WRA remains focused as the 2018 short session nears close
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
As the 2018 legislative session wraps up this week, legislators, lobbyists and retail stakeholders alike have described this year’s as a fast and furious 60-day session.
With a shift in majority leadership in the Senate, all three branches were led by a Democrat party majority. But even with the shift in leadership, the House and Senate have still been somewhat evenly divided.
The harried session offered numerous opportunities for the minority party to put together a coordinated case for the business community and trade associations. These strategies have required strong communication and collaboration with the Democrat majority to consider and debate policy that may negatively impact retailers large and small around the state.
Rather than driving new legislation, our approach has focused on halting potential legislation that could ultimately hurt our ability to employ a high-demand workforce and strengthen Washington’s economy.
Our team has been busy tracking a host of bills that would negatively impact many of our members. The results have brought a few successes such as HB 5251 that will restore state tourism funding for the first time in seven years. We also won overwhelming approval for HB 2822 that includes $500 fines for shoppers who compromise customer comfort and health codes by bringing a wide variety of untrained, household pets into groceries and other retail stores.
In a year where there is $1.3 billion in previously unexpected long-term state revenue and state economists forecast that revenues for the 2017-2019 budget cycle have increased by $647 million, proposals for new taxes have continued to be put forth that would impact businesses and taxpayers.
Although lawmakers had said a capital gains tax would be off the table in 2018, we continue to battle House Bill 2967. It would create a capital gains tax of 7 percent with the intent of lowering property taxes across the state.
WRA has opposed this tax on the sale of personal assets as a penalty to sellers hoping to use proceeds for retirement. Small businesses from around the state have testified that a capital gains tax could be a major hit on their savings after years spent building up their retirement nest egg.
The outcome of the bill is tied to the final form of the adopted state budget that is likely to be determined by end of day tomorrow.
Legislature sends tourism promotion bill to Governor for approval
By Mark Johnson, Senior VP of Government Affairs
The Legislature has unanimously approved SB 5251 that would return tourism promotion funding in Washington State for the first time since 2011.
Provided that Gov. Inslee signs the bill, this is great news for retailers who depend upon tourism for part of their annual income.
In recent years, Washington was the only state that wasn’t spending anything to promote tourism after eliminating funding during the last recession. The funding bill avoids any new taxes.
The bill diverts 0.2 percent of the retail sales tax collected on lodging, restaurants and retail cars to 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.
A healthier tourism and retail industry also means a healthier state because additional sales tax revenue will be available to operate vital state services.
This bill is a win-win for all concerned about the economy. We urge the Governor to sign it into law.
Legislature passes landmark gender pay equity legislation
By Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer
After more than three years of work, the Legislature passed 2SHB 1506 on a strong, bi-partisan vote from both the House and Senate. The final legislation is much improved from bills introduced in previous legislative sessions. The Washington Retail Association appreciates the opportunity to work with the prime sponsor, Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island), and others, to develop a bill that provides for gender pay equity and accommodates most needs for business.
The issue is complex, it incorporates both wage and discrimination law, and earlier versions would have inadvertently impacted employers’ ability to offer training or professional development programs for their employees. Additionally, earlier versions could have required up to ten years of back wages and penalties if an employer was found guilty of gender discrimination.
The Washington Retail Association was successful in correcting these, and other major flaws with the bill in the final conference negotiations. Hence, 2SHB 1506 is vastly improved from earlier versions of the bill but it does not contain the important preemption feature that all segments of business were seeking. The Senate had earlier incorporated a prohibition on municipalities from enacting their own unique gender pay equity ordinances, but that feature of the bill was stripped out in the final conference negotiations.
Organized labor and other proponents of the bill opted to oppose preemption and made this element their number one priority.
Nonetheless, the new state law is strong and enforceable. Business can point to the new law if local governments initiate efforts to enact a local ordinance.
Seattle revising its paid sick and safe time ordinance
The Office of Labor Standards has announced the beginning of a rule revision process for the city’s paid sick and safe time ordinance. This office plans to accept input this month prior to issuing final rules in May of this year.
