Washington State is back in the game
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
Gov. Jay Inslee this week signed Senate Bill 5251 that restores a statewide tourism marketing program in Washington State. Our Government Affairs team had the pleasure of celebrating the bill signing along with several association partners who have been working on this legislation for more than seven years.
While Washington was without a state-wide tourism program, other states such as Oregon grew their marketing efforts from $19 million to more than $30 million and significantly increased their market share. As a result, they saw seven consecutive years of tourism spending and economic growth. Other Western states are spending between $5 million to $117 million annually to attract visitors.
So how will this marketing program work?
Starting in July, the legislature will allocate 0.2 percent of retail sales tax collected on lodging, restaurants and rental cars to a statewide tourism marketing account. Although we would like to have seen more, allocation for the 2019 fiscal year will be limited to $1.5 million and $3 million for all future two-year budget cycles. With allowable private sector donations to the fund, the plan offers the potential for a maximum of $9 million to be spent on tourism promotion in each two-year budget cycle.
Whether in urban or rural areas, retail and hospitability are tourism magnets for any community. Visitors not only rely on retailers during their visit but are attracted to communities that offer a broad range of eating establishments and retail attractions.
- Visitors spend an estimated $21 billion each year in Washington State.
- The state’s fourth-largest industry supports 170,500 jobs.
- Tourism marketing returns $25 in new visitor spending for every $1 that’s spent.
Retailers across the state will no doubt benefit from the renewed marketing effort. Washington State is back in the tourism game, but it’s only a start.
First of its kind drug take-back program becomes law in Washington State
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law the nation’s first statewide drug take-back program financed entirely by pharmaceutical manufacturers. WRA supported passage of House Bill 1047, the Secure Drug Take-Back Act sponsored by Representative Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds.
The law requires drug manufacturers to implement a statewide program for the safe and secure collection of unused, expired and leftover medications. The program must operate year-round and offer convenient drop-off sites in cities and towns across the state. Any pharmacy, hospital or police agency that volunteers to host a drop box must be included in the collection system. Prepaid mailers will also be available to residents.
Washington’s is the nation’s first such program to be financed entirely by drug manufacturers. Massachusetts and Vermont enacted opioid abuse laws in 2016 with only partial funding from pharmaceutical companies. Drug manufacturers must submit a program proposal to the state by July 1, 2019.
Drug overdose deaths have surpassed fatalities from car accidents in Washington State. The state Health Department reports that prescription opioids accounted for about 400 of the almost 700 opioid overdose deaths in the state in 2015.
The annual cost of the program for pharmaceutical companies is estimated at 0.1 percent of their annual sales in Washington State.
WRA encourages the public to participate once the program starts to help combat the growing program of opioid overdoses.
Sharon Nelson announced retirement from Legislature
State Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson announced her retirement from the Legislature this week. She joined the Legislature with an appointment in 2007 and won an uncontested election in 2010.
A majority of the Legislature is facing election this fall, but Nelson announced she would not seek re-election in order to spend more time with her family.
In a statement she released, Nelson, D-Vashon Island, said lawmakers would meet to reorganize the caucus leadership during the week of November 12, after election results are available. Nelson served as the Democrat party leader for the past five years.
Two state bills on sexual harassment become law
By Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer
Two bills addressing sexual harassment in the workplace have been signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.
Senate Bill 5996 prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign nondisclosure agreements regarding sexual harassment or assaults as a condition of employment. It declares that any such agreement is void and unenforceable. The law does exempt certain employees such as human resources staff, managers and supervisors and allows employers to require confidentiality during investigations.
Senate Bill 6471 requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to convene a workgroup to develop model policies for companies and employees to keep workplaces as free as possible from sexual harassment. I will share details about this group with WRA members as they become available. Labor & Industries will be required to post these policies on its website once they have been adopted.
Employers are urged to update their policies and handbooks regarding sexual harassment if they conflict with the new law. This should include regular anti-harassment training with specific instructions for supervisors and managers.
Hundreds of Seattle businesses ask council to defeat head tax
By John Engber, Director, Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle
More than 300 small businesses including 18 members of the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle from across the city have signed a letter to the City Council expressing their opposition to a proposed Jobs Tax.
In late 2017, the Seattle City Council rejected a proposed new Jobs Tax that would have raised $25 million. At the same time, the Council also created a Progressive Revenue Task Force to examine how a Jobs Tax and other new taxes could raise $25 million to $75 million in new revenues to combat homelessness.
In early March, the Task Force released its recommendations, which called for $150 million in new taxes, including a new $75 million Jobs Tax. The Task Force urged the Council to apply some form of the Jobs Tax to every business in the city. In fact, saying that all businesses should have some “skin in the game,” the Task Force recommended that even a business with one employee should pay a Jobs Tax of $395 per year.
The City of Seattle’s spending grew by 39 percent between 2012 and 2016, far beyond the 11 percent population growth and 6.8 percent inflation during that period. And despite increased spending on homelessness, the number of unsheltered people in Seattle has grown by 37 percent in just the past three years. Clearly, it’s time for Seattle to take a hard look at its programs to shelter the homeless before creating new taxes on every business in Seattle.
