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CALL TO ACTION: Nominate Our Leaders!

May 13, 2022

Interested in participating in our decision-making? Nominate yourself today!

This is a great way to be involved to fight legislative issues and learn another side to your industry that is fun and exciting. Work with peers from four different states.

Minimal time commitment, as we meet only 4-6 times per year. Nominate yourself or a colleague by Friday, June 10th.

Board Positions Available

  • 4 At-Large Positions
  • 1 Idaho Position
  • 1 Montana Position
  • 1 Western Washington Position

2-year term (2022 – 2024). All paid 2022 members are eligible to vote. 

Please email your nominations to: NWHPBA@AMInc.org.

Great News! Governor to Appoint BIAW and AGC Nominees to State Building Code Council

April 7, 2022

Governor Will Also Pay $70,000 to Settle Records Suit

Under a legal settlement announced today, the two members of the Building Code Council the governor appointed to represent the residential and commercial building industries will resign. Then the governor must replace them with nominees from BIAW and AGC. The governor’s office must also pay BIAW $70,000 in connection with a separate Public Records Act lawsuit. 

“This is a tremendous victory for the members of our association, for protecting the cost of housing and for holding elected officials accountable to following the law,” said BIAW Executive VP Greg Lane.

“The Building Code Council makes critical decisions that impact hundreds of thousands of homeowners and businesses. The law was rightfully designed to ensure industries like residential construction, that are directly affected by the code, have a seat at the table when changes are considered.”

Help Stop Unnecessary, Onerous, and Costly Ergonomics Rules on Business

February 22, 2022

HB 1837 would allow the Department of Labor and Industries to impose costly, complicated, and unnecessary regulations on all employers by overturning voter-approved Initiative 841.

Prior to the passage of Initiative 841, The Department of Labor & Industries adopted an 18-page confusing rule that required all employers to identify jobs that pose ergonomic hazards and then do whatever is “technologically and economically feasible” to eliminate those hazards. The “concise explanatory statement” for the rule was 126 pages long and the rules were anticipated to cost employers $725 million back in the early 2000s. That number would be over $1 billion in today’s dollars.

HB 1837, by repealing the initiative, paves the way for L&I to start regulating businesses on this issue again. We need to have all businesses sign in OPPOSED at the hearing on Wednesday and email their legislators to stop this bill from moving.

TODAY: Please sign in “CON”, opposing HB 1837 at Wednesday’s hearing in the Senate. (You must do this before 9:00 AM on Wednesday, February 25, 2022)

Then contact your State Senator to send them an email to OPPOSE HB 1837. Washington’s businesses cannot afford more rules!

Contact State Senator | State Senator Not Listed?

  • Employers are already struggling with workforce and supply chain issues. Ergonomics regulations will make these situations worse.
  • Ergonomics regulations will cost employers billions and lead to more automation.
  • There is no consensus in the medical community on the causes and cures of repetitive motion injuries – individuals all have different risks.
  • Ergonomics regulations will exacerbate our worker shortage, particularly in some of our most essential workplaces, by limiting how many hours employees can legally work.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that despite the passage of Initiative 841 (which prohibited L&I from adopting ergonomics rules), the Department can still require employers to address workplace musculoskeletal disorders (ergonomics) – thus employees are already protected.
  • Businesses around the state are still trying to recover from the response to the pandemic. Ergonomics rules will be the nail in the coffin for many.

Thank You for Taking Action Today!

Breaking News Bulletin

February 18, 2022

Masks No Longer Required in Most Places Beginning March 21

Beginning March 21, face masks will no longer be required in most settings, including K-12 schools and childcare facilities.
 
Masks will still be required in health care settings such as hospitals, outpatient and dental offices, as well as long term care settings and correctional facilities.
 
In addition, beginning March 1, vaccine verification for large events will no longer be required.
 
Businesses and local governments can still choose to implement vaccination or face mask requirements for workers or customers, and school districts can still choose to have students and teachers wear masks. Federal law still requires face masks in certain settings such as public transportation and school buses.

COVID-19 Trends Give Leaders Confidence to Look Towards Next Phase of Pandemic Response

With dropping hospitalization rates, improving vaccination rates, and broad access to masks and tests, Gov. Jay Inslee announced yesterday (2/17) that the state can soon move into a less restrictive phase of the COVID-19 response. The lifting of statewide measures does not prohibit local health jurisdictions from the ability to enact measures in response to COVID-19 activity in their communities.
 
