March 10 marked the last day of Washington’s 60-day virtual legislative session. The WR Policy and Government Affairs team tracked closely 142 bills that, if passed, could have profoundly impacted the retail industry in one way or another. Although WR is celebrating a respectful list of successes, the 2022 session delivered its fair share of disappointments, too—many drawn-down partisan lines.
The state’s unprecedented budget surplus provided ample opportunities for lawmakers to pass meaningful tax relief at a time when individuals, communities, and businesses needed it most. As we step into our post-pandemic reality, uncertainty continues. Supply chain challenges, workforce shortages, and some of the highest inflation we have experienced in the past 40 years blur the future and remain unclear.
But instead of tax relief, the $14 billion in the state’s revenue surplus would be focused on spending at levels that may not be sustainable for years to come.
After two years under the executive authority of Governor Inslee, the state’s emergency powers did not get curtailed. The House failed to pass SB 5909 to include amendments that would have brought the policy in line with other states around the country, requiring affirmative legislative approval of emergency orders after a set period of time. The WA Cares long-term care delay was a small win, but this highly flawed program would have been better to find real solutions to the many issues that surround the program.
The issue of public safety and retail crime has become one of the most critical issues facing retailers across the country. Washington State is now the second highest in the nation, with over $2.8 billion in retail theft in 2021. But this year, several bills that would have helped slow criminal activity did not pass.
SB 5919 would have provided authority for law enforcement to engage in vehicular pursuits if there was probable cause but was not supported by the majority party. HB 1656 would have added the word concealment to the definition of theft. SB 5781 would have added multiple accomplices to ORC laws and enhanced penalties. And HB1614 would have required high-volume third-party sellers to make available information to help law enforcement with stolen product tracking and criminal investigations.
Unfortunately, these bills played out with partisan politics and will likely have crippling consequences in the coming year.