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Sen. Keiser on TVW’s “Inside Olympia”

March 4th, 2019|


TVW discuss labor and workers’ rights legislation with Sens. Karen Keiser and Curtis King.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Legislation to increase transparency in drug pricing passed unanimously off the Senate floor today.

March 4th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Legislation to increase transparency in drug pricing passed unanimously off the Senate floor today.

“This bill will go a long way towards revealing the real cost of prescription drugs,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), sponsor of Senate Bill 5292. “As things stand, we really do not have publicly available drug pricing information. It’s past time to shed some light on this industry.  People should be able to know what the prescription drugs that they need and pay for actually cost to make and distribute. 

“The requirements in the bill are a good starting point for understanding the complicated drug supply chain that continually increases prices. All of us in the Senate have heard horror stories from our constituents about dramatic increases in their prescriptions,” Keiser said. “The unanimous passage of this bill by both Democrats and Republicans shows our state recognizes the urgent and vital need for transparency.”

SB 5292 would require the Health Care Authority (HCA) to compile an annual list of 10 prescription drugs that have a significant impact on state expenditures but are critical for public health. “That’s a good start, but I remain concerned that pharmaceutical companies will still not be required to give us advance notice before implementing large price increases. Advance notice would give consumers more purchasing options,” Keiser said.

SB 5292 would also require other entities in the drug supply chain, like pharmacy benefit managers, insurance carriers, and pharmacy service administrative organizations, to provide information such as rebates received and retained, lists of the costliest prescription drugs, and the impact of prescription drug price increases on premiums.

The HCA would be directed to compile all information collected and prepare an annual report to the Legislature on the overall impact of drug costs on health care premiums.

Having passed off the Senate floor, SB 5292 now heads to the House for further consideration.

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For information:    Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Senate legislation would protect vulnerable employees from sexual harassment

February 13th, 2019|

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Feb. 13, 2019

Senate legislation would protect vulnerable employees from sexual harassment

OLYMPIA – Employees who are vulnerable and isolated at work will have better protection against sexual harassment and assault as a result of legislation that passed unanimously off the Senate floor today. The bill was inspired by the personal stories of hotel housekeepers, office janitors and security guards who often work alone. A Frontline documentary, “Rape on the Night Shift,” revealed the frightening conditions isolated workers face.

“Protecting low-wage, isolated workers is the next step in ensuring harassment-free workplace for us all,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), sponsor of Senate Bill 5258.

“Housekeepers, janitors, security guards, and other individuals working alone or at night are extremely vulnerable to sexual harassment and exploitation,” Keiser said. “This unanimous bipartisan vote helps put us on our way to becoming one of the first states in the nation with expanded protections for vulnerable employees.”

SB 5258 would require certain employers that employ isolated workers to adopt a sexual harassment policy, provide mandatory sexual harassment training, provide a list of resources to employees, and provide an electronic panic button to each isolated worker.

Having passed off the Senate floor, SB 5258 now heads to the House for further consideration.

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For information:    Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326

Keiser: “I heard your concerns, we are not moving forward”

January 31st, 2019|

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Jan. 31, 2018

Keiser:  “I heard your concerns, we are not moving forward” 


“Thank you to everyone from across the state who have reached out to us in Olympia. I heard from hundreds of hairdressers who feared Senate Bill 5326 was a threat to their chosen profession. I want to be clear that it was never my intent to cause stress and anxiety to salon workers, much less jeopardize their livelihood. This entire process was an example of how democracy works best.

“As a legislator, it is my responsibility to listen when people tell me something is wrong and to thoughtfully make sure any legislative proposal achieves its intended goals without causing unintended consequences.

“Thanks to your outreach, it was made clear that this bill fell short of those requirements. I will still work hard to promote fair employment practices and will be focusing my time on legislation regarding non-compete clauses, legislation that hairstylists raised in our public hearing as a priority for them.

“That legislation, Senate Bill 5478, would limit non-compete contracts for both employees and independent contractors.

“I look forward to receiving input on SB 5478 and encourage people to continue engaging in the democratic process.” 

