Newsletter — January 11, 2024






Governor Inslee will push for climate action and state progress in final year

As Washington Governor Jay Inslee enters his final year in office, he sis far from slowing down. In his 11th State of the State address, Inslee, a Democrat, reaffirmed his commitment to combating climate change, a key focus throughout his three terms as Governor.

Inslee highlighted the state's Climate Commitment Act, a groundbreaking policy initiated a year ago. This act, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2050, has already generated $1.8 billion in 2023. The revenue, raised through quarterly auctions of emission allowances, is funding various climate initiatives, including electric school buses, free transit for youth, and public electric vehicle chargers.

However, Inslee's climate legacy faces challenges. A conservative-led initiative, likely to appear on the November ballot, seeks to overturn the Climate Commitment Act. Inslee stated in his address that any delay in climate action would be a betrayal to future generations, emphasizing the critical juncture between success and failure.

Beyond climate issues, Inslee's agenda is extensive. He has called for legislative action to enhance oil price transparency and promote the adoption of energy-efficient heat pumps to reduce emissions and energy costs. Addressing the opioid crisis, Inslee proposed a $64 million investment in treatment and prevention, alongside increased funding for drug trafficking investigations and police recruitment.

The governor also tackled homelessness, advocating for increased housing and support services. Washington ranks fourth in the nation for unsheltered individuals, a statistic Inslee believes can be changed through practical solutions.

Governor Inslee remains optimistic about the state's strength and resilience despite these challenges. Republican leaders, Representative. Drew Stokesbary and Senate Republican Leader Senator John Braun, have criticized Inslee's tenure, pointing to worsening state crises and questioning the efficacy of policies like the Climate Commitment Act.

As Inslee, who was first elected in 2012 and has announced he will not seek a fourth term, prepares to conclude his governorship, his focus remains steadfast on leaving a legacy of environmental stewardship and state progress.

The Washington State legislature convenes for intense 60-day session

As Washington State's legislative session is underway, legislators began a challenging and condensed 60-day period on Monday. With hundreds of bills filed on diverse issues, from recycling to opioid overdose prevention in high schools, the session is likened to a rodeo bull ride by House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. The analogy is a good one and underscores the unpredictability and intensity of the session, reflecting the high stakes and rapid pace expected.

The session, crucial for updating the state's two-year budget, will include legislators tackling persistent issues like homelessness, the fentanyl crisis, housing shortages, and mental health and addiction treatment. Despite a financial boost from new taxes, including the capital gains tax and carbon auctions, lawmakers face tough decisions due to rising costs and ongoing social challenges.

A key focus will be on housing, with efforts to promote construction, alleviate renter burdens, and convert commercial spaces into residential properties. Transportation costs are another significant concern, escalating expenses for projects like culvert replacements for salmon safety and the troubled state ferry system.

The fentanyl epidemic and the gap in mental health and substance use treatment are also high on the agenda. Last year's agreement to increase penalties for drug possession paves the way for more investment in treatment, especially in underserved rural and tribal areas.

This election year adds another layer of complexity. With the governor's seat and other key positions up for election, lawmakers are focused on showcasing their achievements. The session also sees several legislators running for higher office, adding to the dynamic political landscape.

Democrats, who have held the majority in both chambers for six years, view the 2024 session as a continuation of their policy work. In contrast, Republicans express concerns over state spending growth and policy directions in public safety and affordability.

Legislature hears bills on packaging and bottle recycling

Tuesday, the House Committee on the Environment heard two bills dealing with packaging extended producer responsibility and beverage container recycling. House Bill 2049— the Re-WRAP Act—is the second version of a bill introduced last session seeking to create a statewide system of recycling and disposal of product packaging, similar to what four other states have adopted. WR has weighed in with concerns that the proposal might be overly broad for a short session and premature when other states are wrestling with implementation. Allowing additional time to evaluate programs and gain further information would help WA design a more feasible and likely-to-succeed program. WR anticipates that a packaging EPR bill will eventually pass in WA as both OR and CA have adopted programs – which are in the implementation phases. 

