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WIN Articles for February 22, 2017

Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib visits with WRA Board

By Jan Teague, President/CEO

The WRA Board of Directors had the opportunity to meet with our new Lt. Governor, Cyrus Habib.

He was very gracious and interested in what the retailers were doing.  He seems to be taking to his new role with great enthusiasm and energy.  This elected position presides over the Senate and keeps things moving fairly and with the precise observation of the rules governing the Senate.

Habib also chairs the Rules Committee.  He has a Yale law degree and was a Rhodes Scholar.  He served previously in both the House and Senate.

While at our Board meeting, members talked with him about an issue dear to his heart; hiring people with disabilities.  His office posted our discussion on Habib’s website.  I was very pleased that the Board had the opportunity to meet the new Lt. Governor, given his busy schedule.


Fiscal committees cut-off this Friday

By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President Government Affairs

Today is day 45 of the 105-day legislative session.  This Friday, February 24 marks the first fiscal committee cut-off.

That means all bills that have a fiscal impact either positive or negative and are not necessary to implement the budget must move out of either the House Finance Committee (taxes) or the House Appropriations Committee (spending) or the Senate Ways and Means Committee (both taxes and spending) or they are technically “done” for the session.

I use the term “done” very carefully because any bill both fiscal and/or policy related can be resurrected and approved at any time the majority leaders decide they want to.  This doesn’t happen very often, maybe three or four times a session.  Until the legislature adjourns and goes home, anything is possible.  The cut-off dates and rules are simply a tool to cull down the almost 3,000 introduced bills to a manageable number.

WRA has a number of bills it is supporting and opposing in the fiscal committees.  We have been working diligently testifying on both in all three committees.  Hopefully, when the dust settles Saturday, most of the bad bills will have stayed in committee and our pro-active bills will have passed.

Starting February 27 the legislature will focus most of its attention on floor action. This means members will be pulling bills up for full consideration and passage from each chamber.   House of origin cut-off is March 8.

Then we return to committee work where the Senate considers the House bills that made it and the House considers the Senate bills that passed out.


New L&I risk classes could reduce insurance rates

By Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services

 I recently completed talks with Labor & Industries to adopt new risk classes that promise to reduce workers’ comp insurance rates for some companies.

I would like to commend L&I for recognizing that classifications clearly distinguish different sorts of jobs and injury risks to result in fair insurance premiums.

Here’s a brief description of the changes:

  • Reclassifying lower hazard stores currently assigned classification 6406 (retail only variety stores) to a new, lower-rated retail store classification 6411.
  • Reclassifying warehouse distribution centers without retail store exposure into classification 6407 (wholesale stores).
  • Reclassifying some lower hazard stores currently assigned classification 6309 (hardware type stores) to the lower-rated classification 6406 (retail only variety stores); and
  • Clarifying the store classifications to better distinguish them from each other.

You can read more about this here and here.


Seattle considers requiring paid family leave citywide

By Jim Szymanski, Communications Director

 Like state government, Seattle’s City Council is testing public reaction to requiring all businesses to offer employees paid family leave.

The prospect promises to increase costs for all affected businesses.

Seattle’s public involvement with the benefit has so far been informal as council member Lorena Gonzalez has conducted three public “listening sessions” around the city. Though details and strategies remain unsettled, Gonzalez’s interaction with those who attended her meetings revealed general details of what she has in mind.

Gonzalez reported she recently supported expansion of the paid family leave policy for city employees. It includes:

  • Parental leave up to 12 weeks
  • Family leave up to 4 weeks
  • The program is entirely funded by the city with no employee contribution

Gonzalez commented further:

  • The city is surveying businesses about their paid family leave policies
  • The city may await state action on the topic before making its own proposal
  • Seattle might act regardless of what the state might pass
  • If employers and employees shared the cost, Gonzalez thinks 12 weeks is “best practice” for family leave
  • Under a shared contribution model, she thinks paid family leave should apply to businesses citywide

The idea did not sit well with all business representatives who met with Gonzalez. Many businesses in the city have been reacting to a bundle of new regulations the past few years including rising minimum wages and potential punishments related to wage theft, paid leave for medical or safety reasons and limits on the use of conviction and arrest records in hiring.

In answer to one business owner, Gonzalez said the city would be unwilling to assist with the cost of backfilling positions made vacant by virtue of a paid leave policy. Another observed that Seattle would have to create a new bureaucracy to administer paid family leave, a cost that taxpayers could be asked to help meet.

“When has the business community done enough?” asked a small restaurant owner who noted that business helps pay for Pioneer Square cleanups.

Gonzalez reminded a recent audience that many questions remain about paid family leave. They include who would qualify, details of the benefits and how to pay for it.


WRA's VP of Government Affairs, Mark Johnson (left), met today with visiting District 4 Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-Pasco. Newhouse was visiting the Legislature on the state government campus.

WRA’s VP of Government Affairs, Mark Johnson (left), met today with visiting District 4 Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-Pasco. Newhouse was visiting the Legislature on the state government campus.


Bills begin to fall by the wayside

In this the seventh week of the 105-day 2017 legislative session, WRA narrows its focus as action has ceased on many of the bills introduced since the January 9 opening.

Committee action on policy-related bills has largely ended and Friday is a deadline for taking action to further the life of fiscal bills. Many of the surviving bills now move ahead to action on the floor of the full Senate and House of Representatives.

