A bill to increase Washington's minimum wage to $12 an hour, a mandatory sick leave bill and a gender pay equalization bill all died late Tuesday afternoon, March 31.
That's because the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee canceled its Wednesday meeting -- a decision made public at roughly 4 p.m. Tuesday. Wednesday is the deadline for House and Senate Committees to move policy-only bills out of committee, or those bills die.
With the cancellation of Wednesday's meeting, the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee will no longer discuss or vote on any more policy-only bills --including those three. Republicans, who control the Senate, have opposed the bills, which the Democrat-dominated House passed.
The minimum wage legislation by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, would have phased in a $12 an hour minimum wage by 2019. Farrell’s bill would have moved the wage to $10 an hour in 2016, $10.50 an hour in 2017, $11 an hour in 2018, $12 an hour in 2019.
Looming in the background has been public brainstorming by Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer about financing a 2016 initiative to create a $16 an hour minimum wage. That has generated speculation that the Republicans might have preferred a nuanced, phased-in $12-an-hour minimum wage from the Legislature rather than a no-compromise initiative for a $16 an hour wage.
In a Tuesday evening press release, the committee's chairman, Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said: “This proposed minimum wage increase would be devastating to countless small businesses. I won’t put people in Eastern Washington out of work to placate the egos of extreme Seattle liberals."
Another bill by Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, would have required mandatory sick leave for businesses of more than four employees.
A third bill by Rep.Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, would have required employers to provide valid reasons -- such as differences in education, training or experience -- if employees challenge pay disparities between workers of the opposite sex for essentially the same work. And the bill would have also forbidden employers from ordering workers not to disclose their salaries.
While those bills are officially dead, the Legislature can easily revive them, probably if deals are worked out between Republicans and Democrats to swap bargaining chips in the final days of the legislative session.