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WIN Articles for April 5, 2017

Regulatory overreach costs billions

By Jan Teague, President/CEO

This is my favorite topic to complain about after having worked on taming various regulations for my entire career.  The U.S. Chamber just put out a few facts on the Federal problem that are worth sharing.

There have been over 190,000 regulations added since 1976 backed by hundreds of thousands of guidance documents, opinion letters and orders.  Just between 2008 and 2016, federal agencies issued 32,882 regulations and 3,261 significant rules that would impact competition in the economy.  Others add direct costs of which the U.S. Chamber has identified the top 140.

The chamber cautions about careful evaluation in trying to cut red tape.  It is too complicated and can result in unintended consequences.  The U.S. Chamber wants to look at those top 140 regulations that have cost the economy the most.  It wants the public more involved with the agency process.  Agencies tend to overlook doing any cost analysis that would help.

The U.S. Chamber has identified the EPA as the agency that imposed the greatest amount of burden; 36 of the 140 rules accounted for $72.7 billion of the $130 billion cost of the rules.

Congress is looking at passing the Regulator Accountability Act (RAA) that would require the most expensive regulations to go through an open and transparent process, including public hearings and require the use of the best available evidence to ensure that rules wouldn’t impose an unnecessary burden on the economy.

Can new regulations be slowed down to help boost the economy?  It’s hard to say.

Just this week, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a challenge to President Trump’s order that delays the Department of Energy from requiring upgraded manufacturing standards on 60 categories of appliances and equipment.

It’s not easy to stop new regulations.  Keep in mind, this story doesn’t include local or state governments.  It is just an example of the problem.


WRA raises concerns with House tax bill

By Mark Johnson, Senior VP of Government Affairs

I raised several objections to the House tax proposal (HB 2186) at a Finance Committee meeting earlier this week.

In short, WRA feels the proposed new tax package would hurt small business owners nearing their retirements and discourage sales at stores, particularly those located near borders with neighboring states.

The bill would:

  • Impose a capital gains tax that, in effect, is an income tax.
  • Add a 20 percent surcharge to business and occupation taxes
  • Sour the state’s current sales tax exemption for qualified out-of -state shoppers by making them apply for sales tax refunds instead of getting the tax break at the time of purchase.
  • Tax bottled water that now is free of sales tax.

The Senate has passed a proposed balanced budget that does not rely on new taxes. Click here to read a Washington Research Council policy brief on the Senate’s spending plan. The House has passed a spending plan but has not yet been able to garner 50 votes to pass HB 2186, the tax plan to fund it

WRA has reservations with several aspects of the proposed House budget.

A capital gains tax will hurt smaller merchants. Many of them build up their businesses in hopes of selling them for retirement. A capital gains tax unfairly punishes them.

B&O taxes are paid on gross receipts, so if your business lost money, you still pay the tax. Tacking a 20 percent surcharge on top of that obligation unnecessarily punishes retailers and threatens the livelihoods of those that are struggling.

Washington retailers along our border with Oregon tell me they depend for the sales tax exemption for from 40 percent to 60 percent of their business from Oregon residents who face no sales tax in their home state. A Citizens Tax Preference Commission has recommended that Washington retain its sales tax incentive so as not to endanger jobs jeopardized by lost sales. British Columbia once tried a tax remittance program similar to the House’s recommendation but later repealed it.

WRA objects to taxing bottled water, which is exempt because it is food, which is not subject to tax in Washington State. A new tax will increase costs and discourage sales to which WRA must object.

WRA does support two concepts contained in HB 2186. Raising the B&O tax exemption for businesses that have to file to $250,000 in gross sales is a step in the right direction and will help the smallest merchants, especially new businesses.

Finally, WRA members strongly support leveling the competitive playing field between brick-and-mortar and online merchants. HB 2186 includes language similar to a Colorado law to require online sellers to charge sales tax, but concerns have been raised about the privacy of customers’ information.

We are committed to working with all stakeholders to draft a workable solution that will help the state collect an estimated $540 million in owed sales and use taxes.


Opposition builds for Seattle soda tax

Seattle small business owners staged a protest this week against Mayor Ed Murray’s goal of imposing a tax on distributors of certain soft drinks.

More than 150 small business owners signed a letter and sent it to Murray asking that he reconsider the idea. It would require distributors to pay 2 cents per ounce and add an estimated $1.36 to each two-liter bottle of soda.

The owners fear cost increases will hurt sales and cited hundreds of beverage industry layoffs in Philadelphia where a soda tax has been enacted.

Under Murray’s notion, the tax wouldn’t apply to diet soda and other drinks with artificial sweeteners. Murray has stated he intends to propose the tax later this year.

Merchants concerned with the idea should contact John Engber, WRA Director of the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle, at 206-919-0316 or at


Read more on this in The Seattle Times.


Join our phone call Thursday about paid family leave

By Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services

 I’m continuing to represent retailers in talks with state legislators regarding a possible bill to require paid family leave statewide.

I’ll be hosting a teleconference at 1:30 p.m. this Thursday seeking ideas from members and to update them on outcomes from the negotiations. If you want to join the call, contact me directly at 360-200-6452 or at tammie@retailassociation.org.

My focus in negotiations with legislators addresses making sure that paid family leave is affordable for small businesses and mirrors requirements in the federal family leave law. The federal law applies to businesses with 50 or more employees.

I’m also pleased to report that HB 1755, a workers’ compensation bill we’re supporting, has moved onto the Senate’s calendar for a floor vote. The House already has passed the bill unanimously.