“The virus has changed significantly over the past two years, and so has our ability to fight it. While caution is still needed, we are entering a new phase of the pandemic,” Inslee said.
 
Inslee and leaders from the state Department of Health said the combination of dropping COVID-19 hospitalization rates and efficacy of vaccines in preventing severe illness and hospitalization are important indicators that statewide requirements can begin to loosen.
 

“Vaccination remains our most essential protection against severe illness and death from COVID-19. It’s also crucial to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed again,” Inslee said. “If you’ve been procrastinating, now is the time to join the more than 80% of eligible Washingtonians who have gotten at least one shot.”

Guidance for K-12 Schools Will Be Updated

 

The week of March 7, DOH will issue updated guidance for K-12 schools to go into effect March 21. The guidance will be released early to help schools prepare for this transition.
 
Schools will still be required to report COVID-19 cases and outbreaks and cooperate with public health authorities in responding to these consistent with procedures for other communicable diseases.
 
Students and staff with symptoms of COVID-19 will continue to be required to quarantine away from school buildings. Schools must also ensure access to testing for staff and students who have symptoms of or who may have been exposed to COVID-19. If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, they must remain at home and follow the CDC and DOH isolation protocol.
DOH will also shift existing requirements regarding distancing, ventilation, and sanitation so they become recommendations.
 
Until Monday, March 21, the K-12 Schools Requirements 2021-2022 remain in effect.
 

“Our students, educators and school employees, and families have been incredibly resilient as we’ve navigated the impacts of the pandemic,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “Our efforts over the past two years have led us to this moment. Nearly all of our school employees are vaccinated, the number of vaccinated students increases each day, and we have one of the most robust COVID-19 school testing programs in the country. Moving away from a statewide mask mandate to masks being encouraged is a safe next step as we move from pandemic to endemic.”

Employers Must Continue Adhering to Safe Workplace Protocols

COVID-19 remains a recognized workplace hazard. When masks are no longer required in the workplace, employers must continue taking steps to assess COVID-19 transmission risks to employees and taking steps to minimize those risks. Risks vary depending on the workspace and conditions. Possible steps could include promoting vaccination, improving ventilation, offering face masks, encouraging social distancing or installing sneeze guards or barriers.

 

Employers are still required to notify workers of potential exposures when a co-worker has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, and, in worksites with 50 or more employees, report outbreaks of 10 or more confirmed cases to the state Department of Labor & Industries.

Employers must also allow workers to continue to wear masks if they choose. In 2021, the Legislature passed SSB 5254, which protects a worker’s right to wear a face covering and other protective devices during a public health emergency. The governor is amending an existing worker safety and protection emergency order, Proclamation 21-08, to reflect this new state law. Proclamation 21-08 already prohibits employers from taking adverse action against a worker for taking COVID-related health actions, including getting vaccinated and taking time off to get vaccinated or seek treatment, and it will now also protect workers from any adverse action for wearing a face covering while we remain in a state of emergency.

“Caution, Compassion and Kindness is What Will Allow Us to Move Forward, Together”

While the transition to the next phase of the pandemic is reason for hope, Inslee emphasized that many families and individuals will continue taking precautions such as wearing face masks at school and work.

“People fall all along the spectrum when it comes to feeling safe and ready to be in public spaces,” Inslee said. “And here’s the hard truth: while we have the tools we need to fight back, COVID-19 is still a danger to many people. I encourage people to continue doing what’s necessary to keep themselves, their families, or their workers safe. Caution, compassion and kindness is what will allow us to move forward, together.”

 

URGENT – SIGN IN TO OPPOSE ESHB 1770!

February 16, 2022

REGARDING ENERGY CODES TODAY!

It’s time to do it again! We need to show OPPOSITION for SHB 1770, the bill that would increase the requirements of our state energy code. This bill not only requires all homes to be net zero ready by 2034, it also focuses on greenhouse gas emission reductions rather than energy efficiency which changes the dynamics of the state energy code.

The biggest thing this bill does is create a statewide residential “reach” or “stretch” code that local governments can adopt. This would create confusion by having local governments with codes that are different than the state energy code.

