Newsletter January 12, 2023

IN THIS ISSUE

POLICY


ON THE LOCAL FRONT


POLITICAL NEWS


ECONOMY


RETAIL THEFT & PUBLIC SAFETY


SAFETY

2023 Washington State Legislative Session Convenes 

Mark Johnson, Sr. VP of Policy and Government Affairs 



The 2023 Legislative Session began on Monday, January 9, the first in-person session since the pandemic hit. More accurately, the 2023 session will be hybrid, accommodating both in-person and remote participation. 


As scheduled, the session will last 105 calendar days – no holidays or weekends – and many evenings. The one thing the Legislature must do is pass a two-year budget – which is likely to hover around $70 billion. With that said, roughly 3,000 bills will be introduced. At an average “survival rate” of 10-15%, we anticipate approximately 300 new laws from this session. 


The budget process is a time-consuming and technical process. The Governor has introduced his budget proposal to the Legislature, which was heard on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. WR is a strong advocate for the Governor’s inclusion of funding to bolster the Attorney General’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force.


As part of the next step, the House and Senate will each introduce their budgets, and then the three sides will debate and horse trade until an agreed-upon budget emerges. The budget has historically been one of the last measures approved by the Legislature and will likely be the largest.


WR will be working on several top issues. First and foremost are the timely and important issues surrounding public safety, retail theft, and organized retail crime. With Congress passing the federal online marketplace accountability act – or INFORM – there is no need to address these issues on a state level. Both state bills will be pulled from consideration. On public safety, we are pleased two bills have been introduced so far – SB 5034 and HB 1053 allowing police to pursue criminals again. Regarding retail theft, several measures have been proposed. SB 5056 would allow increased sentences for repeat offenders, and SB 5160 would allow felony charges for gangs (multiple accomplices) committing retail theft. 


Other top issues include legislation on beverage container reimbursement and product packaging, state business taxes – a margins tax versus a business and occupation tax, ergonomics regulations, use of personnel records, and battery stewardship, to name a few. 


WR has drafted and strongly supports HB 1137 and the pending Senate companion bill on return-to-work light-duty for injured workers at approved non-profits. 


WR is excited to be back representing our members at Olympia’s State Capitol in person.

Governor Inslee addresses Legislature in State-of-the-State address


Washington State Governor Jay Inslee presented his State-of-the-State address before the Legislature on Tuesday, outlining his priorities for the session.


During the Governor’s remarks, he highlighted the need for public safety. WR supports his budget proposal to fund the Attorney General’s Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Task Force. Inslee’s budget included $2.265 million of the $3 million the AG recommended for the Task Force. Inslee also called for aggressive bipartisan spending on housing, homelessness, behavioral health, and education. He emphasized housing, education, and the environment and ended his remarks on the intensely partisan issues surrounding gun control and abortion rights.


Rep. Peter Abbarno (R-20) provided the Republican response and highlighted issues surrounding public safety and the need for the Legislature to act swiftly to allow law enforcement to pursue criminals safely. He also agreed that the housing crisis and homelessness had worsened significantly in the past decade during Inslee’s past terms as Governor.

Legislative Update


It has been an eventful week as the Legislature welcomed newly elected and veteran legislators back to Olympia. WR has been reviewing closely the bills which were pre-filed as well as new bills dropped during the first week of session approximately 3,000 bills are expected to be introduced.


The Democrat party has majority control in both houses with a 58D-40R split in the House and a 29D -20R split in the Senate. The bills that receive House approval will move from the House of origin to the opposite House for possible concurrence and a floor vote for potential approval by the entire Legislature. 


Among the bills that were pre-filed, WR is closely following:


  • HB 1140/SB 5187 proposes 2023-2025 fiscal biennium operating appropriations funding for the Attorney General’s Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Task Force. AG Ferguson initially requested $3 million in funding for resources and staffing of the Task Force. Governor Inslee has budgeted $2.265 million. WR supports the Governor’s proposal and encourages the Legislature to increase the appropriation to the AG’s original $3 million.


  • HB 1137, which WR drafted and strongly supports, would allow injured workers to return to light-duty work thru approved non-profit organizations if there is no light-duty work available with their employer. If passed, the bill will create equitable access to return to work, which would be especially beneficial to frontline workers and small businesses.


