Newsletter March 9, 2023







Legislative Update

Only 46 days remain of the 105-day 2023 legislative session, barring an extended special session. As of today, legislators have filed 2,024 bills. Yesterday, March 8, was the “cutoff” for bills to have to passed off the debate floor from their House of origin. The lawmakers worked late into the night with that deadline in mind.

The next important deadline is March 29, the last day for bills to pass out of policy committees, with the exception of the House fiscal committees and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation committees.

HB 1363 & HB 1586. These two bills address vehicle pursuits by law enforcement. House Bill 1363—allowing law enforcement to pursue suspected criminals—was significantly altered by removing property crimes from the permissible reasons to pursue. This would impact all retail thefts. WR will work diligently to amend the bill and re-insert property crimes as one of the reasons a pursuit can be engaged. House Bill 1586 would authorize a two-year study on pursuits and best practices to make recommendations to the legislature. It also requires implementation of a vehicular pursuit technology grant program by October 31, 2023 for the purpose of providing modern vehicular pursuit management technology to local law enforcement agencies. WR supports this bill in addition to—not as a replacement for—the original HB 1363. Both bills failed to come up for a vote and are not likely to receive further consideration.

SB 5056. WR strongly supports Senate Bill 5056, which would increase penalties and create a special allegation for repeat or habitual property crime offenders. It would also allow court discretion to sentence a person found beyond a reasonable doubt to be a habitual property offender to an additional 24 months for a Class B felony, and an additional 12 months for a Class C felony. The bill failed to be voted on by the senate and is not likely to receive further action.

SB 5160 would increase the punishments for retail crimes that involve multiple accomplices, with increased penalties for cumulative values involving multiple thefts over 180 days from one or more businesses. If the same criminals stole goods in several counties, each county could prosecute based on the cumulated rate. WR strongly supports this bill and thanks Sen. Nikki Torres (R-15-Pasco) for introducing this legislation. This bill failed to come up for a vote and is not likely to come up for consideration.

HB 1131 is referred to as the WRAP Act (Washington Recycling and Packaging and is currently awaiting action by the full House. The bill contains three major components. First is an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program where producers fund a recycling and disposal program for all packaging. Second, a post-consumer recycled content (PRC) requirement for future packaging. And third, establishing a beverage container reimbursement (BCR) program like the state of Oregon’s. The bill did not receive a vote and is unlikely to receive further consideration.

SB 5368, which WR drafted and strongly supports, would allow injured workers to return to light-duty work through approved non-profit organizations if no light-duty work is available with their employer. If passed, the bill will create equitable access to return to work, which would especially benefit frontline workers and small businesses. The bill failed to come up for a vote and is not likely to receive further consideration.

SB 5259 addresses public safety and retail crime in several ways, the first of which is the establishment of a Retail Theft Task Force in the Office of the Attorney General with specific directives. The second establishes a business and occupation tax credit for physical security improvements to retail establishments, such as security cameras, merchandising security equipment, and crash barriers. Third, cannabis retailers would have an additional reduction in B&O tax to help offset investments in enhanced security improvements. Lastly, retailers with 50 or more employees would be prohibited from disciplining or suspending without pay employees who intervene with the purpose of investigating or questioning the ownership of merchandise in their possession at a retail establishment as long as:

  • the employee doesn’t profile the person (suspected criminal);
  • the employee does not physically detain or restrain the person;
  • the person is engaged in a reasonable manner and for not more than a reasonable time to permit an investigation or questioning by law enforcement or by the owner of the establishment or their authorized employees; and
  • the employee had reasonable grounds to believe that the person was committing or attempting to commit theft on the premises of the merchandise.

Retail establishments would also be prohibited from disciplining an employee for notifying or summoning law enforcement to report an incident of organized retail theft or cooperating with an official investigation into organized retail theft. WR's concerns were addressed and we are now supporting the legislation. The bill is scheduled for a hearing this afternoon, March 9.

Health data privacy bill advances 

House Bill 1155, the health data privacy act, prime sponsored by Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-48-Bellevue), passed the House of Representatives last Saturday after 23 attempts to amend the legislation. Four amendments were adopted before it passed on a largely party-line vote of 57 to 39 with two excused. The measure was referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee for consideration.


Washington Retail has significant concerns about how retailers will comply with the bill and the legal liability it creates for them. As currently written, WR members are concerned the definition of “consumer health data” would include many consumer products and services beyond the legislation’s intended scope. For example, these could consist of vitamins, over-the-counter skincare or hair products, athletic or sports equipment, footwear, and apparel, perfumes and fragrances, electronics and entertainment equipment, and games, toys, groceries, cleaning and household supplies, recreational cannabis, pets, pet food, pet supplies, first aid supplies, cold remedies, and pain relievers to name a few.


WR supports consumers having access to and control of their personal data. However, as currently written, this bill will be difficult, if not impossible, for retailers to know what is covered and what is not – leaving them exposed to unwarranted lawsuits and legal actions.


WR appreciates proponents of the legislation meeting with us and considering clarifying edits that will make it easier for retailers to comply with the legislation while still allowing us to provide the high level of service consumers demand and have come to expect.

