youngster can work until 1 a.m.,” Rep. Don Carlson, R-Vancouver, said.
But foes argued that sometimes parents don’t know what is best for their child and the state should protect the youngster on those occasions for the sake of education.
They also contended that teenagers will be pressured into working late hours to fill in once employers know they can get away with it.
The House also agreed to bar youngsters from working in hazardous occupations, but would define those occupations based on federal standards, rather than the tougher state standards now in place.
The bill maintains the initial GOP goal of eliminating considerable paperwork required of employers who employ teenagers.