The 2024 Legislature will convene on January 8 for a 60-day Session scheduled to end March 7. WR is gearing up for a sprint as several thousand bills will be in play. All bills introduced in 2023 that did not pass will be automatically reintroduced for 2024, in addition to the introduction of hundreds of new bills. WR will continue to review and take appropriate action on all bills that impact retailers.
The Democrats dominate the legislative makeup in both the House and Senate with wide margins, as well as the Governor’s office held by Democrat Jay Inslee, who has announced he will not be seeking re-election in 2024. Inslee is the second Governor in state history to hold the post for three terms – the first was Dan Evans.
WR anticipates many issues to be debated that will impact retail. In addition, new issues that have yet to appear on our bill-tracking radar will also be introduced, requiring our attention.
Hot issues will include packaging extended producer responsibility – this determines who pays for product packaging when it is time to recycle or properly dispose of. Previous versions of the legislation have been called the WRAP Act – Washington Recycling and Packaging Act.
A new issue area that will likely be debated for several years is the use and development of artificial intelligence. There will be several bills to study AI and regulate its uses. WR will also be proactively supporting several bills and appropriations. This includes an appropriation from the state’s federal funds to assist small businesses to install theft prevention measures – such as bollard barriers, cameras, fencing, and bars. Another bill WR is leading the charge on will allow injured workers to return to work for light duty at a qualified non-profit if their employer doesn’t have a light duty position available.
The six qualified initiatives will be a significant wildcard for the 2024 Legislature. Four of the initiatives that WR supports include the repeal of the unconstitutional capital gains tax, another to ban once again the imposition of a state income tax, one to repeal the flawed and poorly funded long-term care tax program, and another to allow law enforcement to safely, with approval and training, pursue suspected property criminals in their vehicles.
The Legislature has three choices in dealing with these six voter-qualified measures. One, they can approve them. Two, they can ignore them, in which case they will appear on the November general election ballot. Or three, they can offer an alternative to the voters, which will appear on the November ballot along with the voter-qualified initiative. This is the first time the Legislature must deal with six initiatives in one session. This signals that perhaps voters are not pleased with several of the new taxes and regulations the Legislature has approved in recent years.
If you are a WR member and would like to participate in our weekly Policy and Government Affairs Committee calls, receive the minutes or bill tracker, please contact Mark Johnson, Sr. VP of Policy and Government Affairs.