Ergonomics and warehouse bills continue moving forward

SB 5217, which repeals the voter-approved initiative to prohibit promulgating ergonomics (e.g., musculoskeletal injuries) rules, passed the Senate this week along partisan lines. The bill authorizes Labor and Industries to adopt only one rule per year for an industry with ergonomic claim rates of more than twice the state average for such injuries. Significantly, the Senate adopted several amendments on the floor to (1) delay implementation for three years, (2) clarify that industry sub-classes that do not meet the injury thresholds are not subject to new rules, and (3) increase technical assistance staffing suggested by WR. The bill also encourages Labor and Industries to refrain from rule-making if an industry’s claim rate is declining, even if its ergonomic claim rate is more than twice the state’s average. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

HB 1762 requires warehouse employers to provide written descriptions of quotas and work speed data, allows for sufficient time for breaks and other activities, prohibits retaliation against employees and former employees, authorizes enforcement by L&I, and provides for a private right of action. The bill passed the House on a 53-42 vote this week. WR and a large coalition of business groups will continue working in the Senate toward a bill focused on transparency instead of enforcement and litigation. 

Senate passes gross misdemeanor for drug possession

Jeremy Lott


After a contentious floor fight, the Washington state Senate has passed legislation being touted by many Democratic senators as a permanent fix for the Washington Supreme Court’s Blake decision, which had decriminalized the possession of most drugs.

The temporary fix the Legislature passed in 2021 made drug possession a simple misdemeanor. It is set to sunset July 1.

The proposed permanent replacement had two aspects to it. Senate Bill 5536 would make possession a gross misdemeanor. It would also encourage treatment for those charged with possession through a pretrial diversion program.

Treatment would be a way drug users could have their records expunged.

That gross-misdemeanor-for-treatment bargain survived several rounds of voting on floor amendments Friday night by more progressive members of the majority Democratic caucus.

The final bill passed 28-21 with 14 Republicans and 14 Democrats voting for it. A majority of the Democratic caucus of 29, 15 state senators, voted against it, including several of the bill’s sponsors. They were joined by six Republican nays, some of whom may have objected to the bill’s gun control-related amendments.

One amendment that was adopted would have the stated effect of “Requir[ing] the court to sign an order of ineligibility to possess firearms if the required substance use disorder assessment filed with the court indicates the individual has a substance use disorder.”

The bill now goes to the state House for consideration.

Read the entire article on The Center Square

WR welcomes Kathy Davies to the team

Kathie Davies recently joined the WR Policy and Government Affairs team as Executive Legislative Assistant reporting to WR’s President & CEO, Renée Sunde.

Kathie served in the Washington State Legislature as a Legislative Aid for five years. She worked closely with state executives, agencies, and the public on behalf of the legislature and various stakeholders. Her work included a variety of responsibilities, including detailed and in-depth research, project management, policy proposal development, document control, and communications with media and constituents.

More recently, Kathie served as the Executive Assistant to a state-wide association where she supported executive management, the board of directors, and member committees. She was responsible for coordinating and drafting correspondence, and planning association meetings and events.

The position is critical to the daily success of the executive management team and the overall mission of WR to provide advocacy for members at all levels of government.  Please feel free to reach out to welcome Kathie at

WA revenue up $89M over November forecast as economic slowdown looms

Brett Davis

Washington state's economy has been a mixed bag, according to a Friday morning presentation to the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council by Executive Director Steve Lerch. On the positive side, revenue collections remain higher than expected for the time being. 

“And right now, if we look at our revenue collections since the November forecast, we have a positive variance of $89 million,” Lerch said.

Lerch conceded that a recession is likely, according to economic forecasters in general, but did provide some reassuring context. “Again, a lot of economists are not very optimistic,” he said, referencing recent surveys that show a majority of economists expect a recession to begin later this year.

According to a February survey by the National Association for Business Economics, 58% of 48 economists who responded envision a recession sometime this year.

A January Wall Street Journal survey found that 61% of business and academic economists expect a recession in the next 12 months. The relatively good news, according to Lerch, is the likely nature of any possible recession. “I think the general consensus is that recession would be mild, but that tends to be the thinking across a lot of forecasters,” he said.

Read the rest of the story from The Center Square

Long-robust U.S. labor market shows signs of cooling

Jon Hilsenrath and Bryan Mena

Private-sector readings show job postings are receding more than government reports of job openings.

Demand for U.S. workers shows signs of slowing, a long-anticipated development that is appearing in private-sector job postings even while government reports indicate the labor market is running hot.

Figures from ZipRecruiter Inc. and Recruit Holdings Co., two large online recruiting companies, show the number of job postings on their sites declined more late last year than the Labor Department report on job openings for that period indicated. The companies report available jobs fell further this year, potentially foretelling a decrease in openings in coming Labor Department reports, and a slowdown in hiring this year. 