The second bill, House Bill 2144, would create a beverage container recycling program similar to OR, with some key differences. Interestingly, HB 2144 was included in the WRAP Act last session but separated out for 2024. The massive proposal met with resistance from the recycling and waste hauling industry, which is a leader in the country with a nearly 50% recycling rate, making WA 17th in the US. 

WR expressed concerns based on challenges with the Oregon program and is opposed to a mandate that all retailers of a certain size and volume of sales be required to have a remittance kiosk in their stores. Although the bill does not require retailers to act as collection sites WR that a future interpretation of the rules may force retailers to take back beverage containers. A better solution would be to bolster the existing recycling program to achieve even higher levels of recycling.

Washington debates unemployment aid for striking workers

Washington state legislators are currently reviewing House Bill 5777, a proposal that could extend unemployment benefits to workers involved in strikes, particularly when faced with employer lockouts. This move follows a year marked by significant strikes across the nation, with Washington experiencing its fair share.

The bill, which has garnered substantial support from over 200 individuals at a recent hearing, is backed by various labor unions. Notable supporters include Starbucks Workers United and United Auto Workers. Senator Karen Keiser, a bill sponsor and SAG-AFTRA member, has been a vocal advocate, drawing on similar legislative efforts in California.

However, the proposal has met with concerns from industry representatives. Bruce Beckett of the Washington Retail Association highlighted the potential financial implications for businesses. "The bill, as it’s designed now, could dramatically increase the cost of benefits in a way that impacts every Washington employer," Beckett stated. He further emphasized the broader economic repercussions, noting, "Those costs are socialized."

Proponents like Brenda Wiest from Teamsters 117 counter these concerns by pointing out the minimal impact on the state's unemployment trust fund, arguing the financial security for workers outweighs the cost.

The debate in Washington mirrors a growing national trend. New York has long provided unemployment benefits to striking workers, and other states like New Jersey and Maine are exploring similar policies. This shift reflects an increasing awareness of the financial challenges faced by workers during strikes.

Read the full article on Washington State Standard

Comprehensive organic food management proposal offers retailers flexibility and uncertainty

After a six-month intense Organic Food Management stakeholder process with oversight from Representative Beth Doglio, the workgroup spent the last two weeks reviewing a comprehensive proposal that mandates statewide composting and other mandates with gradual implementation dates. This lengthy proposal is a sequel to HB 1799, passed in 2023, and will be considered by the Legislature in the 2024 session.

WR appreciates the goal of reducing methane production through organic food management to combat climate change and the potential opportunities for retail grocers to build community partnerships. After two iterations of this proposal, WR is pleased with some of the bill's provisions and is concerned about a few specific mandates.


Hearing held for A.I. Taskforce legislation

In the ever-evolving realm of artificial intelligence (A.I.), WR has been closely following and participating in discussions on each of the key pieces of A.I. legislation introduced during the 2024 session.

At the request of the Attorney General, companion bills SB 5838/ HB 1934 are being run in the House and Senate. From the outset, the A.I. task force recognized the retail sector as a crucial contributing member. WR appreciates the inclusion in the task force and believes the retail perspective will be valuable to shaping business-friendly legislation that does not stifle emerging technology.

There are some concerns with the bill as drafted, including the short timeframe of the task force and the lack of equitable industry participants. In collaboration with other business associations, WR sent a joint letter to the prime sponsors expressing concerns and providing recommended changes.

In addition to the letter, Crystal Leatherman, WR Government Affairs manager testified in the Senate Environment, Energy, & Technology Committee hearing on Wednesday, January 10, to share concerns and the desire to continue to collaborate on this very important issue.

New statewide poll shows diverse perspectives on state priorities

The latest Crosscut/Elway Poll shows varying – and, at times, contradictory – views on state government policies and priorities. It also reveals strong optimism about respondents’ personal finances but significant pessimism about the nation’s direction.


When respondents were asked how they expect things to go in the coming year, here are the results:

Respondents expressed support for repealing one of the two sources of these extra revenues. They support repealing the state capital gains tax by a 57% - 29% margin.

Paradoxically, respondents supported spending the unexpected $1 billion windfall from the capital gains tax and carbon pricing. In fact, 55% want the extra money invested into “schools, reducing homelessness, mental health programs, and combating the effects of climate change.” Only 7% want the Legislature to save the money in reserves and 30% prefer to maintain current spending levels and use the excess funds to reduce taxes.


