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WIN Articles for March 1, 2017

WRA challenges Initiative 1433 in court

By Jan Teague, President/CEO

WRA has gone to court to challenge the constitutionality of Initiative 1433 that voters approved last fall to raise the state minimum wage and institute paid sick leave statewide.

Our argument is limited to the faulty form of the initiative.

It asked voters two things that are unrelated and therein lies the problem. Just last year, the state Supreme Court threw out a tax-cutting measure on the grounds that the state constitution limits initiatives to a single subject.

Initiative 1433 asked voters to decide between two unrelated policy matters. Because of that, there’s no way to know whether most of them wanted higher wages or paid sick leave. In fact, the measure failed in every county east of the Cascades.

Left unchallenged, both policies go into effect with paid sick leave starting in 2018. The statewide minimum wage rose to $11 an hour on January 1 and would climb to $13.50 by 2020.

We’re not alone in challenging I-1433. We’re members of a coalition including the National Federation of Independent Business, the Northwest Food Processors Association, the Washington Food Industry Association and individual farmers in central Washington.

Our court argument is about the faulty, unfair and illegal execution by proponents of  I-1433.

We in the coalition believe I-1433 is unconstitutional because it forced thousands of voters to make two decisions that thereby nullified true voter support for either one.

We have a court date in Kittitas County Superior Court in April when arguments will be heard. I will be sure to keep you abreast of the developments.

 

Senator introduces two nexus sales tax bills

By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs

Two bills have been introduced in the Senate that would allow Washington State to collect sales taxes from retailers without a physical presence here.

Senator Steve Hobbs is the prime sponsor of Senate Bills 5855 and 5856. Similar bills have been passed elsewhere including South Dakota. They challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s Quill Decision that says a state cannot collect tax from a business located outside – or without a physical presence, or nexus – within that state.

The latest estimates I have seen are that Washington loses somewhere in the $600 million to $700 million range in uncollected sales tax.  We will have to wait to see what the official fiscal note on the bills says.  In any estimation, it will be a significant amount of income that could help Washington fulfill the state Supreme Court’s mandate to fully fund state schools.

The hope by the proponents of these Washington bills and similar bills elsewhere is that Congress and the President will feel the need to pass federal legislation. This would level the national playing field on which brick and mortar and online retailers compete for business.

This matter has been debated without final action in Washington, D.C. for several years. It is far past time that Congress and the President enact the proposed “Marketplace Equity Act” that would address these complications across the nation.

 

State posts upcoming tax rate changes

The Department of Revenue has reported upcoming second quarter tax rate changes throughout the state.

The changes are effective April 1 of this year.

The database of changes can be found here. A breakdown of the changes by location is here. Click here to look up tax rates by location.

If you have any questions or comments regarding  Revenue’s website, send an e-mail to GIS@dor.wa.gov or call 1-877-345-3353.

 

WRA meets regarding restrictive scheduling rules

By Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services

 I have been working with members and their attorneys this week reviewing draft language from the City of Seattle. This is in preparation for another meeting in a series of rulemaking meetings tomorrow regarding Seattle’s new restrictive scheduling law.

The WRA team including our Seattle contract lobbyist John Engber will come with concerns regarding how city officials are drawing plans for the way the law will work. It goes into effect on July 1.

Based on a draft of rules already circulated, we’re developing concerns about how many retailers will be affected by the costs of this law and the complications it will cause in scheduling. For larger retailers, it requires that work schedules be posted two weeks in advance or retailers will face minimum $500 fines. It also discourages hiring by requiring that available extra work hours first be offered to existing employees.

In particular, some of our members are concerned about whether they would be penalized for on-call assignments.

We’ve already begun hearing from some companies that the proposed work rules are causing them to consider closing their Seattle store locations.

We will continue to update you in this newsletter and on our website as the scheduling rules develop. In the meantime, click here to read an overview of what may be included in the pending rules that will be used to determine how the city enforces the ordinance.

We are urging retailers who have concerns about some of the details outlined to comment or ask questions about the rules by contacting Karina Bull, OLS Senior Policy Analyst, at 206-684-4536 or by e-mailing laborstandards@seattle.gov. More background information is available on the OLS website.

You also are welcome to contact me with concerns or questions at 360-943-9198, ext. 13 or tammie@retailassociation.org. We expect to see final draft rules shortly and receiving feedback now will allow the City an opportunity to address the concerns before the draft is complete.

 

WRA meets about new Retro rules

By Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services

 I continue meeting with an advisory group on possible new rules Labor & Industries is drawing up for the Retrospective Rating program.

My concern is that changing how the program works could affect the size of workers’ compensation insurance premium refunds companies are awarded for maintaining safe workplaces.

The rules affect how refunds are distributed.

I have been meeting with L&I about this since late last year. I expect the department will settle on how to change rules by this summer before putting them into effect in July.

Look for updates from me as these talks get closer to making any changes.  Please contact me with questions or concerns at 360-943-9198, Ext. 13 or tammie@retailassociation.org.

 

Another Legislature deadline comes in a week

As the 2017 legislative session reaches its halfway mark, lawmakers find themselves a week away from the full House and Senate needing to share their approved bills with one another.