  • HB 1131/SB 5154 call for the creation of a beverage container reimbursement program and producers of products with packaging to join a producer responsibility organization that will set forth standards of how producers will pay for and encourage and incentivize the redesign of packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable. The bill is also referred to as the “WRAP Act.” WR appreciates that the 142-page bill does not require retailers to take the beverage containers back at their store locations. We are reviewing this complex legislation and working closely with the sponsors. 

Statewide poll finds strong concern about economy and other issues


A late December Crosscut Elway Poll found Washington voters most concerned about the economy, public safety, and homelessness.


In the poll, voters are less optimistic about the 2023 direction of the country (45% better/50% worse) and state (48% better/45% worse) than they are about the direction of their community (51% better/42% worse) and their own household (52% better/29% worse). Concerns about the state are reflected in voter ratings for the Governor as well (46% favorable/52% negative).


Voters strongly support using the expected $6 billion in state revenues to “meet increased demand and cost for services without raising taxes” (55%). By a 52% - 42% margin, voters support the Governor’s budget proposal to create 26,000 affordable housing units over the next six years that are focused on the needs of “people who are homeless, low-income, or who have disabilities or chronic mental illness.” Spending an additional $2 billion on K-12 education has even stronger support (60% support/34% oppose). Voters were far less enthusiastic about a proposal requiring all vehicles sold, bought, or registered in the state, to be electric after 2035 (40% support/54% oppose).

Councilmember Pedersen becomes second to not seek reelection. More to follow?


With all 7 Seattle City Council district seats on the ballot this year, two incumbents have already announced their decision not to seek reelection. This week, Councilmember Alex Pedersen (District 4) made his decision public. In late 2022, Councilmember Lisa Herbold became the first to announce she was not seeking another term. If rumors of additional retirements prove true, the Seattle Council could have several new members in 2024.

Seattle Police Chief Diaz shares plan to fight crime and hire more police


Chief Adrian Diaz shared some positive crime news while discussing his plans to battle crime and recruit additional officers in 2023.


On a positive front, Seattle saw a drop in shootings in 2022. The police department also recovered 1,260 guns, including 136 in December alone.


Chief Diaz expressed frustration that people often do not report property crimes, making it harder to know the full extent of the problem. The Chief hopes that success in recruiting new officers – and retaining existing ones – will enable SPD to make meaningful progress against crime in 2023. The department was down about 375 officers as it entered the new year.

Congress finally moves forward


After a tension-filled week in the House and 15 rounds of votes, California Representative Kevin McCarthy (R) was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives last Friday night. On Monday of this week, the House passed a Rules Package which included several procedural and operational changes, replacing those used by the previous Congress. One of the changes ended proxy voting and hybrid/virtual committee hearings.


With the Speaker approved and rules in place, the House is now moving forward and will address a large number of bills—two of which are particularly of note to retailers, including:


FTC Action regarding Mastercard


In December, the FTC issued a proposed order to end Mastercard’s illegal business tactics. The credit card company has been using these tactics to force merchants into routing debit card payments through its payment network. The order requires Mastercard to stop blocking the use of competing debit payment networks. Under a proposed FTC order, Mastercard must begin providing competing networks the customer account information necessary to process debit payments, reversing the company’s alleged practice of keeping them out of the ecommerce debit payment business. The FTC alleges Mastercard has been violating provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, known as the Durbin Amendment, and its implementing rule, Regulation II. This is a huge victory for consumers as well as merchants that rely on debit card payments to operate their businesses.


Proposed rule on non-compete agreements


Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a proposed rule that would effectually…


Read more

Holiday eCommerce sales reached a record $211.7 billion


Adobe Analytics found that eCommerce sales reached a record $211.7 billion during the holiday shopping season from November 1 through the end of December 2022. That’s an increase of 3.5% year-over-year. Forty-seven percent of online sales during the same period came from smartphones—up four percent from the year before.


Retailer BBQGuys reported that nearly 75% of shoppers used mobile devices to make purchases.


Read more at DigitalCommerce360

Legislation focused on combatting organized retail crime


Congress recently passed a year-end omnibus package that included the INFORM Consumers Act—legislation WR has strongly supported. This bill mandates that online marketplaces must confirm the identities of third-party sellers conducting high sales volumes.