What follows are some of the key remaining bills WRA is monitoring and the fate of others:

  • HB 1047 would create a voluntary drug take back program at pharmacies. The bill was to be the subject of a public hearing on Tuesday. WRA currently is neutral about the bill.
  • HB 1506 addresses equal pay by gender. WRA is opposed to the bill, in part, due to its confusing language that would lead to spurious lawsuits.
  • SB 5835 aims to provide workplace accommodations for pregnant employees. WRA supports the approach outlined in the bill.
  • SB 5777  and HB 2005 would streamline current procedures for obtaining business licenses. WRA favors these because they would reduce burdensome regulations.
  • SB 5286 would prohibit commercial property rent control. WRA favors the bill because rent control discourages investment and building maintenance, which hurts customers.
  • SB 5397, which WRA favored, would require companies that hire paid signature gatherers to register with the state. A Senate committee elected against moving the bill.
  • HB 1457 would create a sales tax holiday on selected back-to-school items. WRA favors the bill that can move forward as part of state budget considerations.
  • WRA continues to monitor SB 5670 that would require notice to state fund employers for certain workers’ compensation third-party settlements. Such notice is not currently required.
  • WRA continues supporting four laws to improve enforcement against organized retail theft. The bills are SB 5632, 5633, 5634, 5635.

WRA offers members a mobile app to track all bills we are monitoring. To learn more about the app, contact Terri Hopsecger, Director of Business Development, at 360-943-9198, Ext. 24 or at terry@retailassociationservices.com.


WRA testifies against raising the state smoking age

WRA lobbyists have testified against HB 1054 that would raise the smoking age in the state from 18 to 21. The Senate companion bill is 5025.

The bills’effects are particularly hard on convenience stores, a popular stop for cigarettes. The loss of tobacco sales also means lost sales of unrelated items that customers buy with cigarettes, lobbyists Mark Johnson and Carolyn Logue have told legislature committee hearings.

Lost state revenues would rise to $22.5 million by the next biennium, according to state financial estimates. The state also has a high compliance rate involving retailers who check identification of customers to make sure they qualify to buy cigarettes. The loss of tax revenues from the bills also would add to the state’s challenge to meet a state Supreme Court mandate to fully fund state schools this year. The court has imposed a daily $100,000 fine on the state for failing to fully fund schools.

WRA reported on Logue’s Monday testimony on the topic on Twitter. Go to @waretail to review tweets about the hearing on HB 1054.

Look for more live Twitter coverage of WRA’s testimony regarding key bills as the 2017 session continues.


Lens looks at bills to streamline business licensinglens

An estimated 226 municipalities in Washington State can require a small business to obtain a license if they sell merchandise in those places. Such a reality can be confusing, time-consuming and expensive, small business owners say.

There are two bills in the state Legislature, HB 2005 and SB 5777, supported by WRA, that promise relief from the current situation. They would create a central location for businesses to come into compliance with state licensing requirements.

The online news source of the Business Institute of Washington, the Lens, took a look at recent debate on the bills. Watch for updates on the outcome of the bills in later issues of this e-newsletter and on the WRA website, www.retailassociation.org.

The 2017 session is scheduled to adjourn on April 23.


State’s high court upholds anti-discrimination order against Richland florist

 The state Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a lower court order that found that a Richland florist had illegally refused service to a gay couple on religious grounds.

Such action by the florist is illegal not only in Washington State but the nation, the Supreme Court noted in its decision. The male couple was refused service for their wedding in 2013.

Under state law, a business need not provide a particular service, but if it chooses to do so for couples of the opposite sex, it must provide equal service to same-sex couples, according to a news release by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who argued the state’s case.

Click here to read Ferguson’s announcement and here to review the court’s opinion.

Source: Washington Attorney General


Higher minimum wage effects felt in Skagit County

Rising minimum wages in Washington State are being cited by merchants as the reason for raising prices, cutting services and closing.

A few Seattle restaurants have reported that rising minimum wages put pressure on them to close. A related story is here.

Most recently, the Skagit Valley Herald interviewed small businesses in the Mount Vernon area reacting to passage last fall of Initiative 1433, which will raise the state minimum wage from its current $11 an hour to $13.50 by 2020. In the story, a Mount Vernon pet supply store manager said Initiative 1433 was the “final straw” of increasing costs that convinced owners to close the business.

WRA opposes artificial spikes in the minimum wage due to damaging outcomes such as those outlined in the stories quoted above.


Safety tip of the week:

Learn how to lift safely

 Protecting yourself from back injuries while at work can depend upon many factors. Poor physical fitness, lack of flexibility, stress, poor posture, lack of rest, and participating in certain recreational activities can all cause back pain.

Getting or staying physically fit and following safe lifting techniques can help avoid back injuries.

When you lift something, size up the job first by determining where the item needs to go. Then:

  • Ask whether there’s a tool available that could make the lift easier.
  • Consider asking for help with the lift or move the load in lighter pieces.
  • Stand close to the object with your feet spread at shoulder width.  Bend at the knees and keep your back straight. Do not bend at the waist.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift with the muscles in your arms and legs, not your back.
  • If you must turn with the load, do so by moving your feet, not your waist. Do not reach and twist when holding an object.  When setting an object down, apply all of the same techniques.

Our Retro members can get additional information in the RASI Safety Library.

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.


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; support for bills to curb retail theft and opposition to a proposed tax on paint. 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.


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.


State issues new flame retardant restrictions

Ecology has issued a reminder to retailers and manufacturers about new flame retardant restrictions that go into effect on July 1 of this year.

The alert calls out five flame retardants restricted for children’s products and residential upholstered furniture. The law does not allow for the sale of products containing the named retardants after July 1 of this year.

Manufacturers must inform retailers of the restrictions by April 1 of this year.

For further information about reporting requirements under the Children’s Safe Products Act, contact Tina Schaefer, Department of Ecology, at 360-407-6786 or tina.schaefer@ecy.wa.gov.


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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