Caffeinated News & Gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz.

1. It makes sense that the Association of Washington Business, the lobby that represents big businesses like Boeing,would support Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal (and they do) to centralize collection of local business and occupation (B&O) taxes at the state level. The plan is expected to simplify B&O tax collections, easing the burden on big companies by, for example, making it so they don't have to pay up in two jurisdictions.

But does it make sense for the National Federation of Independent Business, the small-business counterpart to the Association of Washington Business, to support the plan? After all, the 207 cities that don't collect B&O taxes now are home to many of the state's small businesses. If Gregoire's proposal passes, those cities could decide to opt in to the new, streamlined system, on the reasonable grounds that the state would be doing all the work for them, simultaneously slamming small businesses with a new tax for city coffers.[pullquote]Does it make sense for the National Federation of Independent Business, the small-business counterpart to the Association of Washington Business, to support the plan?[/pullquote]

However, NFIB state director Patrick Connor says the group is likely to support the proposal, saying, "In general, we are pleased at the direction" the legislation takes toward streamlining B&O tax collection. And parroting the AWB talking point, he told Fizz, "At this point, we're most concerned about the crushing burden of paperwork" associated with paying state and local taxes than whether additional cities decide to levy the tax.

You can find our previous coverage of this increasingly entertaining story: here, here, and here.

2. Vancouver, WA, to the rescue?

Fans of Seattle's Central Cinema were dismayed to learn that the local movie house, which serves food in addition to beer and wine, could be shut down by an obscure state law prohibiting minors in movie venues where beer and wine are served.

However, they could get a reprieve from an unlikely ally: Vancouver Sen. Craig Pridemore (D-49), who's proposing legislation that would allow minors into beer-serving theaters as long as those theaters adopt a "minor control plan" for keeping minors from drinking booze on the premises.

Evidently, there's a local angle for Pridemore. He hasn't yet returned a call for comment on the legislation, but his staff says a theater in Vancouver has tried unsuccessfully to serve beer and wine.

3. Although one of Washington State's US senators, Maria Cantwell, has come out against the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which would restrict access to sites that host or link to other sites that host copyrighted or pirated content, Washington State's other senator, Patty Murray, has been reticent.

Asked to clarify Murray's position on the bill, Murray's aide Matt McAlvaugh told us, "Senator Murray believes that protecting intellectual property rights is critical for jobs and the economy in Washington state. However," he added vaguely, "she has concerns with these bills as currently drafted."

Several senators, including cosponsor Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), withdrew their support of the bill yesterday after online giants such as Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing, shut their sites down in protest.[pullquote]The bill would allow insurance companies to sell mileage-based insurance, instead of the flat-rate insurance.[/pullquote]

4. It's not all budgeting, gay marriage, and tax policy in Olympia this season. Legislators are also trying to save the environment. Remember that cause?

A sampling:

HB 2445, sponsored by Rep. Cindy Ryu (D-32), would allow insurance companies to sell mileage-based insurance, instead of the flat-rate insurance they currently sell. Environmentalists like the idea, because it creates a financial incentive to drive less. It's scheduled for a committee hearing on Friday.

HB 1217, the Neighborhood Safe Speeds Bill—also sponsored by Ryu, and cosponsored by Seattle Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43)—would allow cities to lower speed limits to 20 mph on non-arterial roads without going through a costly engineering and traffic study. It does not yet have a committee hearing.

SB 6120, sponsored by environmental leader Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34), would ban the use of a set of toxic chemicals known collectively as TRIS---a replacement for flame retardants known as PDBEs, which were banned in 2007---in plastic children's toys. The bill had its first hearing this past Tuesday.

It's not all hippy-dippy pro-environmental bills in Olympia, though. Conservative Democrat Brian Hatfield (D-19, Raymond) is sponsoring legislation that would change the definition of renewable energy to include wood products when utilities try to meet voter-mandated renewable energy standards. In 2006, voters passed I-937 to increase reliance on renewable energy, i.e. wind, solar, and biofuel, as opposed to relying on traditional industries like forestry. The legislature has been trying to weaken the voter-approved renewable standards (electric utilities get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020) since the 2009 session.
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