Retailers are hopeful about a tourism promotion bill
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
Retailers are hopeful this session for the prospects of SB 5251 being passed and signed into law. It would restore tourism funds in Washington State allowing the state to create an industry-led Tourism Marketing Authority, to better compete with other well-funded states.
The Legislature removed the funding as a casualty during the last recession in 2011. If approved, beginning in July, the bill would divert 0.2 percent of the retail sales tax collected on lodging, restaurants and rental cars into a tourism marketing account. The funding formula offers the potential for generating up to $9 million per biennium to be spent on statewide tourism promotion.
This funding is important to retailers and the state economy.
- Tourism generates $1.8 billion in state and local tax revenue and supports 170,500 jobs.
- It’s estimated that tourism marketing returns $25 in new visitor spending to the state for every $1 spent.
- Visitors to Washington spend nearly $21 billion each year, including at retailers across the state.
- Forty percent of tourism dollars are spent outside the state’s major cities and suburbs that are areas in greater need of economic development.
The bill has unanimously passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote from the House. In the fluid final days of the 2018 session, the House vote could come as soon as today.
Our state’s healthy economic recovery has made this bipartisan bill possible. Just as important is that it will result in new and needed revenues to state and local governments without imposing any additional taxes.
We are encouraged by the strong support for the bill so far and call on the full Legislature to seize its opportunity to help our state’s tourism industry, and others that rely on it, to keep the economic recovery alive.
WRA supports bill regulating service animals
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
WRA urges the Legislature to pass HB 2822 that addresses a growing problem of customers bringing a wide variety of pets into stores and restaurants around the state and nation.
The bill would make it a civil infraction with a $500 fine to falsely represent a pet as a fully-fledged service animal typically seen assisting disabled owners with sensory, mental or physical disabilities. In recent years, without force of such a law, owners of pets ranging from dogs to rabbits, birds and snakes have shopped in stores while claiming they were accompanied by a service or comfort animal.
The bill would limit allowable animals in stores to those defined under federal law as a trained service dog and in some cases, a miniature horse. Store security would be allowed to inquire whether the animal had to be in the store due to a disability and what tasks the animal was trained to perform. A misrepresentation would allow the store to require that the customer remove the animal from the store or face a possible legal penalty.
The bill, prime sponsored by Rep. Mike Steele, R-Chelan, promises to be a win for disabled customers and stores alike. Unruly pets can be intimidating and dangerous to customers, store employees and owners of legitimate service animals. The leading complaint health departments receive is about animals with bacteria on their paws contaminating food and defecating. Problems with unwelcome animals also distract store security from performing their role in identifying and managing theft of merchandise.
By far, most retail stores are not dog parks or aviaries or zoo exhibits. They are public accommodations that come with certain expectations of safety and cleanliness including respect for those who rely on service animals to fully function in society.
The House of Representative has unanimously passed the bill by a 98 to 0 vote. The Senate must vote by a deadline this Friday to send the bill forward for the Governor’s signature.
The Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment supports the bill along with organizations including the Washington Food Industry Association, the Washington Hospitality Association and the Northwest Grocery Association.
We urge the Senate and Legislature to send this bill to the Governor for his signature. It fairly addresses a real need and a growing problem in many public places.
Negotiators on Paid Family and Medical Leave legislation send letter asking for support of amendments to a pay equity bill
Tammie Hetrick, COO along with other representatives on the Paid Family and Medical Leave negotiation team have jointly signed a letter to legislators asking for their support, with amendments, to a statewide gender pay equity bill.
The letter also signed by the Association of Washington Business and the Washington Hospitality Association reminds legislators of their approval of a paid family and medical leave bill last year that had the support of business and labor alike. The bipartisan support of last year’s statewide bill is being held up as model legislation in other states.
The letter urges legislators to pass a single, statewide standard for pay equity that would prohibit municipalities from passing rival and conflicting versions of gender pay equity. It is clear, easy to understand legislation and would move our state toward gender equality.