SHB 1770 will increase the costs of housing by thousands of dollars and wreak havoc with the labor and supply chains when it comes to heating and cooling options for housing. In addition, since it moves the energy code further away from natural gas, options for secondary heating and energy efficient appliances will be eliminated for homeowners.

YOUR ACTIONS ARE WORKING! So far, your actions have led to the defeat of two of the four “building decarbonization” bills that are threatening this industry. We can’t let our guard down now.

You must sign in BEFORE 9 AM tomorrow to be counted on the record.

THANK YOU AND KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

Sign In Opposing ESHB 1770 | View Full Bill

URGENT – CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY!

February 11, 2022

TELL THEM TO OPPOSE SHB 1770 – WHICH WILL MAKE WASHINGTON STATE’S ENERGY CODE EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE AND DIFFICULT.

The Washington State House of Representatives is poised to take a vote on SHB 1770 – strengthening energy codes.  This bill makes significant changes to the existing state energy code. It changes the goal from one of “energy efficiency” to greenhouse gas emission reductions. This will force all new residential buildings to full electrification – regardless of whether or not non-electric appliances would be more affordable and energy-efficient. It also creates a “reach” or “stretch” code that local governments could adopt – which would be more stringent and restrictive than the state energy code.

Why OPPOSE SHB 1770:

  • It would be devastating to housing affordability in Washington State – increasing the cost of building a home by thousands of dollars – particularly if homes are required to be “net zero ready” or “solar ready” as is demanded by this bill.
  • It would encourage the banning of natural gas connections – particularly through the local reach code – putting millions of Washingtonians at risk when power outages occur because they would not have a secondary heating or cooking resource and reducing the ability to choose the most efficient, affordable energy source for their home.
  • It exacerbates the labor shortage. Requiring builders to make all houses “net zero ready” and to be “solar ready” will require more electricians than are available now. In addition, current laws actually keep specialty electricians from doing some of the needed work which means fewer available workers, more delays and more cost.
  • It exacerbates the supply chain issue – Washington state builders and contractors are already limited in what they can use in residential construction because of our existing strict energy code (which just went into effect during the pandemic). This would put even more product out of reach for Washington builders – -increasing costs and delays and disrupting attempts to build affordable housing.

LEGISLATORS NEED TO SET THIS BILL DOWN. OUR CURRENT STATE ENERGY CODE ALREADY IS WORKING TOWARD VERY STRINGENT GOALS THAT WILL HELP CLIMATE CHANGE. LET THE CURRENT PROCESS WORK AND DO NOT ADD NEW GOALS OR REQUIREMENTS THAT INCREASE THE COST OF HOUSING, LEAD TO BANS ON NATURAL GAS, AND EXACERBATE THE SUPPLY CHAIN! WASHINGTON CITIZENS CAN NOT AFFORD THIS BILL!

CONTACT YOUR TWO STATE REPRESENTATIVES TODAY! TELL THEM TO VOTE NO ON SHB 1770 TO PRESERVE JOBS AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING!

To Contact your Two-State Reps – follow this link to FIND YOUR DISTRICT and identify your two representatives. Then go to this link to FIND THEIR EMAIL AND PHONE NUMBER so you can contact them directly.

URGENT – YOUR ACTION NEEDED NOW!! KEY HEARING ON FRIDAY

January 11, 2022

ACTION REQUESTED: THE HEARTH INDUSTRY IN WASHINGTON STATE NEEDS TO GET INVOLVED NOW!

TAKE ACTION: Use this form* to indicate that you are OPPOSED to the bill. Select CON from the first dropdown. 

SUBMIT YOUR POSITION. CLICK HERE >>> SIGN IN OPPOSED, NO TESTIMONY

*Be sure to select CON from the first dropdown to indicate your position.

We need to get as many people as possible in the industry to SIGN IN OPPOSED to the bill.

It’s week one of the Washington State Legislature and we already have almost 1,000 bills introduced for the 60-day session. One of the bills is a major threat to the hearth industry (to both wood and gas) and will be discussed at a hearing THIS FRIDAY.

THE PROBLEM:

HB 1767 is the “Targeted Electrification Bill” which requires utilities (including gas utilities) to make plans to move people away from fossil fuel-burning appliances. It has a hearing in the House Environment and Energy Committee from 10 AM-12 PM this Friday, January 14th!