AG Bob Ferguson’s ORC Task Force recommendations for online resellers will significantly bolster the INFORM Act’s effectiveness. His recommendations for resellers include:


  • Establishing a specialized retail crime team
  • Establishing and making available the team’s criteria for assisting victims and law enforcement with such trafficking investigations
  • Establishing mechanisms by which information and data about the suspect seller and their sales history may be shared with victims and law enforcement
  • Identifying the types of items regularly sold through their marketplace that are particularly susceptible to trafficking
  • Identifying purportedly new items being offered at prices substantially below the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP)
  • Requiring sellers to provide additional information before making their offers viewable to the public
  • Modifying sales terms to sellers of new and unused products to post authentic and unedited photographs of the items for sale, including depictions of items’ stock keeping unit (SKU) numbers and bar codes
  • Providing retailers with periodic reports about the types of items identified as susceptible to trafficking through their platform


The approval of the INFORM Act was a crucial move in the battle against the increasing problem of organized retail crime, but additional legislation is needed.


WR supports the Combatting Organized Retail Crime Act, which was presented to the previous Congress. The bill aims to enhance federal efforts to combat crime by combining resources from state and local law enforcement agencies and retail industry specialists. The bill would also establish new methods to aid federal ORC investigations and prosecutions and assist in recovering stolen goods and proceeds.

Catalytic Converter Theft Work Group issues final report – legislation expected


WR served on the Catalytic Converter Theft Workgroup during the interim, formed by law last session. The final report was recently submitted to the Legislature. Representative Cindy Ryu (D-32), the sponsor of the workgroup law, has expressed interest in presenting some of the proposals to the Legislature for consideration.


These thefts have plagued WR members and their customers, and employees. WR applauds Rep. Ryu for championing this important issue to crack down on catalytic converter thefts, make them less attractive to steal in the first place, and hopefully help those less fortunate that are victims. We will be supporting proactive solutions to these crimes.

Wenatchee Valley Chamber presents January public safety & retail crime forum to tackle impact on businesses


Washington State’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, and Renée Sunde, President/CEO of WR, will speak on the timely topic of crime impacting businesses at the Wenatchee Valley Chamber Talk on Friday, January 27, from 11:30am-1:00pm.


According to a December 2021 report by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 60% of the 8.9 million crimes reported in 2020 were property crimes, including larceny-theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, and vandalism, costing businesses $17.2 billion in annual losses, according to Entrepreneur.com.


The pandemic provided organized retail crime (ORC) opportunities to expand attacks. These crimes include smash-and-grabs and other “brazen in-store attacks.” While businesses have changed how they provide goods and services, criminals have found new ways around security gaps, endangering customers and employees.


The President of the Washington Organized Retail Crime Association, Robert Nelson, will attend the meeting to help organize community businesses to address ORC and public safety issues effectively.


The Chamber talk is at the Wenatchee Convention Center, 121 N Wenatchee Ave, Wenatchee, WA 98801, beginning at 11:30am with meal service at 11:45am and program at noon. The meeting is scheduled to finish at 1:00pm.


For more information, email Wenatchee Chamber Executive Director, Steve Wilkinson at steve@wenatchee.org, or call at (509) 662-2116. 

Register Here

A lack of safety meetings can bring expensive citations



When employers and employees build trust, both parties develop a sense of ownership toward improving the company’s safety efforts. Safety meetings provide an opportunity for supervisors to showcase the company’s core values of safety to staff. These meetings also allow employees to share safety ideas and concerns with management, especially when management has created a safe atmosphere for open communication.


Lack of safety meetings was the second-most cited rule during L&I inspections in 2022! A safety meeting can simply be a ten-minute discussion on the proper use of a tool, a ladder, or any piece of equipment that your operation uses. Remember to log your topic and attendees in your safety binder. Should your company have an L&I Safety Inspection, you can show proof that you are actively discussing safety in the workplace.


Well-planned safety meetings are vital tools in building robust safety systems in the workplace. The monthly Safety Packets our Retro members receive are excellent resources for safety meeting topic planning. These packets are available here. Another tool is RS SafetyTV, which has a variety of videos to supplement safety presentations.


Showing employees how safety processes benefit them at work and home helps get them to engage in developing safety processes and activities. Safe workplaces experience reduced injuries, decreased injury severity, and a reduction in lost productivity.


Our safety team is available to help members with safety plans and topics for safety meetings. Contact us at 360-943-9198 x122, or safety@waretailservices.com

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


Rose Gundersen

VP of Operations

& Retail Services

360.200.6452

Email

Mark Johnson

Senior VP of Policy & Government Affairs

360.943.0667

Email

Robert B. Haase

Director of

Communications

360.753.8742

Email

https://www.facebook.com/WARetail

Facebook  Instagram  LinkedIn  Twitter