A public stakeholder meeting is scheduled for March 16 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Seattle Municipal Tower, Room 1650, at 500 Fifth Avenue in downtown Seattle. To register for the stakeholder meeting, click here. The ordinance requires employers operating in the city to provide all employees with paid leave to care for themselves or a family member with a physical or mental health condition, medical appointment or critical safety issue.
For more information on the PSST ordinance and recent amendments please visit http://www.seattle.gov/laborstandards. The city also will conduct a one-hour webinar to update businesses on its labor standards beginning at 11 a.m. on March 14. Register
here by 5 p.m. the prior day.
For more information on the rules revision process, and to be placed on a stakeholder list, contact Karina Bull, Policy Manager, at email@example.com.
Employment Security changes rulemaking timeline for paid family and medical leave
Employment Security has announced new rulemaking timelines in preparation for the statewide paid family and medical leave program.
The extended timelines are to accommodate a more thorough economic development impact study on small businesses as a result of the new benefit. Companies participating will begin collecting premiums in January 2019 for claims to begin in January 2020.
Tammie Hetrick, WRA’s Chief Operating Officer, is on an advisory committee working on the rulemaking and will be meeting again on March 13. ESD plans a public hearing on May 23 and expects to complete rulemaking by July 1 of this year.
Legislature heads toward adjournment
In this, the final week for the 2018 Legislative session, lawmakers are narrowing their sites on their main priority, approving a supplemental state budget.
This work involves reconciling differences of budgets approved by the House and Senate before sending a final budget proposal for review and approval by the Governor.
Meanwhile, WRA is tracking outcomes of bills of most importance to retailers. After adjournment, WRA will email a detailed bill report and voting record to members. Final outcomes are pending or changing quickly in the final hours of session. The status of bills mentioned here was accurate as of this writing but could change at any moment before adjournment.
Among the key bills WRA has tracked:
- HB 2967, capital gains tax. WRA has opposed this 7 percent tax on the sale of personal assets as a penalty to sellers hoping to use proceeds for retirement. The outcome of the bill is tied to the final form of an adopted state budget.
- HB 2661, domestic violence victims. Both Legislature houses have passed this bill for review by the Governor. WRA has concerns that businesses might be unable to make enough accommodations and plans to participate in a workgroup to identify more workable employer options to comply with requirements.
- SB 5633, adding concealment to organized retail crime laws. The Senate passed this bill to allow store security to question shoppers known to be hiding merchandise before attempting to leave the store. The House did not act on the bill. WRA had urged the Legislature to approve the bill.
- SB 5397, registering paid petition signature gatherers. The bill aimed to increase accountability when petitioners conflict with shoppers who want to be left alone. It passed the Senate but not the House.
HB 1047, drug take back. The House and Senate have passed this bill requiring manufacturers to operate a take-back program to collect and dispose of prescription and over-the-counter drugs from residential sources. WRA testified in favor of the bill.
Revenue to unveil new business portal on March 19
The Department of Revenue will launch My DOR, a secure portal to replace the existing online My Account, on March 19.
Businesses will be able to access all their tax and business licensing accounts using their SecureAccess Washington (SAW) login. Taxpayers will begin filing electronically and accessing their tax accounts in the new My DOR portal.
Because the February tax return won’t be available until March 19 in My DOR, Revenue has extended the due date from March 25 to April 5 of this year.
Task force recommends Seattle business head tax to combat homelessness
Seattle City Council will again soon debate whether to impose a head tax on large businesses to combat homelessness with low-income housing and shelters, according to Seattle media reports.
A Seattle task force has recommended a $75 million a year tax. According to the Seattle Times, it has left the City Council with options about whether to impose the charge on companies making more than $10 million in annual gross revenues, or $8 million a year.
WRA has been organizing and growing the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle to monitor this and other pending proposals before the City Council. Led by RICS Director John Engber, WRA will be participating and commenting at hearings about a head tax.
The idea is controversial. Last November, the council rejected a smaller head tax. The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce also opposed the tax and sat out the task force meetings in protest.