“Targeted Electrification” is defined as: the conversion to electricity from fossil fuel or wood of an energy end-use or energy source in a way that provides a net benefit to the utility as determined consistent with subsection (3) of this section. 

This definition would have utilities not only working to move customers away from gas appliances but also wood appliances.

THIS IS A DIRECT THREAT TO THE HEARTH INDUSTRY! Not only will it be used to eliminate gas appliances as a primary or secondary heating source, but it also potentially could bring the elimination of woodstoves as a primary or secondary heating source.

WAGE & HOUR BULLETIN: L&I Webinars Can Help You Understand Washington’s Wage & Hour Laws

January 4, 2022

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ (L&I) Employment Standards Program is hosting 20 webinars early in 2022 to help employers and workers understand Washington’s wage and hour laws.

The webinar topics include protections for isolated workers, overtime exemptions for white-collar workers, and requirements under the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act. There are also webinars available in English and Spanish that explain the new agricultural overtime law that took effect on January 1, 2022. The program also offers webinars that provide an overview of minimum wage, overtime, paid sick leave, and other workplace rights regulations.

To find the times and to register for any of these webinars, go to L&I’s Workshops & Training web page and search for the webinar by its title in the “Event Title” drop-down menu.

First Quarter of 2022 Webinar Schedule:

January:

5 – Understanding the Changes in Agricultural Overtime Laws

11 – Isolated Worker Protections

12 – Employers Guide to Workers’ Rights

19 – White Collar Overtime Exemptions

20 – Equal Pay and Opportunities Act

25 – Understanding the Changes in Agricultural Overtime Laws (Spanish)

26 – Know Your Worker Rights

February:

2 – Understanding the Changes in Agricultural Overtime Laws

In8 – Isolated Worker Protections

9 – Employers Guide to Workers’ Rights

16 – White Collar Overtime Exemptions

17 – Equal Pay and Opportunities Act

22 – Understanding the Changes in Agricultural Overtime Laws (Spanish)

23 – Know Your Worker Rights

March:

2 – Understanding the Changes in Agricultural Overtime Laws

9 – Employers Guide to Workers’ Rights

16 – White Collar Overtime Exemptions

17 – Equal Pay and Opportunities Act

23 – Know Your Worker Rights

29 – Understanding the Changes in Agricultural Overtime Laws (Spanish)

Interpretation Services

L&I can provide interpretation services for these sessions at no cost to you when you request them ahead of time. Send an email to languageaccess@lni.wa.gov to request these services.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Employment Standards Program at their website, by phone, or by email.

Important Update Regarding Washington’s Long-Term Care Program & Collection of Employee Premiums

December 30, 2021

Over the last two weeks, we have reached out to the Governor’s Office and Employment Security Department to advocate for the important change to the rule. Unfortunately, neither the governor nor the agency has immediate plans to revise the rule. As a result, the existing rule, with its employer liability, remains the law.

  • (2) When an employer is found by the department to be noncompliant with collecting premiums from an employee, the employer must file an amended report and pay the past due premiums.  

Without a change in the rule, the employers’ liability still exists, despite public statements by policy makers.

WA Cares Fund Premium Delayed

December 17, 2021

In case you missed it: Gov. Jay Inslee, together with Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, released the following statements this morning on delaying the Washington Cares Fund premium assessment:

“I have been in ongoing discussions with legislators about the long-term care bill, which is set to begin collecting funds in January. This bill will help provide much-needed care and coverage for Washingtonians as they age. However, legislators have identified some areas that need adjustments and I agree. We need to give legislators the opportunity to make refinements to the bill. Therefore, I am taking measures within my authority and ordering the state Employment Security Department not to collect the premiums from this program from employers before they come due in April. My actions mean that the state will not collect those funds until the Legislature sorts through these issues. While legislation is under consideration to pause the withholding of LTC fees, employers will not be subject to penalties and interest for not withholding fees from employees’ wages during this transition.” – Gov. Jay Inslee

“The Legislature passed the Long-Term Services and Supports Act, now known as the Washington Cares Fund, in 2019 to ensure the people of Washington have a convenient, cost-effective long-term care option they can rely on without bankrupting them or denying them coverage for pre-existing conditions. The legislature has the opportunity to delay the Cares Fund premium assessment this year in order to make improvements to the Fund during the 2022 legislative session and we fully intend to do so. Pausing the program so that it can better serve disabled veterans, military spouses, non-residents, and near retirees will improve the program. A pause will also give the Long-Term Care Commission the ability to study and make recommendations about residents who move out of Washington to retire and assure that those who have opted out of the program maintain their private insurance policies. These improvements will provide security and stability now and into the future for this critical safety net for our state’s seniors and people with disabilities.

