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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Spokane’s family leave law would be ‘grandfathered’ under bill change

OLYMPIA – Spokane would keep a recent ordinance requiring family leave for many businesses under a change to a bill approved Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, sponsor of the bill that attempts to rein increases to the minimum wage and other workplace rules in cities around the state, admitted his proposal is likely to continue changing and may not pass the Legislature this year.

“This is a work in progress on a couple of concepts,” he said. The bill might become the vehicle for addressing efforts to raise the minimum wage statewide and stave off a voter initiative.

The original version would have negated local laws already passed in Spokane, Seattle and Tacoma. But Baumgartner and other Republicans on the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted to amend the bill to “grandfather” any ordinances in place when it passes, resticting only new attempts by cities or towns to raise the minimum wage or require businesses offer family or medical leave.

If the bill passes, higher minimum wages and other workplace rules would have to set by the state or a county.

Democrats on the committee still objected to the proposal.

“We’ve had a wage crisis in America. Wagess are not keeping pace with the cost of living,” Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma, said. Congress won’t act so the local communities started doing it on their own, he said.

Seattle is raising the minimum wage through a “thoughtful process” and it’s still booming, Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, said.

That’s fine for Seattle, Baumgartner said, but small businesses in other areas of the state are “in a very tough place” because Washington has the highest state minimum wage in the country.

“We’ve got a big border community in Spokane that has real competition across the border. It’s the real deal for us,” he said.

The proposal was sent to the Rules Committee, which will decide whether it comes up for a vote in the full Senate.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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