Everyone who lives or works in Seattle recognizes that homelessness is a genuine crisis that requires meaningful action. However, if the Council approves the Task Force’s recommendations, the City government’s spending on homelessness would jump from $63 million to $213 million per year without a long-range strategic plan to address this crisis.
The letter calls on the Seattle City Council to join in a regional effort with other governments to identify effective and sustainable strategies to reduce homelessness.
Lobbyists raise their grades for the 2018 legislative session
Lobbyists gave the 2018 Legislative Session the body’s highest performance of the past nine sessions, according to a new Stuart Elway poll.
Though the 2018 Legislature got a C plus grade instead of last year’s C minus, the business lobby was second only to environmental advocates for being the most disappointed with this year’s Legislature.
Finishing on time was considered this year’s big accomplishment considering that the Legislature has mostly gone into overtime special sessions in several of the past years. Lobbyists also rated the funding package for schools and social service bills highly in their survey.
Business lobbyists cited the Legislature’s lack of fiscal restraint and various anti-business provisions in bills as their reasons for giving the Legislature low grades as a whole. Click here to read another story about the poll results.
Source: Washington State Wire
Seattle retail mixer set for April 19
Seattle retailers are invited to a mixer beginning at 6 p.m. on April 19 at The Dane, 8000 15th Avenue N.W. in Ballard.
Those who attend will learn about the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle, a grassroots lobbying group being organized under the direction of John Engber, a contract lobbyist for the Washington Retail Association. RICS’ mission is to inform Seattle retailers about planned regulations by the Seattle City Council that could affect them and to employ Engber to represent retailers at council meetings.
Those who attend also will be able to meet President/CEO of the Washington Retail Association, Renée Sunde, Chief Operating Officer Tammie Hetrick and Senior VP of Government Affairs, Mark Johnson. WRA is providing complimentary food and drinks.
RSVP/Register by Monday, April 16 here
Blogger asks, should stores ban organic cotton shopping bags?
Citing environmental threats, cities around Washington State have been banning plastic shopping bags in recent years.
But more recent scientific studies have shown that permitted organic cotton bags are far more of an environmental threat.
In a recent blog, Todd Myers, Director of the Washington Policy Center’s Center for the Environment, asks: should cities reverse their bans on plastic shopping bags or rather ban organic cotton bags?
Myers is effectively saying that cities such as Seattle, Tacoma, Kirkland and Issaquah had it backward when they banned plastic bags because new studies show they are far less of an environmental threat than cloth alternatives. The blog is here.
Source: Washington Policy Center
IRS urges taxpayers to do a “paycheck checkup”
The Internal Revenue Service this week is urging taxpayers to double check that their tax withholding claims are what’s best for their financial needs.
The campaign will show taxpayers how to determine if they have too much or too little tax being withheld from their paychecks. These steps can avoid an unexpected tax bill or potential penalty at tax time next year.
The information includes:
- Tax Reform Tax Tips, an addition to the IRS’s Tax Tips email-subscription program. These tips will begin this week and continue through 2018. Written in plain language, they can help taxpayers learn about major tax reform topics in understandable terms. The special series begins this week with daily tips covering withholding topics. The series will highlight other law changes in the weeks and months ahead, and taxpayers can subscribe on IRS.gov.
- Sharing new YouTube videos to walk taxpayers through what they need to know about withholding, the Withholding Calculator and filling out a new Form W-4 if needed.
The IRS advises that several groups consider doing a paycheck checkup including two-income families, people with children claiming the Child Tax Credit, people with dependants older than age 17 and people with large tax refunds or large tax bills for 2017. Click here for further information.
Safety tip of the week
Working safer ensures fewer insurance deductions from paychecks
Many of you often try to find ways to get employees to do their job as safely as they can. Another idea to try is explaining that accidents personally cost all of us, in our paychecks.
Part of the insurance premium that Labor & Industries charges companies is also passed on to the employees in their paycheck. If your shop is accident prone, everyone there will ‘feel’ it in their take-home pay. If you have more locations, every store will feel the effect.
It benefits us to all work safely in order to keep the insurance rates as low as possible, which also earns your shop accident-free discounts (just like your car insurance). Lower rates mean that the employee portion of the premium will also go down. If you see a fellow employee doing something unsafe, ask them to work safely as an accident costs all employees, even the ones who don’t get hurt. Having a safe work environment is like giving you more take-home pay.
Here is a link to an example of the rate change affecting take-home pay.
WRA Safety Specialist Rick Means 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.
Sign up for WRA’s free webinars
Washington Retail Association has scheduled a series of free webinars continuing next month.
The April 4 webinar will cover the information businesses need to know when starting recovery from a natural disaster such as a wind storm, flood or earthquake. It’s better to save information ahead of time on where to get help from events that cannot be predicted. Other topics that will follow include preparing for workplace violence, how to conduct an accident investigation and improving your company’s computer security.
Click here to review the lineup of topics and to register
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.