“Delaying implementation of the Washington Cares Fund premium assessment through the 2023 legislative session allows the Legislature time to pass the policy reforms that are ready to go now and to consider further recommendations from the Long-Term Care Commission.

“In addition to delaying the premium assessment, we also support employers pausing premium collections from employees in Washington so lawmakers can take necessary action. While we cannot direct employers not to collect, we strongly encourage them to pause on collecting premiums from employees, giving us time to pass legislation extending implementation dates until next year. We know that this extra time will allow us to find solutions and craft updates to the Fund that allows Washingtonians to age with dignity in their own homes.” – Sen. Andy Billig and Speaker Laurie Jinkins.

Successful Factory Tours Come to a Close

December 3, 2021

NWHPBA and HPBA manufacturers opened their doors this year to legislators from Idaho and Washington. These tours, originally done to showcase the work our manufacturers have done in creating clean-burning woodstoves to meet new EPA NSPS guidelines, also helped educate legislators about an important industry creating jobs in their district.

Kuma, IHP, Travis, and Blaze King all hosted their district legislators. Legislators received a tour of the factories, met employees, and learned about the nuances of manufacturing woodstoves (and gas appliances too). All of the manufacturers emphasized the differences between cordwood and crib testing methods and what the controversy around those testing methods meant for their industry.

All of the legislators involved are willing now to engage in woodstove policy discussions. They all appreciated learning what is involved and how wood and gas heating appliances not only provide beneficial heat for people in their districts but also how the hearth industry is providing needed jobs and benefits.

A summary video has been completed for each tour to help other NWHPBA and HPBA members see what is involved and how bringing legislators to your business can help bring our advocacy efforts to a new level. You can see these videos below.

We encourage all retailers and manufacturers to invite local legislators in to see what you do, visit with your employees, and understand the importance of the industry to your community. For assistance in setting up a legislative visit, please contact Carolyn Logue at caloguepublicaffairs@comcast.net.

Lawsuit Filed Against Washington’s Long-Term Care Program, WA Cares Fund

November 11, 2021

Article from The Seattle Times by Rachel La Corte

Written November 9, 2021 | Updated November 10, 2021

OLYMPIA – Opponents of a mandatory payroll tax to fund Washington state’s new long-term care program filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court seeking to stop the January start of the payroll premium for most employees in the state.

The suit filed with the federal court for the Western District of Washington, was filed on behalf of three businesses in the state and six individuals. None of the individuals purchased a private, long-term care insurance plan before Nov. 1, the deadline to qualify for an exemption.

Under the program, WA Cares Fund, workers will pay .58% of total pay per paycheck, meaning an employee with a salary of $50,000 will pay $290 a year. Starting
Jan. 1, 2025, people who need help with assistance with at least three “activities of daily living” such as bathing, dressing or administration of medication, can tap into the fund to pay for things like in-home care, home modifications like a wheelchair ramp and rides to the doctor.

The benefit will also cover home-delivered meals and reimbursement to unpaid family caregivers. The lifetime maximum of the benefit is $36,500, with annual increases to be determined based on inflation.

“The state simply does not have the power to mandate an employee benefit,” Richard Birmingham, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, said in a written statement announcing the lawsuit.

As of Nov. 4, the Employment Security Department had received more than 344,000 applications for an exemption, and just over 140,000 had been approved. Last week, agency spokesman Nick Demerice said that people seeking an exemption are being told that as long as they submit their exemption request by Dec. 1, ESD is guaranteeing that it will be processed it before the end of December.

Even though a private policy had to be purchased before Nov. 1 to opt out, people have until Dec. 31, 2022, to apply for an exemption — which means they may pay a year of the premium unless they opt out before the payroll deduction starts. No rebates are offered for any premiums already paid, and once a person receives an exemption, they are not able to opt back into the state program, even if they change jobs.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee said the office had not yet seen the lawsuit. Officials at the Employment Security Department and the Department of Social and Health Services, also named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

According to AARP of Washington, 70% of residents 65 and older will require some type of assistance to live independently.

