We have new faces on our board of directors
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
I’m pleased to announce three new members of the Washington Retail Association Board of Directors. They’re filling board vacancies carried into the year due to corporate transitions and planned departures.
Please help me welcome the following new board members:
- J.R. Burke, Target stores
J.R. is based out of the Minneapolis headquarters and handles Target government affairs business throughout the Northwest. He joined Target this month after serving in a similar government affairs role for Polaris, a world-famous off-road vehicle manufacturer.
- Dan López, Best Buy
Dan is the company’s Senior Manager of Government Affairs. He serves on several state retail association boards across the country focusing on sound retail policy to ensure fair competition and technology innovation.
- Ben Pearlman, Lowe’s
Ben leads state government affairs efforts for the northern region of Lowe’s home improvement stores. Ben also serves on several retail association boards across the country. He’s also served as staff in the Massachusetts General Court and Congress.
Our board remains critical to the health and continued strategic growth of the Association. As a value-based organization, we continue to build upon our 30-year reputation of trust and transparency. We pride ourselves on the flexibility, expertise and commitment to excellence our members have come to count on through the years.
I look forward to working with this stellar team of professionals as we position the Association as a pivotal player in helping to shape retail’s evolution in the months and years ahead.
House hears petition signature bill
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
The House State Government, Elections and Information Technology committee heard Senate Bill 5397 on Monday and I was there to testify in support.
The bill would require paid signature gathering companies to register with the Public Disclosure Commission before they began collecting signatures on ballot measures. WRA members hear complaints that some customers feel harassed in front of stores. The bill would allow WRA members hearing complaints to contact authorities to determine the identity of companies and employees gathering signatures. It also requires training of paid signature gatherers.
See an interview by Communications Director Jim Szymanski about this topic with one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Sam Hunt, (D-Olympia), here.
Senator Judy Warnick (R-Moses Lake) is the bill’s prime sponsor.
Retailers want to provide a safe and inviting shopping environment for their guests. When there are encounters or complaints from customers, it pulls trained loss prevention officers away from their primary mission, preventing theft, to have to intervene when a paid gatherer gets out of line.
Retailers want to protect their customers from any unnecessary harassment. It is high time the Legislature and Governor adopted this sensible approach. Please support Senate Bill 5397.
WRA supports amendments for gender pay equity bill
By Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer
WRA continues its support of amendments to House Bill 1506 calling for gender pay equity across the state.
WRA supports gender pay equity in principle. But it also supports amendments that clarify some concerns and questions among employers.
Chief among the amendments is one that would hold municipalities to the terms of a state law and prohibit them from enacting separate pay equity laws with different requirements.
Differing requirements in laws across the state put an undue burden on retailers with multiple locations including the inequity of paying employees doing similar work different wages, depending upon the location of their store.
The bill has already passed the House of Representatives. WRA urges the state Senate to call for a floor vote including the amendments the association seeks. The House then would need to approve the amended bill to finish in the form WRA favors.
Seattle Office of Labor Standards provides webinar on updated labor laws
By Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer
I attended a webinar on updates to the Seattle Office of Labor Standards labor laws this week. Download the Powerpoint presentation here.
Among the key highlights were to the modifications to the paid sick leave program. OLS has indicated a soft launch of enforcement on the changes from January to June 2018. There are updated posters and details with Q&A available in the Powerpoint presentation.
If you have additional questions on the updates, please contact the Seattle Office of Labor Standards at 206-256-5297.
State updates draft rules for paid family and medical leave
Employment Security has posted updated draft rules for a paid family and medical leave program. The state will begin collecting premiums for it in January 2019 and begin paying benefits in January 2020.
The first phase of rulemaking relates to voluntary plans, collective bargaining agreements and premium liability.
The next public rulemaking meeting will be from 9 a.m. to noon on March 6 at Employment Security, Park Place Conference Rooms A and B, 640 Woodland Square Loop S.E., in Lacey. To participate by phone, call 360-407-3780 with the passcode: 252630#.
Legislature has about two weeks to scheduled adjournment
Now that the House and Senate have traded bills still alive in the 2018 session, state lawmakers are facing a Friday deadline to take final action on policy-related legislation. Today marks the 45th day of the current 60-day session scheduled for adjournment on March 8.
Both houses also are trading state budget proposals this week. Any budget-related bills involving taxes and revenue are exempt from preliminary Legislature deadlines and can be debated until adjournment.
Meanwhile, the Washington Retail Association continues monitoring several key bills important to retailers.
Among them are:
- House Bill 2967, capital gains tax. WRA is opposing this proposed 7 percent tax on the sale of personal assets such as a family business. Opponents believe passage would tax income, currently illegal in Washington State.
- House Bill 2903, non-compete agreements. WRA is opposed to the bill that would prohibit employers from disallowing part-time employees from holding a job with another employer. The bill has been stalled in the Legislature.
- Senate Bill 5251, tourism funding. The bill to restore state tourism promotion funding has passed the Senate and is scheduled for further action in the House tomorrow. The state eliminated tourism promotion funding during the last recession. WRA supports the bill because increased tourism leads to greater retail sales.
- Senate Bill 6048, raising the age of tobacco to 21. The bill is scheduled for a Senate committee hearing tomorrow. WRA will testify in opposition because it will lower the revenue of some member companies and encourage shoppers to purchase out-of-state or through tribal suppliers.