However, a number of proposals gained significantly more support, including eliminating restrictions on police pursuits (66%), investing in mental health and drug treatment (84%), utility rebates for low-income households (75%), and more funding to address homelessness (66%).

From left: Rep. Jim Walsh (R-19), Rep. Joel McEntire (R-19), Sen. Jeff Wilson, (R-19), Sen. Kevin Vandewege (D-24), Rep. Mike Chapman (D-24), Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-24)

WR joins the 2024 Coastal Caucus send-off

WR was invited to attend the 2024 Coastal Caucus Legislative Send-Off , hosted by the Greater Grays Harbor Chamber of Commerce. The event saw participation from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers from the 19th and 24th legislative districts who shared their goals for the 60-day session.

Rep. Jim Walsh (R, 19), chair of the state's Republican party, highlighted public safety, tax reform, and addressing academic disparities in K-12 schools as his key focus areas. Fellow 19th District Republican, Rep. Joel McEntire, emphasized the need to repair aging school buildings, particularly in rural districts. Senator Jeff Wilson of the 19th District said this would be the "year of the initiatives", expressing a commitment to safeguard Washingtonians' rights to initiate ballot measures.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D, 24) is concentrating on issues related to water quantity and wildfire management and Rep. Mike Chapman (D, 24) has introduced legislation that would encourage economic development in rural communities. Rep. Steve Tharinger (D, 24) will be focusing on tax incentives and public works.

All six legislators emphasized their commitment to tackling the critical issues facing their constituencies during the 2024 legislative session.

Bipartisan $1.59 trillion spending deal averts government shutdown

Congressional leaders have reached a bipartisan agreement on the federal government's spending —a move aimed at averting a potential partial government shutdown later this month. The deal, involving both the House and Senate, centers on a $1.59 trillion funding package, which President Biden believes will advance key national priorities.

This new fiscal plan adheres to previously set spending caps for defense and domestic programs, as outlined in a bill that postponed the debt limit until 2025. However, it also makes concessions to House Republicans, who had expressed dissatisfaction with the spending limits in the earlier agreement. House Speaker Mike Johnson highlighted that this deal includes $16 billion in additional spending cuts compared to the arrangement made by then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden. The current agreement proposes about $30 billion less than the Senate initially considered.

The agreement brings the nation closer to avoiding a government shutdown while safeguarding crucial national interests.

Significantly, the agreement accelerates approximately $20 billion in previously agreed cuts to the Internal Revenue Service and cancels around $6 billion in unspent COVID relief funds. This financial arrangement is crucial for lawmakers to establish specific funding for government agencies, with some agencies facing funding lapses as soon as January 19 and others by February 2.

This agreement is distinct from ongoing negotiations for extra funding for Israel and Ukraine and discussions about asylum claim restrictions at the U.S. border.

New OSHA injury reporting rules in effect

This year brings new rules for reporting on 2023 injury records to the Federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Businesses on this list with 100 or more employees will be required to electronically submit accident information from their OSHA Log (Form 300), Summary (Form 300A), and the Injury and Illness Incident Report (Form 301).

To fill out Form 301, use the relevant Washington State Workers’ Compensation claim’s Report of Accident data. Personal identity information of the worker appearing on some forms must be redacted for privacy reasons.


All forms must be transmitted to the Federal Injury Tracking Application (ITA) by March 2, 2024.

OSHA exempts some businesses from this reporting requirement, depending on their North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. Larger retail and most automotive members must report, although companies with ten or fewer employees are exempt. This web page lists businesses exempt from reporting.

Read more

WR diversity statement

WR is committed to the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We strive to create a safe, welcoming environment in which these principles can thrive.

We value all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or disability, and that is the foundation of our commitment to those we serve.

Washington Retail Staff

Renée Sunde, President/CEO — 360.200.6450 — Email

Mark Johnson, Sr. VP of Policy & Government Affairs — 360.943.0667 — Email

Crystal Leatherman, State & Local GA Manager — 360.200-6453 — Email

Rose Gundersen, VP of Operations & Retail Services — 360.200.6452 — Email

Robert B. Haase, Director of Communications — 360.753.8742 — Email