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Spokane’s family leave law would be ‘grandfathered’ under changes to Baumgartner bill

OLYMPIA – Spokane would keep a recent ordinance requiring sick 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 to offer family or medical leave.

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

Democrats on the committee still objected to the proposal.

“We’ve had a wage crisis in America. Wages are not keeping pace with the cost of living,” said Sen. Steve Conway, D-Tacoma. 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 that city is still booming, said Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle.

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.

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