HB 1047, drug take back. It would require drug manufacturers to establish a take-back program for unwanted prescription drugs. WRA is in support of the bill.
Vocational counseling consulting is among WRA’s services to Retro members
By Terry Hospecger, Director of Business Development
Included in the many services provided to members enrolled in the Group Retrospective Rating Program is vocational counseling consulting.
We have contracted with vocational counselors throughout the state to provide consulting for our members and the claims management team. Members of the Retro program at times have return-to-work challenges for their employees and difficult vocational decisions to make. Our consultants help us to evaluate those challenges. The goal of our Claims Analysts is to help members save money while finding workers employable with additional training if needed.
This is a service designed to develop the skills and abilities of an employee to the point they can perform a specific vocation in a productive way. This is often provided following an accident or development of a disability in order to help an individual work with modifications or transition to a new job.
Vocational counseling often begins with a job analysis in order to gather information and recommend work accommodation through vocational rehabilitation. This focuses on the description of the job and then compares the job to the individual’s capabilities. This is typically done to determine if the employee can continue in their current capacity with accommodations. Many times, Washington Retail Association can work with Labor and Industries to get reimbursement to an employer for tools to help modify the job based on the vocational counselor’s recommendation.
Employers can also be reimbursed up to 50 percent of wages for 66 days or $10,000 when they modify a job for an injured worker. We help our members get that reimbursement.
Providing this service is not an additional expense to members. It is included after they enroll in the Group Retrospective Rating program we administer for Labor & Industries in specific risk classifications.
We would love to hear from you with ideas on other services you would like us to provide for your companies. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State issues strong revenue report
The state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council last week issued a report projecting that state revenues could increase by $1.3 billion higher than previously expected by 2021.
The report will be pivotal as the state Legislature debates further increases in public school funding while desiring to reduce property taxes. It also comes as the state House and Senate this week have exchanged state budget proposals on which they are scheduled to agree by March 8.
State economist Steve Lerch attributed the optimistic forecast to a growing economy and hiring coupled with a federal tax cut expected to pump additional dollars into the economy through increased consumer spending.
The forecast is for increased tax revenues of $647 million in 2017-19, to $44.2 billion and increased revenues or $671 million in 2019-21, to $48.2 billion into the state general fund. State tax revenues have been increasing annually since 2011 at the end of the last recession.
Click here to review the announcement of revenue expectations.
WRA quoted in the article
One of this Legislative session’s pivotal debates is raising more funds for public schools while not raising or possibly cutting property taxes that were raised last year to accomplish the same goal.
House Bill 2967 is among the pending bills introduced in this debate. It would impose a 7 percent capital gains tax on the sale of personal assets such as family business. WRA opposes the bill.
WRA and other opponents note that healthy state revenue increases in recent years make it unnecessary to raise new taxes. The Lens, the online news source of the Business Institute of Washington, has a new article reviewing the capital gains tax and the debate surrounding it.
Mark Johnson, WRA’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, is quoted in the article from his testimony against the bill. He noted that it would penalize retirees who intend to live off proceeds from the sale of business and reduce their incomes.
In a related report, the Washington Research Council released a policy brief calling into question the constitutionality of a capital gains tax and terming it a risky and volatile revenue source for schools or property tax relief. Click here to review the brief.
Click here to read The Lens report.
Safety tip of the week
Get a free L&I workplace assessment
“WRA members are touting the benefits of their free Labor & Industries safety consultation” says, WRA Safety Specialist, Rick Means.
The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Consultation program allows businesses to request a safety consultation for which they cannot be fined if violations are discovered. However, the business owner would be subject to correct any violations found in the inspection.
Rick reports that one business in the Vancouver area requests visits every two years to keep his repair list short or up-to-date. To request a consultation click here.
Most businesses are not pro-active and often are surprised when inspectors arrive unannounced. In such a case, the owner is subject to possible fines after a surprise inspection.
The consultation program is a way of having a compliance-like officer visit your business to point out what inspectors are looking for, but with no fee or fine that can result.
If you have questions or need more information, contact Rick at 360-943-9198, Ext. 18 or email@example.com. WRA employs him, in part, to help members with safety planning and for suggestions on safety meeting topics.
WRA diversity statement
It’s essential to have a holistic strategic plan for diversity and inclusion. We encourage everyone to consider having a plan that connects with diverse people; creates a diverse workforce; fosters an inclusive work environment where different perspectives are valued; partners to share time, talent, and resources with our staff and with communities; and communicates these values with others.
In principle and in practice, we value access to leadership opportunity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, appearance, geographic location, or professional level. The association strives to accomplish this by serving as a model where we are working to help our staff, our volunteer leaders, our members, and our community embrace these principles.
Lens posts WRA’s opinion on opposition to energy saving bill
WRA’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Mark Johnson has written an opinion piece summarizing the association’s opposition to House Bill 2327. The bill seeks to make federal ENERGY STAR voluntary requirements binding state energy-saving requirements.
The opposition of WRA and various technology and retail companies rests on the bill being too broad in its approach. It lumps cutting edge technology such as computer and smartphones with common, lower tech appliances such as toilets and steam cookers. Opponents warn that this approach would stifle innovation and slow impressive gains in energy savings under voluntary terms in recent years.