The March 8 House of Origin deadline follows similar deadlines for action by the committees of each house.

WRA continues tracking hundreds of bills in the midst of lawmakers passing their various milestones during the session.

Here is a sample of the more significant bills WRA is tracking:

  • WRA supports workers compensation reform bills including HB 1755, SB 5670 and SB 5822.  The first two would require that state fund employers be notified of settlement negotiations involving employees in accidents with non-employees while on the job. Earlier this week, the bills were in the Rules Committees of either house.
  • HB 1047 is in the House Rules Committee awaiting further action. It would allow voluntary drug takeback programs at pharmacies. WRA is neutral on the bill.
  • Two of four equal pay bills have survived during the session. They are HB 1447 and 1506. WRA supports 1447 but opposes 1506.
  • WRA supports SB 5286 that would prohibit regulating rent levels for commercial properties. The bill was in the Senate Rules committee earlier this week.
  • WRA opposes two bills, SB 5025 and HB 1054, that would raise the legal drinking age in the state from 18 to 21. This would lower sales tax revenue to the state and drive customers to tribal smoke shops or out of state.

WRA opposes HB 1376 to establish a statewide paint recycling program. It would create a $9 million tax increase in the form of higher paint prices to finance the program.

 

Research Council sorts through education funding plans

Fully funding state schools is this legislative session’s overriding agenda item to comply with a state Supreme Court mandate by the end of the year.

As a result, the Governor, state Senate and House each has put forward specific proposals to address the mandate.

The Senate and House already have passed separate spending proposals. What results by the end of the session will be the result of compromise by both houses of the Legislature and the Governor.

The Washington Research Council has been tracking each proposal and has composed policy briefs to analyze the differences between the proposals. Click here to read an analysis of the Legislature’s work to date.

Source: Washington Research Council

 

State economic forecast improves

A new state economic forecast released this week calls for an uptick in hiring, higher personal income and lower unemployment rates.

The March forecast is a follow-up to one released in November, before Presidential votes were tallied, by the Economic Revenue Forecast Council. The later forecast includes some policies proposed by the Trump administration including lower personal and corporate federal tax rates, a federal hiring freeze and $250 billion in additional infrastructure spending over the next decade.

Highlights:

  • Total non-farm employment since November rose by 13,600, about 1,500 more than in the November forecast.
  • Employment is expected to grow 2.2 percent this year, up from the November outlook of 1.9 percent job growth.
  • Personal income for this year now is forecast to grow 4.9 percent, up from the November forecast of 4.5 percent.
  • Unemployment is forecast to be 4.9 percent in the third quarter, down from 5.1 percent forecast in November.
  • Contrary to a November forecast for rising oil prices, the latest forecast is that oil prices are expected to decline slightly in the coming months.

Click here to review tables with further comparisons between late last year and the new state forecast.

Source: ERFC

 

Washington rates low on tax appeals

Washington State scored a C-minus in a Council on State Taxation special report for its tax appeals process. The grade ranks the state among the five lowest in the nation.

The council and American Bar Association consider whether taxpayers must pay a disputed amount before an appeals hearing; whether those hearing an appeal know state tax laws; and whether the appeals forum is truly independent.

The council found fault with Washington because:

  • Taxpayers must appeal within 30 days
  • They must wait too long for a decision
  • They must pay a disputed tax before a hearing
  • The state board of tax appeals lacks excise tax expertise
  • The Legislature passes retroactive tax laws

The full report is here.

 

Safety tip of the week:

Computer screen adjustments for older workers

Mature workers wishing to remain on the job rather than retire are gravitating to retail for employment opportunities. As workers age, they can maintain productivity by considering minor adjustments to office equipment.

Adjustments to computer screens, for example, might make good sense.

Over time, vision may weaken. Here are a few ideas that might be appropriate.

  • Change the computer screen to a larger flat screen.  This will eliminate the flicker (screen refresh rate) of the tube style monitors.  This gives the user a larger ‘surface’ to view.
  • There are ‘ease of access features’ built right into the existing software you already have.  For Windows, it can be found in the Control Panel and will give you the ability to change contrast, brightness, text size, color temperature and more.  A browser’s font size is easy to adjust as well.
  • Reduce screen glare by adjusting screen or area lighting.  Consider installing an anti-glare filter on your monitor.
  • Use the 20-20-20 rule.  After 20 minutes of computer use, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Each person is different so you will need to evaluate both the person and the work they perform.  Actually, this kind of evaluation could help all of your employees regardless of their age.

These are just a few tips. The RASI Safety Library for WRA members has additional information on this topic.

WRA employs Rick Means as a Safety Specialist. He’s 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

 

Renton schools seek interviewing help

Renton School District is a strong supporter of WRA’s Safe ME project, which helps entry-level workers with basic safety training and awards certificates that can be included on resumes and mentioned on job applications.

The goal of Safe ME is to provide safety training before applicants seek their first jobs.

The Renton school district plans a Trades Fair at Lindbergh HS on March 7th and is looking for business owners to help with mock job interviews to prepare students for entering the workforce.  If you would like to help please contact Susan Huynh at susan.huynh@rentonschools.us.

 

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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