Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Earlier this week, the Legislature took the first step in helping provide more certainty and stability for employers, which will hopefully help stimulate our local economy and allow small businesses to expand and hire new employees.
As many of you know, employers have seen drastic increases in their workers' compensation rates the last few years as the economy turned sour and the layoffs increased. As we begin to crawl out of the current recession, many employers could be in a position to hire new workers but can't afford to do so with such huge increases in their workers' compensation rates. These rate increases are an additional burden to our employers and are preventing job growth.
The House of Representatives agreed to a bipartisan solution that, in essence, rolls back the workers' compensation rates for all employers to Jan. 1 levels – there will be no rate increases this year! In fact, every employer in this state will immediately see the savings on their rate cards this year. The agreement also included more retraining dollars and a slight increase in benefits for workers that that will be paid from federal allocations.
The vote on the House floor was unanimous – something rarely seen in a labor/business bill. But I believe this is what the people of Washington want – and need: bipartisan solutions to the economic problems in our state.
In the end, even though this compromise didn't have everything we wanted, I believe it's a “win-win” for struggling employers who need some tax relief, and for workers who would otherwise see their unemployment benefits cancelled.
Here are a few upcoming events I wanted you to be aware of:
Third Annual Clean Energy Independence Day
On Wednesday, Feb. 16, from noon to 3pm, we will be hosting our Third Annual Clean Energy Independence Day in the Columbia Room and on the third floor of the Rotunda at the Capitol Building. I worked hard to bring this event into fruition three years ago and am proud that it continues to grow! What a wonderful opportunity for organizations and businesses from around the state to showcase the diversity of energy related projects and services, including smart grid technology, biomass, biofuels, green building, and solar and fuel cell technology!
The event is being sponsored by the Tri-Cities Research District, the Port of Benton and the Tri-Cities Innovation Partnership Zone.
The Hanford Story
It has always been a dream of mine to be able to have my fellow colleagues in the Legislature learn first-hand the history and current processes involved in the Hanford cleanup. It's one thing to read an occasional article in the newspaper or see a 30 second clip on TV, and quite another to hear from the very people who are in the trenches getting dirt on their hands.
I am extremely proud to announce that next Thursday, Feb. 17, as part of the Tri-Cities Legislative Day, a special screening of “The Hanford Story” will be shown in House Hearing Room A, from noon to 1:00pm. The U.S. Department of Energy's Deputy Manager for the Richland Operations Office, Doug Shoop, will emcee the event. Mary Sue Wilson from the state Attorney General's Office will be part of the presentation as well.
This is a great opportunity for those in Olympia to learn more about the Hanford story and to ask questions of those that are in the frontlines of the cleanup process.
Please join me for a “district coffee” on Sunday, Feb. 20, from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. at the CSA Building, 719 Jadwin Ave. in Richland. My district coffees are informal gatherings with no set agendas. I'm here to listen to your concerns and answer any questions you may have.
8th District Town Hall Meetings
On Saturday, March 12, Sen. Jerome Delvin, Rep. Brad Klippert and I are hosting four town hall meetings throughout the district. Please feel free to attend the meeting closest to you. I look forward to seeing you soon. – Rep. Larry Haler, 8th Legislative District
8:00 – 9:30 AM (Prosser)
Prosser Town Hall
601 7th Street in Prosser
10:30 – Noon (Benton City)
Benton City Town Hall
Kiona-Benton High School, Performing Arts Center
1107 Grace in Benton City
1:30-3:00 PM (Richland)
Richland Town Hall
Richland City Hall Council Chambers
505 Swift Blvd. in Richland
4:00-5:30 PM (Kennewick)
Kennewick Town Hall
Kennewick City Hall Council Chambers
210 W 6th Ave. in Kennewick