The bill would require settlement negotiators to keep companies informed about the progress of talks in injury cases involving third parties. An example could be a delivery driver injured in an accident with a motorist not employed with the same company.

Too often now, affected companies do not learn of settlement terms until after negotiations are completed. This can leave them poorly prepared for new expenses that could result from a settlement.

I hope the Senate and Governor will agree with the House and sign this bill into law.


Budgets dominate final days of 2017 session

Reconciling House and Senate state budget proposals is dominating the work of the Legislature as the 2017 sessions heads toward its final days. Adjournment is scheduled for April 23.

Adopting a budget is the Legislature’s sole requirement of the session. Regardless, WRA is working diligently on scores of remaining retail-related policy and fiscal bills still under consideration, many of which are expected to get final votes.

Here is a status summary of key bills:

  • Two of three bills to combat organized retail crime remain alive, SB 5632 and SB 5635. However, House Democrats are reluctant to add “concealment” of merchandise as a reason to question suspects inside a store, as provided in HB 5633. 5632 aims to curb flash mob robberies where at least 7 or more accomplices descend on a store to steal large quantities of merchandise. SB 5635 allows prosecution of aggregate thefts with special circumstances and increases penalties for thieves that use tools to commit crimes. WRA supports the bills.
  • A bill to require employers to accommodate pregnant employees,  HB 1796, has passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate. SB 5835 has passed the Senate and is under consideration in the House. WRA is neutral on the bills.
  • HB 2005, which would simplify obtaining a business license, has passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate. SB 5777 passed the Senate and is under consideration in the House. WRA supports the bills.

SB 5312, which would prohibit certain employers from inquiring about criminal histories until after an applicant has been deemed qualified for a job, has passed the Senate and is being considered in the House. WRA has been monitoring consideration of the bill. WRA has concerns that pre-emption is not included in the bills to prevent cities from enacting their own laws.


Lens sorts through the budgetlens

School funding will dominate the remainder of the session, scheduled for an April 23 adjournment. Some legislators think enough can be spent on schools without raising taxes, while others disagree.

A new budget will not be approved until legislators can bridge their differences.

Meanwhile, The Lens, the online news source of the Business Institute of Washington, broke down the Senate and House budget numbers and outlined the political differences among legislators in a recent story. Some are predicting those differences will keep the Legislature from passing a budget without staying overtime in Olympia.


State AG sues Eyman for alleged campaign finance infractions

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has sued initiative promoter Tim Eyman for a series of alleged campaign finance infractions. The case resulted from an investigation by the state Public Disclosure Commission.

In a news release, Ferguson said he has accused Eyman of:

  • Improper personal use of $308,000 in contributions to political committees.
  • Concealing contributions totaling $490,185.
  • Misleading finance reporting.

The lawsuit also accuses a signature gathering firm with colluding to conceal campaign funds that were allegedly funneled to Eyman.

The complaint is in Thurston County Superior Court.

Eyman was barred from serving as a treasurer for political committees in a 2002 agreement.  Read Ferguson’s press release here.

Source: Washington Attorney General


Safety tip of the week:

Aging workers may need lighting adjustments

The single largest missing ingredient in workplaces to assist aging workers is proper light and whether it is right for the task at hand. A lighting plan that uses more indirect rays, especially with computer use, creates a better working environment.

Using task-specific lighting is important.  This can be accomplished by using table and desk lamps with soft white lights (or filtered clear bulbs) to reduce glare.  Reducing glare contributes to workstation comfort and in the work area will help to minimize falls.

Pools of light can distort perception of height and depth that could lead to stumbling or tripping.  Uneven brightness patterns can produce shadows or create the illusion of steps or edges where the light and shadow meet.  In those areas, you should introduce gradual changes in light levels.

Each employee and job type needs to be assessed to best accommodate the situation.  The objective is to reduce the possibility of an accident.  Additional information can be found at RASI Safety TV.

Our Retro members also can find resources in the RASI Safety Library, in the Aging in the Workplace section.

Lighting modifications to adjust or install additional lighting often are simple and affordable. Such changes can help seasoned employees and those who are younger, as well.

WRA employs Rick Means as a Safety Specialist who is available to members to help draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943-9198, Ext. 18 or rick.means@retailassociationservices.com


Register for a free webinar this month on a return-to-work program

WRA will host a free webinar later this month to explain a useful return-to-work program that employers should consider.

The April 19, 10 a.m. (PT) presentation will explain the Preferred Worker program. It offers financial incentives to employ workers with permanent work restrictions in medically-approved jobs.

L&I’s Chris Van Eecke will make the one-hour presentations. Register here.


Follow our tweets this sessiontwitter-logo-2

Twitter can be a useful tool in helping WRA’s followers and others to keep up with developments regarding bills under consideration in the 2017 session

Many followers of the Legislature don’t have the time to attend hearings or have to wait until the next day for the newspaper to arrive. But by following WRA @waretail on Twitter, we alert you ahead of time to key testimony offered by our lobbyists and then follow with live tweets during key hearings and selected voting. We also link you to the full text of bills.

Please follow us on Twitter for retail-related developments throughout the year.


Save money with WRA’s discount shipping partner

FedEx and UPS have higher shipping rates this year.

WRA extends an offer to save money on shipping small packages by singing up with Partnership, WRA’s discount shipping partner.

To enroll and receive exclusive discounts on select FedEx® services, visit PartnerShip.com/99WRA. For more information, email sales@PartnerShip.com or call 800-599-2902.

Learn more about how the 2017 rate increases will affect your shipping costs by downloading a free research paper at PartnerShip.com/RateIncrease.

Source: Partnership


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.

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