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WIN Articles for February 15, 2017

WRA to engage more in Seattle politics

By Jan Teague, President/CEO

Last week, the WRA Board of Directors reviewed a strategic plan for developing a strong grassroots in Seattle.  The Board has authorized enough money to cover the costs for a Director, who is John Engber, and a grassroots developer.

I have hired an administrator, Jessica Tingle, who works in the office to help with details for the program.  The Board is interested in the program becoming self-supporting by next year.  The existing members will be asked to contribute to the Seattle grassroots effort.

One of the key observations the Board  had was that what happens in Seattle often gets considered in nearby cities or larger urban areas of the state.  The association needs to protect its retailers across the state.  The Board believes that starting with Seattle will make a difference for the entire state.

Much of what happens in Seattle is driven by the liberal city council.  These elected officials have a following of voters and the financial support of the unions.  The unions have also managed to get people hired as city employees and have locked up most opportunities for real dialogue on city regulation.

You will be hearing more on this effort in the coming weeks.  Watch for a letter that addresses the Board’s concerns.  I hope you will all decide that we do need to make our concerns known in a stronger way in Seattle.  I would appreciate your support.

Besides helping to fund the program, we will be looking for key contacts who can advise us on our best practices in various parts of the city.  You can make a difference in our success.  Stay tuned.


Bills seek to simplify business licensing

By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs

WRA this week testified in favor of two bills meant to simplify how businesses obtain operating licenses.

House Bill 2005 is prime sponsored by Representative Kris Lytton (D-Anacortes) and Senate Bill 5777 has Senator Sharon Brown (R-Kennewick) as the prime sponsor.

These bills will improve the business climate in the state by simplifying the administration of municipal general business licenses.  The first part of the bills requires cities to join the state’s business licensing service.  This will become a one-stop shop for a retailer to get all necessary city business licenses.

The second part of the bills directs cities to adopt uniform business licensing requirements to help businesses comply.  There currently is a mixture of different requirements that complicates the application process and adds costs.

For example.  I spoke with a WRA member who sells office furniture and supplies.  His business maintains dozens of city business licenses because he delivers to several municipalities in the region. He is the licensing “compliance officer” for his business.  Not only is the cumulative cost of all the licenses burdensome, he spends countless hours renewing existing licenses and buying new ones.

Even when this merchant only does one delivery to a city and never expects to return there, he is obligated to buy a license in that city.  There needs to be a fairer threshold of visits or volume of business in a city before it can require licensing.

HB 2005 and SB 5777 are long overdue.  We have the technology and ability to simplify procedures for retailers and other businesses.  I encourage the legislature to support these important bills.


We’re seeking your comments about paid sick and safe leave requirements

By Tammie Hetrick, Senior Vice President of Retail Services

 I met this week with Labor & Industries as part of its rulemaking for requiring employers to guarantee paid sick and safe leave time starting in January.

As part of that effort, L&I currently is asking for comments from businesses about whether they can adjust to the requirement that resulted from the passage of Initiative 1433 last November. That initiative also put in place an increase in the statewide minimum wage to $11 an hour this year and increasing for three years in a row afterward to $13.50.

L&I has provided a link where you can make comments about the current rulemaking. Unfortunately, that link allows others to piggyback on your comments and possibly start a debate you never intended.  You can, however, sign up to receive updates on the progress of rules.

I know many businesses are concerned about being able to adjust to these new payroll requirements.

Therefore, I’m asking you to e-mail your comments to me so that I can present them to L&I as you wished to express them. Otherwise, you run the risk of starting a debate that could compromise the points you want to make or worse, tempt you to engage in a time-wasting debate with someone who challenges your points.

We welcome your comments about paid sick and safe leave because they are valuable in the rulemaking process. However, it will be more productive and efficient if you e-mail me so that I can communicate your comments as you intended at future rulemaking meetings.

Please e-mail me at tammie@retailassociation.org or call me directly if you have any questions about the issue at 360-943-9198, Ext. 13.


