Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Retro reform moves ahead in State House

Last Friday, the House Commerce & Labor Committee reported out an important bill that would reform the state's retrospective ratings system - a program created by the Legislature many years ago to help out companies that are required to purchase industrial insurance from the State Department of Labor & Industries, but demonstrate their commitment to worker safety.

Commonly known as retro, the program, which provides refunds to companies or groups of companies that have a safe year, has long been abused by the Building Industry Association of Washington.

For years, the BIAW has been withholding a portion of its members' refunds to use on electioneering, to bolster Republican candidates, slime Democrats, and fund dangerous right wing initiatives that hurt our quality of life.

SB 6035, which passed the State Senate earlier this month, would require organizations that manage group plans (such as the BIAW) to obtain their members' consent before withholding funds for non-administrative purposes.

In other words, it ensures that business owners get to make the decision about what happens to their refund, instead of permitting plan administrators to unilaterally do whatever they want with the money.

We've been concerned that the House might not take up SB 6035, and that it could die in committee, but we're very pleased to see that it's moving ahead and has survived today's bill cutoff. Retro reform is one of the Northwest Progressive Institute's top legislative priorities.

SB 6035's next stop is likely the House Rules Committee, which is responsible for determining what goes onto the House floor. We hope within the next few weeks the House will act on this bill and send it to the governor so we can reform the retro program and put business owners in control of what happens to their refunds.


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