2020 Washington … State New Rules

by Ian Smay

The turn of the decade will bring several new laws in Washington state, ranging from rules about smoking to minimum wage increases.
Four of the biggest new laws will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, while others will start later in the year.
The following are some of the biggest law changes coming to Washington state in 2020.
4 laws going into effect on Jan. 1

1. Minimum wage increases to $13.50 an hour
Washington voters passed Initiative 1433 in 2016, setting increases to the state’s minimum wage every year from 2017 to 2020, when it will reach $13.50 an hour.

In 2019, the minimum wage raised to $12.00 an hour from $11.50 an hour in 2018. After 2020, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries is required to make an adjustment to minimum wage based on cost-of-living figures provided by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W, for short.

Before Initiative 1433 was passed in 2016, minimum wage in Washington was $9.47 an hour, which it stood at for 2015 and 2016. The last time before 2016 that minimum wage didn’t rise each year in Washington was between 2009 and 2010, when it stayed at $8.55 an hour.

The last time the Washington minimum wage was the same the federal minimum wage was 1997, when it was $5.15 an hour.
In Washington, there are a few types of employees that employers can pay less than minimum wage.
According to Labor and Industries, these exceptions include:
Workers with Disabilities
However, beginning in July 2020, state agencies cannot pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage
This includes people learning while on the job, but the employer must prove that certain conditions are met and that there are no experienced workers available

Student Learners
Includes students working in part-time vocational training programs or job training programs that correspond with the worker’s education
Student Workers
Includes students working part-time at a “qualified educational institutional” to help pay for school costs. This worker cannot have been hired in place of an experienced worker
Includes those working in jobs/vocations that require an apprenticeship

Employers must apply for certificates to pay employees they feel meet these requirements at less than minimum wage.

2. Smoking age rises to 21

The smoking and vaping age in Washington was set to rise from 18 to 21 on Jan. 1, 2020, but a new federal law recently implemented this change for all U.S. states.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation into law in April making it so those who want to buy tobacco, vaping products and/or e-cigarettes have to be 21 years old. Anyone who sells to anyone under the age of 21 can be penalized under the new law.
The law only raises the age for tobacco and vaping sales, not possession.
According to the Washington Attorney General’s Office, those between the ages of 18-20 when the laws go into effect will not be grandfathered in, meaning it will again be illegal for them to buy tobacco products.
Washington joins at least eight states, including Oregon, in raising the smoking age to 21.
While smoking among youth is down, according to a statewide youth survey, the number of youth vaping has been on the rise in Washington.
The bill, which was 2017-18 House Bill 1054, was passed by the Washington State Legislature by a vote of 63-35.

3. Family leave

The rules for family leave for workers in Washington state are also changing in 2020.
Starting at the new year, a new insurance program called Paid Family Medical Leave is going into effect, and any person who worked at least 820 hours in the last 12 months and had a qualifying life event can take advantage of the policy. This equals about 20.5 weeks at 40 hours a week.

Workers can receive between 12 and 18 weeks of paid leave depending on circumstances for the following qualifying life events:

  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Serious illness or health condition, including mental health or addiction illnesses
  • Serious illness or health condition of a qualifying family member
  • Certain military events involving family, including the return of a deployed family member

insurance premiums that cover the family leave are split between the employer (one-third) and the employees (two-thirds) for most employers, according to Washington Labor and Industries. Many Washington workers have already seen a few dollars come out of each paycheck in 2019 to fund the program.

Federal employers and employees, federally recognized tribes and the self-employed are exempt from the new state family leave rules. However, the latter two can decide to opt-in.
RELATED: Paid medical and family leave starts in Washington in January

4. Car seat rules

Changes to Washington state’s car seat laws will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, changes to the law include:
Children up to 2 years old must be in a rear-facing car seat
Children 2-4 years old must be in a car seat with a harness, front or back facing
Children 4 years old or older and under 4-foot 9-inches tall must be in a booster seat with a seat belt or in a harness seat
Children over 4-foot 9-inches tall can be seated with a properly fitted seat belt
Children up to 13 years old must ride in the back seat when possible
The penalty for breaking the new car seat rules is a traffic ticket.
This means that some kids as old as middle-school aged could be riding in a car seat.

New laws going into effect later in the year

Overtime rules
For the first time since the 1970s, Washington is overhauling its overtime rules.
The Department of Labor and Industries announced the rule changes on Dec. 11, which will go in effect on July 1, 2020.
The new rules will make an estimated 259,000 additional workers eligible for overtime pay by the time the rules are fully implemented in 2028, with another 235,000 workers having protections strengthened.
Starting on July 1, the minimum salary threshold needed for a company to not pay a worker overtime rates increases from $250 a week to $675 a week, which places the new threshold to 1.5 times Washington’s minimum wage.
The minimum salary threshold will continue to increase yearly until 2028, when it will reach a rate of about $1,603 a week, or $83,356 a year.
In the years after 2028, the threshold will increase to match minimum wage increases caused by inflation.
The new rules also change the criteria for when an employer is exempt from paying an employee overtime. The exemptions will stipulate that workers must have a fixed salary, perform a certain list of duties and make more money than the threshold.
This puts Washington’s rules more in-line with federal regulations.