WRA board meets legislators about important bills

 WRA’s Board of Directors met with key state legislators last week in Olympia to discuss retailers’ priorities for the 2017 session.

WRA board and staff members met last week with Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib (standing in front of flag).

WRA board and staff members met last week with Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib (standing in front of flag).

Members of the board explained their opposition to new taxes and raising the legal smoking age while supporting other bills to restore state tourism promotion and register firms that employ paid signature gatherers outside retail stores. Board members also voiced their support for continued reform of the state workers’ compensation system.

A bipartisan group of legislators heard from WRA’s board including Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, Deputy Minority Leader of the House Joel Kretz, House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, Senate Floor Minority Leader Marko Liias and Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib.

John Engber, WRA’s Seattle lobbyist, also explained his plans to increase the engagement of retailers with the Seattle City Council on several new business regulations that have been adopted or are under consideration.


Legislature nears bill deadline on Friday

Legislature committees working on policy matters must take action on bills by a deadline this Friday. Final committee action on fiscal bills is a week from Friday.

Today is Day 38 of the scheduled 105-day session, which puts it at just past the one-third mark of this year’s meeting. The main task is the adoption of a new state budget that meets a state Supreme Court order to fully fund public schools.

Nevertheless, WRA is tracking scores of other bills that could affect retailers. WRA members can review the entire log of bills being tracked by downloading our mobile app. Contact Director of Business Development Terry Hopsecger for more information at 360-943-9198, Ext. 24 or terry@retailassociationservices.com.

What follows is a summary of a few key bills on the watch list:

  • SB 5670, would require notice to state fund employers for certain workers’ compensation third-party settlements. Such notice is not currently required. The bill has been heard in a Senate committee with support from WRA.
  • HB 1047 would create a voluntary drug take back program at pharmacies. A House committee is scheduled to take action on the bill on Friday. WRA currently is neutral about the bill.
  • SB 5149 finances a family leave policy. WRA has formed a work group to analyze impacts from such a statewide policy. The bill is immune from preliminary action deadlines before the scheduled April 23 adjournment.
  • HB 1448 imposes requirements for accommodating pregnant employees with special needs. A House committee held a hearing on the bill earlier this month. WRA is investigating to gather comments from buisnesses.
  • WRA supports SB 5251 and HB 1123 that would restore a tourism promotion budget for the state.
  • SB 5397 would require companies employing paid signaturer gatherers to register with the Secretary of State. WRA supports the goal of protecting  the property rights of retailers if signature gatherers interfere with shoppers.

HB 1457 would create a back-to-school sales tax holiday for shoppers, which WRA supports. The bill is immune from cutoff and can be considered until adjournment.


State revenues continue to trend upward

Overall state tax revenues were 2.4 percent higher than forecasted for the period between November and February 10, according to the latest state report.

Taxes paid by retailers showed strength across all sectors with none showing year-over-year declines.

Total payments from retailers were up 6.2 percent in the month ending February 10 compared to the same month a year ago.

Among the monthly percentage leaders in the retail sector:

  • A 13.8 percent tax payment increase by motor vehicles and parts
  • A 13.6 percent increase for drug and health stores
  • An 11.7 percent increase from electronics and appliances.
  • Increases of 8.7 percent both from building materials and garden supplies, and furniture and home furnishings.
  • Online and catalog tax payments increased 8 percent.

The regular revenue updates from the Economic Revenue Forecast Council are important to the Legislature as it debates spending cuts and taxes in formulating the 2015-17 budget.

Another revenue review is scheduled on March 16, a little more than a month before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 23. Click here to read the entire revenue update.

Source: Economic Revenue Forecast Council


Retailers organize against border tax

 WRA has joined a national coalition of  businesses  in opposition to Congressional approval of a 20 percent tax on imports.

Americans for Affordable Products is under the leadership of the National Retail Federation, which has warned that prices would rise, sales would be hurt and layoffs would result in the retail industry. President Trump has suggested the tax to discourage U.S. companies from arranging the manufacture of merchandise outside of the U.S.