To be eligible for the state benefits, workers will have had to have paid the premium working at least 500 hours per year for three of the previous six years in which they’re seeking the benefit or for a total of 10 years, with at least five of those paid without interruption. The benefit is not portable, so people who pay into the program but later move out of state will not be able to access it, and it only covers the taxpayer, not a spouse or dependent. The benefit also isn’t available to those who work in Washington and will pay the deduction but live in neighboring states, like Oregon.

One of the named plaintiffs, Melissa Johnston, lives in Eagle Point, and works in Vancouver, Washington, and said in a written statement that she has no plan to retire in Washington.

“And yet the state is requiring that I buy a long-term care insurance product that can only be used if I retire in Washington—it just doesn’t make any sense,” she wrote.

Among the arguments made by the suit is that the WA Cares Fund violates a federal law that forbids the state from passing any law that requires employees to participate in a plan that provides sickness or medical benefits. It also says that the disparate treatment of people paying the tax but not receiving benefits if they are not a Washington resident violates the Equal Protection and the Privileges and Immunities clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Additionally, the fact that people who are within 10 years of retirement will pay into the fund but not receive benefits is a violation of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, the suit contends.

Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Update – L&I Considers Contractor Registration Fee Increases

November 2, 2021

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is considering raising the fee to register, renew or be reinstated as a contractor by 5.79%. The amount of the increase is the state Office of Financial Management’s maximum allowable fiscal growth factor rate for fiscal year 2022.

The increase is needed to ensure the Contractor Registration program remains consistent with fee increases required by statute and to help improve the program’s fund balance.

L&I is required to charge a fee for issuing or renewing a certificate of registration and to revise the fee at least once every two years in recognition of economic changes as reflected by the fiscal growth factor under chapter 43.135 RCW.

The current fee for a certificate of registration is $117.90. The certificate of registration lasts for two years.

The agency filed a Preproposal Statement of Inquiry (CR-101) about the fee increase on October 19, 2021.

Opportunities to Comment:

There will be opportunities to provide written comments or present testimony at public hearings. You can find information about this rulemaking by going online to the agency’s “Rulemaking Activity” page.

If adopted, the new fees would take effect April 22, 2022.

Here’s What Happens Next:

  • October 19, 2021: Pre-proposal (CR-101) filed with the state Office of the Code Reviser.
  • December 21, 2021: The Proposed rules (CR-102) are expected to be filed with the state Office of the Code Reviser
  • January 26, 2022: A public hearing on the proposed rules is tentatively scheduled.
  • March 22, 2022: The final rules (CR-103) are expected to be filed with the state Office of the Code Reviser.
  • April 22, 2022: The new rules are expected to take effect.

L&I may be considering additional fiscal growth factor fee increases for Contractor Registration for fiscal years 2023 and 2024. We will have more information as these possible rulemakings move forward.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Melissa McBride at Melissa.McBride@Lni.wa.gov, or call 360-902-5731. L&I Newsroom.

Connect with L&I: Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Government Makes It Official: It Will Cost More to Heat This Winter in Most Regions

October 13, 2021

Article by John Crouch, Director, Public Affairs, HPBA

Anyone who has purchased gasoline recently already suspects that energy may cost more this winter, but some families, in some parts of the country, may be in for a really big surprise. On October 13th the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released their annual report known as the Winter Fuels Outlook. In this assessment, EIA calculates home heating costs for four regions of the U.S., and the five major fuels used, based on the most recent weather and energy price data.

One of the most striking items in this report is that virtually all households in the U.S. will see an increase in heating costs, based on the combination of higher energy prices, and forecasts of a colder winter that last year. 

Families that heat with oil will see an average increase in expenditures of 43% over last year. While households that heat with natural gas will see an average national increase of 30% in expenditures, those in the Midwest will see an increase of 48%, followed by western families with an increase of 23 %. Even families in the south, that heat with propane, will see a 43% increase in winter heating costs. All the details can be found in the EIA report. 

