Adoption of a new state budget has dominated state Legislature debate this week with the 2021 remote Session adjournment scheduled on Sunday.
Because state revenues have exceeded expectations set during the COVID-19 pandemic and that state budgets are forecast to be balanced in the next four years, Washington Retail has urged that no new taxes be imposed that would slow the needed economic recovery. Since January, WR also has tracked results on numerous retail-related bills that could affect companies and employees. Please note that legislative action can be spontaneous and challenging to anticipate. Therefore, outcomes here were up to date at the time of writing.
Here is a summary of bills most important to WR:
- House bill 1332 has been signed into law by Governor Inslee. It allows qualified businesses that apply on a special state form by Friday of next week to be considered for an extension of time to pay property taxes. It applies to businesses that sustained a loss in revenues of 25% or more during the pandemic. Washington Retail supported the bill.
- House bill 1539, bad debt sales tax exemption. WR opposes this bill that would narrow the business and occupation tax deduction and sales and use tax credit and refund available to sellers for customers who fail to pay taxes on purchases. If approved, it would reverse a state Supreme Court decision upholding the measures. It is alive until adjournment because it is related to adoption of a new state budget.
- Senate bill 5355 has been signed into law by Governor Inslee. It allows a lien to be placed on a business for alleged violations of wage obligations to employees. Washington Retail opposed the bill.
- Senate bill 5062, Washington Privacy Act. After Senate passage, the bill sponsor is trying to revive the bill in the House. The two houses disagree on how the protection of consumers’ private online purchasing information should be enforced. If the bill does not move, the subject will be considered again during the 2022 Legislative Session. Washington Retail supports the Senate bill.
- Senate bill 5191, price gouging. Both the House and Senate have passed similar bills that seek to control price increases during emergencies such as the pandemic. However, the two chambers are trying to decide the final language of a bill. If they cannot agree, the bill will die for this year. WR has worked closely with stakeholders on improving the bill.
- The Legislature has passed House bill 1161 that would expand the prescription drug take-back program throughout the state. The bill now goes to the Governor for signature. WR supported the bill.
The Governor has 5 days, excluding Sundays, to take action on any bill passed by the Legislature, provided adjournment does not occur within those 5 days.
Washington Retail will provide a comprehensive report for members on the outcome of all retail-related bills following adjournment.