Robust government data on job openings and hiring are among the reasons Federal Reserve officials believe the U.S. economy is overheated, fueling high inflation. Fed officials are raising interest rates in an attempt to slow growth and reduce price pressures. If government reports move in line with the recruitment business, Fed officials could feel less pressure to move aggressively.

Read the entire WSJ article

Ballard business puts up barriers to prevent damage from nearby encampment dwellers

After months of grappling with problems arising from a homeless encampment directly in front of their business, a retailer in the Seattle area has taken proactive measures to ensure that the encampment doesn’t come back.

Albert Lee Appliances in Ballard put up concrete barriers and large boulders outside its store to prevent anyone from setting up new tents on the property.

Businesses nearby say they’ve been dealing with break-ins, fires, and constant cleanup due to trash and human waste left in the area. Those KOMO4 interviewed said it is a sad state of affairs that a business had to resort to this.

Concrete blocks and boulders now sit outside where a line of tarps and tents used to be last November.

The Seattle Fire Department responded to a fire at the encampment that had spread to the nearby appliance store. There were no injuries, but the business has since boarded up its windows and placed concrete barriers and boulders outside its premises, several months after the encampment was removed to prevent its recurrence.

See the video report on KOMO4 News

Preventing vehicular smash and grabs

News reports in recent weeks have shed light on a staggering frequency of vehicular smash and grabs. In most cases, stolen cars are driven through a retail business’ storefront doors, giving thieves access to the store’s goods. Repair costs are often in the tens of thousands of dollars, while the stolen merchandise amounts to only a fraction of that in value.

The destruction of retail storefronts is met with a six to eight-week wait time for building materials necessary for repairs, adding to the frustration of business owners.

Property crimes reached a five-year high last year, according to a presentation by the Olympia Police to the Community Livability and Public Safety Committee late last month. One of the biggest jumps was in stolen vehicles. Police received 364 reports of motor vehicle theft in 2022. That’s more than a 40% increase over the city’s five-year average of 260 auto thefts in Olympia.

The problem runs statewide. According to the Auto Theft Task Force of Puget Sound—part of the Washington State Patrol—car thefts statewide from January through November last year were 41,330. That number is for the first 11 months. In total, vehicle thefts increased by 88 percent from 2021 to 2022.

Stolen vehicles are a much more substantial “tool” to gain access to a retail business than bolt cutters or a hammer. The good news is business owners have preventative options.

As outlined in the Guide to Navigating Public Safety & Retail Crime, a free resource WR offers, bollards can prevent vehicles from ramming into buildings. Even if a city doesn’t approve bollard installations, removable barriers, such as rock-filled gabion wire cages, can support a planter or bench seat while effectively stopping a moving vehicle.

Registration now open for March 29 AG Ferguson ORC Task Force meeting in Tacoma

The Office of the Attorney General is holding its third Organized Retail Crime Task Force meeting on March 29, 2023, between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

To join in, RSVP by Wednesday, March 22. The meeting will be hybrid. In-person attendance at the Tacoma Office is limited due to available space. RSVPs for in-person attendance will be accepted in the order received.

All in-person attendees must show proof of vaccination and booster and complete a wellness screening upon arrival. Individuals who cannot verify their vaccination and booster status will not be admitted to the in-person meeting but may participate via Zoom. Masks are optional and will be available on-site.

For any questions, please reach out to the Policy Team at

Small-footprint brick & mortar spaces catching on

Big retailers are sprouting small retail shops with a fraction of their typical footprint.

A recent report published by highlights the numerous benefits that small-format stores offer businesses. By opting for smaller store sizes, retailers can cater to specific demographics, curate personalized shopping experiences, and test out new brand directions. This trend has gained traction among companies striving to improve their customer experience.

A smaller format store with the right mix of in-store products can often mean more efficient sales strategies. Even with the smaller footprint, stores can bring brand awareness to neighborhoods and customer convenience by buying online and picking up in-store (BOPIS) with a personalized in-person shopping experience.

Placer's report outlines four key takeaways:

  • Smaller stores can increase visitor density, enabling greater efficiency in areas where large format stores don't fit or are cost-prohibitive.
  • Retailers can use smaller stores to cater to key demographic segments.
  • Small-format stores can offer more experiential retail possibilities by focusing on specific audiences.

Companies can draw on smaller stores to double down on convenience.

Several big retailers now operating small-format stores include:

read more

Safety inspection rate for retailers remains at 7 times national average

According to the OSHA Inspection Tracker, Washington State retailers continued to be subjected to safety inspections—at eight times the national average—in 2022. WR reported the same high ratio differential one year ago.

The best way for businesses to prepare for L&I safety inspections is to enroll in WR’s free Safety Ambassador Program. This program gives participants winning strategies to lower workers’ compensation premiums and processes to develop quality safety practices throughout the organization.

To get started, download this checklist of items to address in preparation for an inspection. Businesses can receive additional information and help to attain L&I compliance with proven safety practices by emailing

Employees are invaluable to every business, and WR is here to help keep them safe.

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




Rose Gundersen

VP of Operations

& Retail Services



Mark Johnson

Senior VP of Policy & Government Affairs



Robert B. Haase

Director of




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