In keeping with our commitment to invest in transportation and tourism and remove barriers as well as increase access to employment, the GSBA Board of Directors, with input from Public Policy Task Force, has endorsed the following pieces of legislation recently passed or currently pending in Olympia:
Funding for High Capacity Transportation Service (SB 5128)
GSBA joins a wide spectrum of Puget Sound region business, nonprofits and citizens of all kinds in calling for the Legislature to give Sound Transit the authority to run a ballot measure to fund expansion of our regional transit system (referred to as Sound Transit 3). To support our rapidly growing population, we must ensure that our employees can get to their jobs, that our customers can reach our businesses and that our products can move efficiently throughout the region, supporting high capacity transportation is essential to our economy and our livelihoods.
While the Board endorsed SB 5128 specifically, the Sound Transit authorization may appear in modified form as part of other legislation during the negotiation process.
Long Term Funding of Statewide Tourism (HB 1938, SB 5916)
Washington is the only state without a tourism office, and our beautiful, vibrant home is missing out compared to our neighbors who recognize the incredible value of tourism marketing: $18.7 million in Alaska, $14.2 million in Montana, $13.7 million in Oregon, $8 million in Idaho, and a whopping $48.9 million in British Columbia. Zero in Washington.
With our Travel Gay Seattle initiative, increasing funding for LGBT tourism has been a GSBA priority for years. Even small investments in tourism marketing have returns well above what is spent. This bill establishes a system to collect annual fees from businesses in five tourism industry sectors most impacted by tourism (lodging, food service, attractions, transportation and retail), which will be used to implement a long-term, sustainable statewide tourism marketing program. The tourism industry, led by the Washington Tourism Alliance, helped craft this system and we are proud to join our partners across the state to increase our investment and bring more visitors to our wonderful home.
[Click here to learn more from the Washington Tourism Alliance]
Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) Bill (HB 1553)
Many Washingtonians who have criminal records and have paid their debt to society face tremendous barriers in reentering the workforce. They are legally prevented from getting a professional license in Washington State and face automatic rejection from many employers. Without work, they cannot afford to provide for themselves and their families and face a greater likelihood of recidivism. At some point, we have to open the door to opportunity and allow people to move on with their lives so they can contribute fully to our community and economy.
The Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) bill is intended to remove barriers to occupational licenses for qualified applicants with a criminal history. An individual has the ability to go to a judge, show that they have complied with all the terms of their sentence (incarceration, counseling, anger management, etc) and that they have led a law-abiding life and are in good standing for a certain number of year. The judge can sign the certificate attesting to the individual’s rehabilitation and then they cannot be denied an application for an occupational licensed based on their criminal history alone provided they are otherwise qualified and suitable for the license.
GSBA first supported this bill last year, and we continue to support this bill because it deals with employment and has a particular resonance for the LGBT community, with our disproportionate LGBT youth homeless population. Those who have fully completed their sentencing must be allowed the opportunity to move on and reenter society rather than be forever ostracized.
[Click here to learn more about CROP from Columbia Legal Services]
Youth Equality and Reintegration (YEAR) Act
The YEAR Act builds on 2014’s Youth Opportunities Act which allows juvenile court records to beouseHouse sealed for those who have completed requirements of sentencing and probation and have paid all legal fees and restitution. Washington remains one of only a few states that does not automatically seal juvenile records. The YEAR Act gives former juvenile offenders with limited financial resources the ability to have their records seal just like those who can afford to pay the penalties and fees. Judges will have the discretion to determine the appropriate course of action regarding financial obligations, such as substituting a monetary penalty for community service. Class A felonies, violent crimes and sexual crimes are not eligible for sealing.
GSBA voted to support this bill for similar reasons as the CROP bill. With LGBT youth disproportionately represented among the homeless population, our community should be particularly concerned with juvenile justice system. Homeless youth are unlikely to have the financial resources to pay the financial obligations in full, whereas many middle class juvenile offenders can have the costs covered by their families. They often face charges for crimes of survival and need to be able to pay their debts and be offered a second chance.
[Click here to learn more about the YEAR Act]