Sunday, February 28, 2021

House passes legislation on transparency, business tax exemptions

by Angelica Relente, Herald Legislative Writer
| January 22, 2021 4:26 PM

OLYMPIA — State representatives voted to pass legislation, including a bill for more transparency on public agencies, during a virtual House floor debate Friday.

The bills will now move to the respective Senate committees for further review.

One of the bills approved, in a 98-0 vote, is House Bill 1056, which would allow public agencies — in cases of a declared emergency — to hold meetings remotely or with limited in-person attendance, according to the bill’s text.

The legislation would require allowing the public to listen in real-time. All public agencies, except “special purpose districts,” would be required to post agendas online. A special purpose district is defined as an area that has fewer than 3,000 people or less than $400 million of taxable property.

“In HB 1056, we are now trying to move ahead so we do not have to continue to rely on proclamations,” Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, said during the virtual legislative debate. Pollet is the primary sponsor of HB 1056.

Rep. Keith Goehner, R-Dryden, co-sponsored HB 1056. He offered an amendment, which was adopted, to say that a district’s city or town would be exempt from posting an agenda online. Goehner represents the 12th District, which includes northern Grant County.

“Without the governor’s proclamations, many of the local governments were really unable to conduct business,” Goehner said during the virtual legislative debate. “This will … ensure full public participation.”

Representatives also approved House Bill 1095, 98-0, which would provide business owners an exemption to the business and occupation tax, public utility tax and retail sales tax if the owner received a “qualifying grant” on or after Feb. 29, 2020, according to the bill’s text.

A qualifying grant is defined as funding received from a government-funded program, according to the bill’s text. The grant addresses the circumstances that led to an official proclamation or state of emergency, like COVID-19.

Rep. Amy Walen, D-Kirkland, is the primary sponsor of HB 1095. She said the bill is a “small thing” legislators can do for businesses, and the bill can lead to economic recovery.

“I’m incredibly honored … that this is the first bill that our House is passing this session, because it sends a message to all of the entrepreneurs,” Walen said during the virtual legislative debate.

Other bills passed were HB 1007 and HB 1042.