This report makes no assumptions about power outages, which are increasingly common in many areas, as we saw in Oregon and Texas last February. HPBA members know it has always paid to have a secondary source of heat, to provide security and create options to balance out price spikes. In Texas, Todd Harkrider, a fireplace retailer, noted: “most of our customers stayed nice and cozy inside their homes despite the electrical outage last winter, using their gas fireplaces for heat and cooking on their gas stoves.  Some told me they were the most popular house in the neighborhood since they were the only place with heat.” 

In Colorado, Lesley Short, owner of Lehrer’s Fireplace shops in Denver, adds, “If you’ve lived in Colorado very long, you know that blizzards can knock out our power, which is why lots of folks have either a gas fireplace, or an EPA-certified wood insert to keep warm, not to mention an outdoor grill for emergency cooking.”

The annual report from EIA is an early warning for what consumers are going to face this year. Our hope is this encourages consumers to think about a secondary source of heat – something our retailers know all about.

Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Update – For 2022, Washington Minimum Wage Rises to $14.49 Per Hour

Sept. 30, 2021

TUMWATER — The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced Wednesday the state’s minimum wage will rise to $14.49 per hour starting Jan. 1, 2022.

State law mandates L&I calculate the minimum wage for the coming year based on the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). L&I compares the CPI-W from August of the previous year to the index for August of the current year to make the calculation.

The result is the state’s current minimum wage of $13.69 will go up 5.83 percent next year. BLS attributed the increase in the price index to more expensive gas, housing, household furnishings, and food.

The state minimum wage applies to workers age 16 and older. Under state law, employers can pay 85 percent of the minimum wage to workers ages 14-15. For 2022, the wage for that younger group will be $12.32 per hour.

Cities are able to set minimum wages higher than the state’s, and both Seattle and Sea-Tac have higher wages.

For Overtime Exempt Employees:

The change in the minimum wage also means an increase in the minimum salary an employee must earn in 2022 to be overtime exempt. This impacts “white collar” positions held by executive, administrative, and professional workers plus computer professionals and outside salespeople.

Under the state’s rules governing exemptions to the Minimum Wage Act, salaried exempt employees must earn at least a minimum salary that is established as a multiplier of the minimum wage. Therefore, when the minimum wage increases, so does the salary threshold.

Those rules were updated in 2020. L&I created an eight-year implementation schedule that incrementally raises the multiplier until it reaches 2.5 times in 2028. The pace of the increase is based on the size of the employer.

For 2022, to be exempt from overtime, an employee must earn at least $1,014.30 a week ($52,743.60 a year), or 1.75 times the minimum wage.

Computer professionals who are paid by the hour have a different threshold. The new minimums are a part of changes to the overtime rules that took effect July 1, 2020.

The minimum wage applies to most jobs, including those in agriculture. In addition, agricultural workers will be eligible to earn overtime after working more than 55 hours per week, beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

L&I enforces the state’s wage-and-hour laws and investigates all wage-payment complaints.

More information about the minimum wage is available on L&I’s website, as are details about overtime, rest breaks, meal periods, and information on how to file a complaint. Employers and workers may also call 360-902-5316 or 1-866-219-7321.

For media information: Matthew Erlich, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-6508.

L&I Newsroom. Connect with L&I: Facebook and Twitter.

Washington State Quick Legislative Update

September 23, 2021

 

A number of things are happening of interest:

CALL TO ACTION: STATE BUILDING CODE COUNCIL TO HOLD SPECIAL MEETING TO HEAR COMMENTS ON THE COMMERCIAL ENERGY CODE

The State Building Code Council ran out of time last week and did not hear public comments on the commercial energy code proposal. They will be holding another virtual meeting Thursday, September 30, 2021 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM to take comments.

Three specific proposals are concerning for those who want to maintain energy choice. Proposals 21-GP1-103 and 21-GP1-136 ban the use of fossil fuel heat pumps and water heaters in the commercial code. Proposal 21-GP1-179 requires electrical connections every place there is a fossil fuel appliance – significantly increasing the cost of putting in gas appliances. If these pass in the commercial code, it is more likely they will become part of the residential energy code updates next year.

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO CALL IN OR SEND AN EMAIL TO OPPOSE THESE SPECIFIC PROPOSALS THAT WILL EFFECTIVELY BAN NATURAL GAS IN COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS.

To send an email opposing Proposals 21-GP1-103, 21-GP1-236 and 21-GP1-179, send to Members of the Washington State Building Council.