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For information:    Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326

Statement on SB 5326’s public hearing

January 28th, 2019|

I’ve heard from dozens of cosmetologists who were fearful that my intent was to take away their livelihood.  Let me say in the strongest possible terms that is not my intent, and I promise you it will not be the outcome of this effort. 

I hope removing the language regarding a booth rental ban will alleviate these concerns. The original bill was not fully understood as a proposal for tax fairness, which remains its primary goal.

The concerns I’ve heard have prompted two key changes to the bill:

  • The section banning booth rentals will be removed.
  • The scope of the bill will be broadened to apply to barbers.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about what the bill actually does. I hope that this hearing will result in a clearer understanding of the legislation.  Bills are always a work in progress, and no bill begins as it ends. 

The bill before us brings forward the question of tax fairness—for both stylists and salon owners, and whether two individuals performing equal work are getting equal treatment. 

Last summer, a Spokane woman who owns a small salon, contacted me to consider what she called the unfair treatment of salon owners who employ cosmetologists.  I was interested in her evidence and looked for corroboration.  I spoke to my own hair salon owner who agreed there was a big problem in the industry with some salon owners treating booth renters more like employees than true independent contractors. 

Research revealed that two states had already acted on this issue passing new laws. My bill was patterned on those successful laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Let me lay out part of the issue in our state: 

In 1991, the legislature passed a law that explicitly states booth renters are independent contractors for the purposes of B&O taxes.  That is current law; booth renters are independent contractors by legal definition. 

This created an unequal tax burden.

Consider two salons:

One is a salon owner who employs six cosmetologists, each of whom generates $50,000 a year in services and product sales.  The salon owner has revenues of $300,000 a year and is subject to our gross receipts tax, known as the B & O tax.  The salon owner must pay B & O taxes on those $300,000 dollars in revenues.

Or take the second case:  Another salon owner rents six booths to six cosmetologists who each generate $50,000 a year.  Each individual booth renter is separately reporting gross receipts that fall below the minimum tax rate of $56,000 a year, that is our state’s small business B & O tax exemption.

So not one penny of B & O tax is generated from the same $300,000 in gross receipts from the same activities. 

SB 5464 is scheduled for public hearing at 10 a.m. Monday before the Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce.

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For information:    Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7853

Keiser: Trump administration is holding workers hostage

January 15th, 2019|

OLYMPIA – Addressing the continued federal government shutdown affecting 800,000 workers across the country, Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines) released the following statement:

“I am proud that the state of Washington is working hard to give furloughed federal workers the unemployment benefits they deserve. Our state continues to put working families first in times of need.

“Unfortunately, state unemployment benefits that are being paid to out-of-work employees will need to be refunded by the federal government when it repays those employees the back pay they are due. It’s vital we make sure those funds are fully repaid and that the federal government doesn’t short our state.

“As the chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee, I am working closely with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the U.S. Department of Labor, and our Washington Congressional Delegation to make the process for overpayment recovery as compassionate and straightforward as possible when the shutdown ends and these employees return to work.

“There are options we are currently exploring, including:

  • Working with the Office of Personnel Management to see if, when backpay is awarded, they would deduct the amount owed by each claimant from their back paycheck and send directly to us. This would ensure the least hassle on behalf of the claimant and is an option we currently allow many employers and claimants.
  • Working with the U.S. Department of Labor to expedite conversations about prior interpretations about federal guidance related to unemployment overpayment recovery.
  • Working with our congressional delegation to try to find ways we can provide assistance to those workers working without pay.

“Almost 80 percent of the American workforce works paycheck to paycheck. These furloughed workers cannot go without a paycheck and still keep up with mortgage or utility payments and other pressing bills. This administration is forcing people to decide between paying their mortgage and taking their sick child to the doctor.

“President Trump is making it eminently clear how he views and values hardworking Americans across our nation.

“For years, we have fought to guarantee employee protections. We must, and will, continue to fight for working people more fiercely than ever.”