Conflicting laws on the same subject present challenges for retailers with multiple locations that can face different requirements. For members who travel within different jurisdictions, it has been almost impossible to manage how they track and pay benefits for workers. It also results in inequities when employees are treated differently based upon their locations in various jurisdictions.
The letter supports passing an amended version of HB 1506.
Hetrick accepts appointments to two advisory committees
COO Tammie Hetrick has accepted requests for her to serve on two important state advisory committees.
Hetrick has been appointed to a two-year term on the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Committee. That term will expire the end of next year.
Hetrick also is awaiting formal appointment to the Agriculture Department’s Nursery Advisory Committee. It will allow her an opportunity to influence plans to limit the sale of fruit trees in quarantined portions of the state. That committee’s first meeting is scheduled on March 23.
Hetrick’s service on these and other advisory committees allows her to demonstrate WRA’s expertise on a variety of important issues while advocating for the business community to explain the impacts of legislation and regulation on business and the economy.
Legislature nears final week of action for the year
The end of February today leaves the Legislature with a week and a day to complete business on the scheduled March 8 adjournment day.
Lawmakers face a final deadline on Friday for the Senate and House to separately take action on non budget-related bills before adopting an amended state budget. Washington Retail Association has narrowed its focus on monitoring a short list of key bills still under consideration.
The bills include:
- HB 2967, imposing a 7 percent capital gains tax. WRA has testified against this bill because it would unfairly penalize business owners planning to use proceeds of a sale for retirement expenses.
- HB 2327, appliance energy efficiency standards. The Senate is deliberating on this bill after it narrowly passed the House. WRA opposes it because it would impose energy-saving requirements on a host of vastly different electronic devices in such a way as to stifle innovation and success shown under voluntary ENERGY STAR incentives.
- SB 5633, adding concealment to enforcement of organized retail crime. The bill would add a law enforcement tool not currently allowed in the state to question shoppers known to be concealing merchandise. WRA supports the bill to strengthen laws to combat loss of merchandise and sales due to theft. The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting further action in the House.
- SB 5397, registering paid signature gatherers. WRA supports the bill to require employers of paid signature gatherers to register with the Public Disclosure Commission. This would help retailers hold petitioners accountable in the event of unpleasant contact with shoppers.
- HB 1054 and SB 6048 would raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. Both bills remain alive but have not been advancing through committee action. WRA opposes the bills that will decrease store sales and drive some customers to tribal, out-of-state or online suppliers.
HB 1047, drug take back. WRA supports this bill that would require drug manufacturers to operate take-back programs to collect and dispose of unused prescription medication.
A tax bill currently before the Legislature would withdraw more than half the state savings account to lower property taxes.
An article in The Lens, the online news source of the Business Institute of Washington, observes that similar accounts in other states were established to cushion state budgets in hard times. However, Washington State is enjoying steady tax revenue increases and projects $1.3 billion more than last expected for the remainder of this biennium and the one to follow.
Though HB 2993 has not been moving through the Legislature since its introduction, it is related to adoption of a new state budget. It, therefore, is alive for debate and a possible vote until the Legislature’s current adjournment date of March 8. Click here to read the article.
Safety tip of the week
Learn to be safer by discussing near accidents
Bob was in a hurry to get a product out of the stock room. He used a ladder he could not position correctly because there was an object in the way. Regardless, he climbed the ladder only to find it sliding to the right on the way down.
Bob was able to correct his balance to stop the ladder from tipping over and managed to come back down to the ground safely. He narrowly avoided an accident and possible injury.
Scenarios like this happen in different ways, different places and often involve power equipment. The point is that it was close to becoming an accident and needs to be addressed so that it doesn’t happen again. Encourage employees to report avoided accidents so that improvements can be made. Also, have your employees take that little extra effort to perform their job properly because safety measures can and do prevent injuries and worse.
RASI SafetyTV has a few videos that address this topic. This also makes a great subject for your next safety meeting.
Rick Means, WRA’s Safety Specialist, is available to members to help draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943-9198 x18, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.