NRF reports that a border tax could be proposed as part of a tax reform proposal in April or May of this year. Retailers have been traveling to lobby Congress to defeat any tax increase proposal.

The U.S. Senate reportedly is examining unspecified alternatives to a border tax.

Click here to learn more about this issue. To become more involved in NRF’s campaign against a border tax, contact  either Rachelle Bernstein or Jon Gold at NRF at BernsteinR@nrf.com or goldj@nrf.com.


Lens looks at bills to reform state labor contract talkslens

The online news source Lens this week takes a look at two state Senate bills that address secrecy and potential conflicts of interest in labor union contract negotiations with the state.

The bills are SB 5545, prime sponsored by Sen. Lynda Wilson, and SB 5533, prime sponsored by Sen. Dino Rossi. Wilson’s bill would bring secret state labor negotiations into the public light while Ross’s bill would address potential conflicts of interest in negotiations with the Governor’s office. Unions make significant campaign contributions to the Legislature and Governor.

Lens is produced by The Business Institute of Washington. Hearings have so far been held on both bills in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor & Sports.


Washington charges the nation’s second highest gasoline tax rate: Tax Foundation

The gasoline Washington drivers pump into their tanks gets charged the nation’s second highest tax rate, according to new data from The Tax Foundation.

The foundation has posted a map online that shows Washington charging 49.4 cents per gallon in fuel taxes, second only to Pennsylvania’s 58.2 cents per gallon.

Gasoline price are critical to the success of the retail industry. Retailers must pay for delivery of merchandise and most shoppers who patronize retailers can only do so after they have met fundamental expenses such as housing, food and transportation.

Also, Gov. Inslee has proposed a state spending plan including a record number of tax increases. His proposal includes a tax on industrial emissions that some liken to an additional tax on fuel.

WRA is, therefore, urging the Legislature to oppose imposing any new taxes this legislative session. Click here to see The Tax Foundation’s data on fuel taxes. The map excludes gas taxes charged by the federal government.


Save dates for WRA webinars

 It’s not too early to start saving dates for free webinars WRA will be hosting beginning on March 15.

Topics include:

  • March 15, 10 a.m., learn about WRA’s SafeMe app, a safety course that benefits younger, entry-level employees.
  • March 22, 10a .m., on special rules for hiring younger workers.
  • April 5, 10 a.m., on L&I’s Stay at Work program administered by Retail Association Services, Inc.
  • April 19, 10 a.m., on L&I’s Preferred Worker Program, which protects employers from additional injury claims filed by injured workers.
  • May 17, 10 a.m., on cyber security.

Register here now. Advance the calendar to March, April or May to locate registration forms.


Safety tip of the week

Thorough accident reviews can improve safety

How you respond to a workplace accident can improve safety.

Always take a closer look to learn what caused an accident and how it can be avoided next time. The key is to peel back the layers of every step an employee took to determine what led to the accident.

After an accident, ask:

  • If the action made sense to the employee.
  • If a lack of training led to a mistake.
  • If a lack of communication played a role in the accident.
  • If a lack of planning contributed.
  • If there were procedures in place to ensure safety.
  • If an employee took ownership of the incident.
  • If management took ownership of the incident.

Once you understand how the accident happened, put corrective actions in place to keep it from happening again.  Let all employees know about any corrective steps taken and the reasons for them.

Encourage employees to report all incidents, including first-aid-only injuries, recordable injuries and “almost” injuries. When a workforce embraces the importance of reporting, it can correct small problems before they become larger issues.

An Incident Report template can be found here.

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


Follow our tweets this sessiontweets

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.

So far this year, we’ve live tweeted Senior Vice President Mark Johnson’s testimony regarding WRA’s concerns about Gov. Inslee’s proposed state budget and support for bills to curb retail theft. We’ve also covered contract lobbyist Carolyn Logue’s testimony regarding WRA’s opposition to HB 1493 regarding the uses of technologies to determine personal identification.

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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