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For information:    Bre Weider, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7326

Sen. Keiser’s End of Session Newsletter

May 13th, 2018|

Click the link below to read Senator Keiser’s Session Newsletter

2018 Keiser EOS Newsletter

MEDIA ADVISORY – 33rd Legislative District Telephone Town Hall

March 13th, 2018|

MEDIA ADVISORY – 33rd Legislative District Telephone Town Hall

Who: Sen. Karen Keiser, Rep. Tina Orwall & Rep. Mia Gregerson –The 33rd Legislative District delegation representing part of King County including SeaTac, Des Moines, Normandy Park, and parts of Kent, Burien and Renton.

What: 33rd Legislative District telephone town hall meeting

When: 6-7 p.m. Thursday, March 15

Three ways to participate:

Over the phone – Calls will go out to thousands of homes throughout the 33rd legislative district. When constituents pick up, they will be able to listen live and ask their lawmakers a question. Those who do not get a call can join the town hall by dialing 877-229-8493 and entering ID Code 116286 at the prompt.

Sign up on via wireless phone at https://vekeo.com/whdc33/.

Livestream at: http://video.teleforumonline.com/video/streaming.php?client=16286.

Why: For state lawmakers to hear directly from their constituents on the issues they care about in the state Legislature, from schools to climate change, safer roads to fairer taxes.

  • Permalink Gallery

    Sexual harassment bills pass off House floor, head back to the Senate

Sexual harassment bills pass off House floor, head back to the Senate

March 3rd, 2018|

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Feb. 27, 2018

 

Sexual harassment bills pass off House floor, head back to the Senate

 

OLYMPIA — Three bills related to combatting workplace sexual harassment passed off the House floor unanimously today.

“I have been working on addressing sexual harassment for quite some time, and passing this group of bills off the floor in the House today is great news for the women of Washington,“ said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, sponsor of two of the three bills. “Right now, women are demanding a change, and it is incumbent that those with power listen. The fact that these bills were passed unanimously by both Democrats and Republicans in both chambers shows how seriously the Legislature is taking this issue.”

 

“In recent months, we have all been struck by the sheer volume and national discussion of prominent sexual harassment incidents across the country,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, sponsor of Senate Bill 6068. “We have seen that powerful perpetrators and enablers on company boards and other entities have hidden behind non-disclosure agreements to prevent the truth about patterns of behavior from coming out. This bill will lead to more truth and justice for victims.”

 

Brief Summary:

  • Senate Bill 5996 prohibits an employer from requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prevents the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault.
  • Senate Bill 6471 calls for the development of model policies to create workplaces that are safe from sexual harassment.
  • Senate Bill 6068 sheds light on repeat sexual harassers by removing barriers to lawsuits created by non-disclosure agreements.

 

Having passed the Senate but having been amended in the House, all three bills must now go through the concurrence process before heading to the governor’s office to be signed into law.

 

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For more information or interviews, Keiser: Bre Weider, (360) 786-7326

For more information or interviews, Frockt: Amelia Dickson, (360) 786-7535

  • Permalink Gallery

    Curious about the Legislative Public Records Act? Click here for the full story

Curious about the Legislative Public Records Act? Click here for the full story

February 28th, 2018|

In recent days, the news media has devoted unusually heavy coverage to the Legislative Public Records Act that was passed Friday by the Legislature. Since then, my office has received a high number of calls and emails from constituents asking about this legislation.

The media is in fact the plaintiff in the legal case that led to the court ruling that is the impetus for this bill, and the vast majority of news coverage has emphasized the media’s arguments while minimizing the Legislature’s side of the story. Not surprisingly, puzzled constituents are calling with lots of questions.

To learn more about this legislation and why it is needed, I encourage you to click here to read a summary, in simple but clear lay terms, that answers the most commonly asked questions. I believe this will give you a fuller picture, including a number of perspectives you will not find in news accounts and editorials on this matter. I urge you to weigh all sides and judge for yourself the merits of what this legislation does.

As you know, I hold strong beliefs in transparency and open government.  This bill has been widely misunderstood, so I appreciate this opportunity to clarify the importance and intent of this bill.

Please know that my door is always open to you and I encourage you to please contact my office if you have additional questions.

Sen. Karen Keiser