CAMAS — State Rep. Liz Pike on Wednesday shared a wish list with Clark County business leaders of the regulatory reforms she hopes to pass during future legislative sessions.
The Camas Republican's list includes: a six-month training wage for workers 21 and younger that would be lower than minimum wage; a cap on the amount a business must pay if its worker is injured on the job while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; pension cuts for seasonal employees working nine or fewer months each year for a small city; and prevailing wage exemptions for city projects that cost less than $5 million. Prevailing wage is the rate a business must pay its construction workers when they build a public project, such as a highway.
Another bill would create a new oversight process when a state agency, such as the Department of Ecology or the Department of Revenue, creates a rule. If that new rule meets enough resistance from legislators, industry groups or voters, or if costs a business at least $10 million, then that rule would be reviewed by state lawmakers.
"The agencies are run by nonelected bureaucrats," Pike told eight Clark County business owners and industry representatives gathered at her district office Wednesday morning.
Already anticipating a backlash from labor groups, Pike said she plans to tinker with her ideas to make them more palatable to her colleagues across the aisle. "All of these bills are heavy lifts," she added.
Tracy Doriot, owner of Vancouver's Doriot Construction, told Pike that he liked her idea about reviewing the rules state agencies pass. "It might scare some of those guys straight," he said. "Maybe they'd be a little more judicious about the rules that they do write."
Pike dubbed her meeting on Wednesday a "business kitchen cabinet," designed to foster a better business climate in Washington state and improve the economy. "Entrepreneurs are looking elsewhere in the country to locate their businesses due to Washington's burdensome regulatory and tax climate," Pike said recently in a news release announcing the event. She hosted a similar roundtable discussion on Sept. 4.
Pike presented another piece of legislation on Wednesday to privatize all engineering done through the Washington State Department of Transportation. Pike said the state has limited transportation dollars and doesn't have the resources to design and build new road projects right now, so state engineers don't have much work to do. When the state does get money to build new projects, they should contract that work out, Pike said.
Business leaders at the meeting seemed on board with the concept, but Russell Brent, owner of Mill Creek Pub in Battle Ground, worried that a private engineering firm might see deep pockets in WSDOT and charge the agency more than it should.
The group also gave Pike more regulation reforms to mull. Woodland Trucking owner Darlene Johnson said she'd like to give nonprofit organizations that receive state money an exemption from prevailing wage rules. In Woodland, community leaders are trying to build a park, but it's been difficult to afford what they want to build because of wage requirements, Johnson said.
Also in attendance on Wednesday were Mike Bomar, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council; Vancouver Ford president Jon Creedon;
Global Security president AJ Gomez; Gaither & Sons Construction president Ott Gaither; and DeWil's Cabinets owner Lynda Wilson.
Bomar previously directed the Southwest Washington Contractors Association. Gaither is vice president of the Building Industry Association of Clark County, and Doriot is a state director for the building association. Wilson is chairwoman of the Clark County Republican Party.
Several of the business owners told Pike that they'd be happy with any small victory against burdensome business regulations. Pike likened the fight to the Democrats' struggle to pass same-sex marriage legislation. Democrats worked to pass benefits for same-sex couples and the domestic partnership law before they were able to pass the marriage bill, she said.
"At some point, you'll get a win somewhere," Pike said. "My objective is to reduce the size of government."
Other bill ideas
Regulatory reforms aren't the only ideas on Pike's list of proposals. One measure would increase fines for people who engage in "blatant highway littering" -- while allowing fines to stay the same for drivers who fail to secure their truckload, accidentally allowing debris to fly out.
She's also working on a proposal that would require doctors to tell their patients if a mammogram detects any dense breast tissue, which is thought to mask some cancers in the screening process.