Today the Senate Committee on Trade and Economic Development listened to Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, testify about how her comprehensive economic-development reform package would help businesses in Washington to not only survive but create jobs. Senate Bills 5679, 5680, 5718, and 5765 – all introduced by Brown – are high-priority bills for the Senate’s bipartisan Majority Coalition Caucus.
“When this coalition formed last year it was in support of three overarching goals: jobs, education and a sustainable budget,” Brown said. “As I told the committee at today’s public hearing, my bills will help reform the way businesses interact with state government, allowing them to streamline processes and possibly freeing up capital to invest in new job creation. That’s why I expect we’ll see these bills come before the full Senate after they’re approved by the trade and economic development committee.”
SB 5679 would help improve the state’s business climate and stimulate job creation by requiring certain state agencies to establish a process for formally reviewing their rules. Brown said the bill originated from the state auditor’s 2012 findings that three agencies’ rules were not consistent with the review process set forth in Executive Order 06-02. Her legislation would require the Department of Ecology, the Department of Labor and Industries and the Department of Health to annually perform a formal review of their rules and establish a process for effectively retiring rules when applicable.
SB 5680 would promote economic development by reforming the state’s Business Licensing Service, the state’s primary business-licensing portal. BLS registers businesses, renews licenses and provides related services for approximately 40,000 businesses monthly, and has more than 115 state licenses available through its website. Brown’s bill, also inspired by the state auditor’s 2012 report, would remove two agencies and add 16 to the list required to provide all their licenses online through the BLS website. Each agency would also provide an annual report to the state Department of Revenue.
In 2012 the state Office of the Chief Information Officer unveiled an action plan for creating a single online location through which businesses could conduct all their interactions with state government. SB 5718 would require the Legislature to monitor the progress of that action plan and give the OCIO until November to provide the Legislature with a plan for establishing performance benchmarks and for measuring the results of implementing the one-stop business portal.
SB 5765 would create a pilot business regulatory efficiency program administered by the Department of Commerce, the goal of which would be to improve the regulatory environment for businesses in Washington. Together with the Office of Regulatory Assistance and the Office of Accountability and Performance, the commerce department must conduct multi-jurisdictional regulatory streamlining projects that impact specific industry sectors, beginning with the state’s manufacturing sector.
“The fact that all four of my bills are co-sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats speaks volumes to how badly these reforms are needed in our state,” Brown continued. “Few things in state government receive wholehearted bipartisan support, but making it easier for companies to do business in Washington is something everyone can get behind.”
Brown added that she expects her bills to be approved before the end of Friday to meet the Legislature’s first deadline of the 2013 session, for policy committees to take action on legislation.