OLYMPIA – The state Legislature approved bills Friday that aim to protect health care workers who handle hazardous drugs used in cancer treatment and create a tax exemption for meals provided by restaurants to their employees.
The House unanimously approved the hazardous drugs measure. It directs the Department of Labor and Industries to develop rules for handling hazardous drugs, like chemotherapy drugs, that meet national occupational safety standards.
This past year, the independent nonprofit journalism outlet InvestigateWest reported that nurses who handled such drugs were exposed to health problems.
“This is important for workers and their safety,” said Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater.
The bill now heads to the governor.
The Legislature also wants restaurants to continue feeding their employees. The House voted 91-1 to clarify taxation law so that the Department of Revenue can’t exact sales tax or business and occupation tax on free meals given by restaurants to their workers.
“The Department of Revenue was trying to charge B&O tax and sales tax on something that was not on the revenue side of the ledger for restaurants – it was on the cost side of the ledger, so it makes no sense to be applying that tax,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, in support of the bill originally introduced by Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle.
The House also approved a bill introduced by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, that aims to get banks and homeowners working together to find alternatives to foreclosure.
The bill strengthens requirements that banks meet with homeowners to discuss options and creates a foreclosure mediation requirement to further encourage open communication between banks and their borrowers.
“This is going to help families across the state to stay in their homes whenever possible,” Orwall said.
Orwall’s Foreclosure Fairness Act bill now goes to the governor.
House lawmakers also approved a bill allowing banks and credit unions to create prize-linked savings deposits to encourage people to save money. The measure sets up a lottery-like cash prize for people who put money away in the bank for at least a year. Several other states have proposed and implemented similar programs in recent years.