New rules regarding gift card expiration dates
Have you ever received a gift certificate for a birthday or other occasion, only to forget about it and have it expire before you use it?
Well, starting July 1, 2020, this will no longer be an issue in Washington.
Thanks to House Bill 1727, businesses in Washington can no longer give out gift certificates that have an expiration date, fee or dormancy charge. This includes for gift certificates given as part of a purchase of “personal property or services.”
However, an expiration date can be issued still if it is part of a rewards or loyalty program, or if it is given to a charitable organization without being exchanged for anything.

for more … krem.com

image from the internet



2002 – The U.S. Justice Department announced that it was pursuing a criminal investigation of Enron Corp. The company had filed for bankruptcy on December 2, 2001.


WASHINGTON (CNN/Money) — The Department of Justice has opened a major criminal investigation into Enron Corp., the once mighty energy trader that filed the largest bankruptcy in United States history, government officials told CNN Wednesday.
The Justice officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the department has formed a task force that includes attorneys from the fraud section of the Justice Department’s criminal division in Washington and investigators from various U.S. Attorney’s offices, including those in Houston, San Francisco and New York.
The details on the size and scale of the investigation have not been determined, the Justice officials said.
An Enron attorney said the consolidation of probes by various U.S. Attorney’s offices around the country is actually a positive for the company.
“I’m pleased they’re going to consolidate any investigation in Washington,” said Bob Bennett, an attorney representing Enron in Washington. “It makes life a lot easier. I wish Congress would follow the same lead.”
Bennett said the investigation is not a surprise.

Joseph Berardino, the CEO of Enron auditor Arthur Andersen, testified before a congressional committee in December that his firm had told Enron’s audit committee that some of the company’s actions might have been illegal.
In addition, Andrew Fastow, Enron’s former chief financial officer, announced in December that he had retained both civil and criminal attorneys to represent him in various probes of the company’s collapse. And recent days have seen increasing congressional scrutiny of the company’s operations, along with its ties to top members of the Bush administration.
One Justice Department official told CNN, “The investigation is open.” The official would not say when the investigation had started, only that it had begun before Wednesday and that the criminal investigation is under way.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, while refusing to discuss the specifics of any administration action, said, “The president has said that all agencies across the government that have legitimate reason to should look into this and appreciate the importance of Enron’s bankruptcy on Enron employees and other people who are affected.”
Among the investors hurt by the collapse of the company stock are Enron employees who were barred from selling plummeting Enron shares from their retirement accounts.
The Labor Department and Securities and Exchange Commission already have launched civil investigations, and legislators have demanded an investigation of what the Bush administration may have known about Enron’s financial problems when White House officials — including Vice President Dick Cheney — met with Enron representatives last year.
In a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., dated Jan. 3, the White House disclosed for the first time that Cheney or members of the White House’s energy task force met six times with representatives from Enron.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., called Wednesday for more hearings into Enron’s meetings with Cheney and members of the While House’s energy task force.
“These meetings should be brought to light so that we can tell how the public interest was served,” Dingell told CNNfn. Dingell is the ranking Democrat on the House Energy Committee.
Cheney himself met with Enron CEO Kenneth Lay in April for a half hour and discussed energy policy issues. But the two did not discuss Enron’s financial situation, according to the White House.
The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations plans to send out 51 subpoenas on Friday to all Enron board members and officials since January 1999. Fastow, Lay, former President Jeffrey Skilling, and Enron’s adviser in its collapse, Arthur Andersen, will also receive subpoenas.
The subcommittee is not slated to hold a hearing until late spring or early summer, a member of Chairman Levin’s staff said.
Enron, which markets electricity and natural gas, delivers energy and other physical commodities, and provides financial and risk management services to customers around the world, filed for bankruptcy protection Dec. 2 with $62.8 billion in assets. It was the largest bankruptcy case in U.S. history, dwarfing Texaco’s filing in 1987 when it had $35.9 billion in assets.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen creditors to Enron have petitioned the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York to delay the sale of its wholesale trading unit set for Thursday. Salomon Smith Barney, a unit of Citigroup Inc. (C: Research, Estimates), and UBS Warburg have made formal bids for the unit.
Aquila Inc. and the Royal Bank of Scotland both questioned how Enron would use the proceeds from the sale. Aquila said it did not want Enron to use the proceeds from the sale “to fund or pay the costs and expenses” arising from its bankruptcy filing without the court’s approval.
An Enron lawyer told CNNfn Wednesday that the auction will likely go ahead as planned Thursday, with the winning bid announced on Friday. Enron is selling 51 percent of its energy trading business, court documents said.
Also on Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that she has the authority to freeze $1.1 billion in assets belonging to Enron executives. The ruling relates to a lawsuit from Amalgamated Bank that alleges that Enron executives artificially inflated the price of the company’s stock.
The bank claims that Enron insiders gained at least $1.1 billion by selling more than 17.3 million shares of stock during the past three years.
Shares of Enron (ENE: Research, Estimates) gained 6 cents, or 8 percent, to close Wednesday trading at 79 cents.