SBCC Agenda & How to Log In

Washington State Truck Parking Action Plan Metroquest Survey

September 20, 2021

The Washington State Legislature is seeking feedback from the trucking industry, especially truck drivers, on truck parking issues and strategies as part of a Truck Parking Action Plan for Washington State. 

Your firsthand knowledge will help the Legislature better understand the current issues and create strategies to address near and long-term truck parking needs.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey below and share it within your organization through September 30, 2021.

You can visit the Truck Parking Action Plan website for more information.

Washington State Emergency Heat Exposure Rules Increases Protection for Outdoor Workers 

Employers Must Take Additional Precautions to Prevent Heat-Related Illness

July 9, 2021

TUMWATER — The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) filed an emergency rule today to provide increased protection for employees exposed to extreme heat, including those working in agriculture, construction and other outdoor industries. The emergency Outdoor Heat Exposure rule clarifies proactive steps that employers must take to prevent outdoor workers from suffering heat-related illness.

“The heat experienced in our state this year has reached catastrophic levels. The physical risk to individuals is significant, in particular those whose occupations have them outdoors all day,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Our state has rules in place to ensure these risks are mitigated, however, the real impacts of climate change have changed conditions since those rules were first written and we are responding.”

The new regulations, which take effect on July 13, are in addition to existing rules. When the temperature is at or above 100 degrees, employers must respond to the extreme heat by:

  • Provide water that is cool enough to drink safely;
  • Allow and encourage workers to take additional paid preventative cool-down rest to protect from overheating;
  • Be prepared by having a written outdoor heat exposure safety program and providing training to employees; and,
  • Respond appropriately to any employee with symptoms of heat-related illness.

The emergency rules update existing rules that are in place annually from May through the end of September. The existing rules already require ready access to at least one quart of drinking water per worker per hour, an outdoor heat exposure safety program with training, and an appropriate response to workers who are experiencing heat-related illness symptoms.

L&I will file an official notification for permanent rulemaking. Known as a CR-101, the notification is the first step in the process of updating the existing state Outdoor Heat Exposure Rule established in 2008.

“The recent heat wave is a reminder that extreme temperatures can be a real danger in the workplace. With more hot weather on the way, we’re taking action now,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “The emergency rule clarifies existing requirements and outlines commonsense steps employers must take to keep the workers who are responsible for growing our food, paving our roads, and putting up our buildings safe on the job.”

Craig Blackwood, acting assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said the agency is already stepping up awareness and outreach efforts to amplify the existing rules and the tools in place to help employers and workers.

“In most cases, employers are doing the right thing and complying with the current heat stress rules,” said Blackwood. “The emergency rule clarifies the requirements and prompts employers to plan ahead for any further extreme heat waves that may happen this summer. As one of only three states in the nation with an outdoor heat stress rule, we have a good foundation to build on,” he said.

Working outdoors in hot weather is a health hazard that can result in serious medical conditions, including disability or death. Washington has on average 55 workers’ compensation claims per year for heat-related illnesses.

 If you work outside, remember to start your workday fully hydrated, drink at least a quart of water every hour, know the early warning signs of heat stress and pay close attention to how you are feeling, and take regular breaks to cool yourself down. If you feel sick, stop working, move to a shaded place if possible, and tell someone so they can help monitor your symptoms or get help.

In the coming months, L&I will gather information from stakeholders to help create an initial draft of the updated Outdoor Heat Exposure rule. Like all permanent rulemaking processes, there will be opportunities for public input during the process.

Visit L&I’s Be Heat Smart web page for additional steps employers can take to protect employees working in hot temperatures.

For media information: Dina Lorraine, L&I Public Affairs, 360-972-4868

Connect with L&I: L&I Newsroom | Facebook | Twitter

What You Should Now About… Washington Coronavirus Response: Economic Resiliency Team – Joint Information Center, Camp Murray

June 3, 2021

View the Response Here or Click Image Below

 

WA Cares Fund Program Overview: A PowerPoint presentation on the new Long Term Care Act that has a Payroll Tax Going into Effect January 1, 2022.

View Presentation Here or Click Image Below

Masked and Distancing Requirements Are Changing: Key COVID-19 Updates for Fully Vaccinated Workers

May 21, 2021

View Updates Here or Click Flyer Below

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