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Analysis: Salon policy becomes legislative lightning rod and more on Olympia's 'fire hose'

Capitol campus
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press

Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins says it’s hard to tell what will become a lightning-rod issue during the “fire hose” phase of the legislative session. So far this week, the lightning rod centered on hair salons. Jenkins talked with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about some of the many issues being discussed in Olympia.

Jenkins stresses that few of the many bills introduced at the beginning of the 105-day session will make it into law — roughly 15 to 20 percent, he said.

“This is the period of time where every idea under the sun is still on the table,” Jenkins said.  

Every day brings bill introduction sheets, ranging from eight to 10 pages or more, from each chamber. Day after day is packed with legislative committee hearings. “You can just gorge yourself on ideas,” he said.

The policy cutoff is still a few weeks away, Jenkins added, when the ideas will start to be pared down.

“It’s surprising what under-the-radar issues” get attention, Jenkins noted.

This week, it had to do with booth rentals at hair and nail salons. Many salons rent space to stylists instead of employing them. Now, a bill on the table seeks to require salon owners to pay into the state’s workers compensation and unemployment insurance systems for those stylists renting booths. 

“It’s caused a complete and total uproar in the industry,” Jenkins said. “Opponents came from all over the state to pack a public hearing to denounce the proposal.”

Jenkins added that the prime sponsor is trying to make changes to address the concerns. “She says she’s received threats over this,” he said. “Who would’ve thought that hair and nail salon policy would be the hot issue of 2019, but at least yesterday on the capitol campus, it was.”

Another issue on lawmakers’ radars this week was school safety amid the growing problem of gun violence. Alissa Parker — co-founder of the organization Safe and Sound Schools and the mother of Emily Parker, a young girl who was killed in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012 —testified in committee hearings this week.

Listen above to hear the full conversation with Jenkins, which includes remarks on the news of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s potential 2020 bid for president.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Kari Plog is a former KNKX reporter who covered the people and systems in Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, with an emphasis on police accountability.