Opinion: The 2024 Washington legislative session madness has already begun

Legislators have the ability to ‘pre-file’ bills to get new legislation into the hopper ready for consideration in January and Mark Harmsworth of the Washington Policy Center says things are already happening.


Legislators have the ability to ‘pre-file’ bills to get new legislation into the hopper ready for consideration in January and things are already happening

Mark Harmsworth
Washington Policy Center

While January 8, 2024 is the first official day of the Washington State legislative session next year, things are already happening in Olympia. Legislators have the ability to ‘pre-file’ bills to get new legislation into the hopper ready for consideration in January and things are already happening.

Mark Harmsworth, Washington Policy Center
Mark Harmsworth, Washington Policy Center

One such bill, Senate Bill 5793 (SB 5793), filed by Senator Saldaña (37th Legislative District), would expand Washington State paid sick leave law adding new qualifying events including work site closures due to a weather or public emergency.

Additionally, the definition of the reason for claiming sick leave would be expanded to include allowing an employee to claim a sick day for someone living in a house with them if they needed help.

SB 5793 would apply to Transportation Network Company (TNC) drivers, such as Uber and Lyft, even though the job is often part time.

The bill is especially problematic given the recent over-reach of state government closing schools for extended periods and declaring emergencies on a frequent basis.

Every school closure (for parents of children at the school), snow day or weather emergency could be taken as a sick day under the provisions of SB 5793, the cost being 100% covered by an employer, even if an employee can work from home and remain productive. Employees would be able to claim a sick day if someone unrelated to them in the house was also sick.

Given that sick leave is accrued (for qualifying employees) at a rate of 1 hour for every 40 hours worked, an employer could be liable for at least 40 hours (the maximum annual accrual) or in other words, a week of work per employee per year. While today an employee takes sick leave only when they are sick or an immediate family member needs help, SB 5793 expands the entitlement. SB 5793 is an unfunded government mandate employers will have to foot the bill for.

Just like other government mandates, the result will be less hours available for workers and the potential for lay offs and employers trying to absorb the increased payroll costs each month.

Senate Bill 5793 is poor policy, increases employer costs and waters down the effectiveness of the Washington paid sick leave law.

Mark Harmsworth is the director of the Small Business Center at the Washington Policy Center.


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