The tax rejected last fall would have charged 6.5 cents per employee, per hours worked, on companies grossing more than $10 million a year.
Election this year begins to churn the Legislature
As most state legislators face re-election this year, some are beginning to announce other plans.
This is a year that the entire 98-member House of Representatives faces election while half the Senate terms expire at the end of the year and will be decided in the November election.
So far, a few state lawmakers have announced they will not seek re-election.
- Rep. Jay Rodney, R-Snoqualmie. Former Rep. Chad Magendanz has said he will run for the 5th District seat.
- Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup, who will step down after two, two-year terms.
- Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, will instead run for Spokane County Treasurer. Baumgartner said he will endorse Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, to fill his Senate seat.
- Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, has said he will retire when his term ends this year.
- Other late-breaking announced departures include Rep. Terry Nealey of Dayton, Rep. Liz Pike of Fern Prairie, and Rep. Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish, all Republicans.
Candidates have until May 18 to declare whether they will run for election to the Legislature.
Defense for employers in workers’compensation cases
Terry Hopsecger, Director Business Development
Washington Retail Association retains a law firm that specializes in employer defense in workers’ compensation cases.
When it’s needed, our experts provide legal representation to Washington Retail Association on behalf of employers at all stages of a workers’ compensation claim. This includes providing assistance at the administrative level as well as advocacy at the Washington State Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals and Superior court. Our goal is to help reduce the employer’s liability.
Workers’ Compensation Attorneys help employers mitigate their exposure and represent the interests of the employer at hearings, trials, depositions, oral arguments, mediations, arbitrations and other proceedings. Our attorneys strive for practical and cost-effective solutions whether the matter requires human resources consultation, dispute resolution or extended litigation. There is no additional charge for this service when a member.
Our Claims Analysts regularly monitor loss run reports for trends and alert our Management team and our workers’ compensation attorneys to possible concerns. Our analysts investigate accidents and problem areas. They compile and submit reports required by company management and they coordinate and attend claims reviews. When necessary the claims are turned over to our Workers’ Compensation attorney who helps to negotiate settlements on behalf of our membership.
We want to provide critical solutions to your businesses. Free access to our Workers’ Compensation Attorney’s expert advice is another service provided in our suite of membership programs.
Walmart honored for hiring the disabled
Olympia’s Morningside Services has honored Walmart for its commitment to hiring the disabled in Washington State.
The non-profit employment service for individuals with disabilities recently cited Walmart for its hiring in Lewis and Grays Harbor counties. Walmart employs three disabled workers in Lewis County including one who has worked for the company for 11 years.
In Grays Harbor, Walmart hired its first Morningside-supported employee 16 months ago and has since hired three more applicants. The employees perform a variety of tasks including freight delivery, stocking shelves, customer service and greeting customers. Walmart provides support services including bringing in sign language interpreters, adjusting hours to match public transportation schedules, assigning mentors and changing training schedules for personal needs.
Washington Retail Association also wishes to congratulate Walmart for helping Morningside’s clients to find career fulfillment. Click here to learn more about Morningside.
Safety tip of the week
Perform safety inspections at least once a year
To help avoid workplace accidents, all businesses should conduct periodic safety inspections at least once a year. The purpose is to identify potential hazards with time to correct them before an accident happens.
Start by reviewing your past accident history. It will give you a good indication of hazards you should take special precautions to avoid. Make a list of those hazards to re-check as you do your safety inspection. Note that the “hazard” may also involve lack of employee training or at-risk behaviors to be addressed.
As you walk through your facility, take adequate time and be thorough, making detailed examination of all items that appear on your inspection checklist. Many hazards can be corrected during the walk-through. Some items on your checklist may involve action items such as providing additional employee training on equipment and tools.
The product of your walk-through should be a record of items that did not meet safety standards and defects that need to be corrected. Record your findings on your checklist, then make a separate list of action items on which to start. You can find a sample check list in the Retail Association Services’ Safety Library that you can modify to fit your business needs.
If you have questions about L&I codes, contact Rick Means, WRA’s Safety Specialist.
WRA employs Rick 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 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.