Today marks the 17th day of the 105-day session, and WR is continuing to review bills closely. As of today, legislators have filed 1,617 bills, an increase of 248 in the past week.
HB 1155 and SB 5351 are purported to protect health data privacy relating to collecting, sharing, and selling consumer health data. WR has significant concerns about these bills as currently written because of the overly-broad definitions—especially as they define covered data. The bills are too broadly written, will likely lead to unintended and detrimental consequences, and will be challenging to comply with and enforce. A public hearing for HB 1155 was held on Tuesday but the Senate has yet to hold a hearing.
HB 1131 and SB 5154 would enact the Packaging Extended Producer Responsibility—also known as the WRAP Act—and create a beverage container reimbursement (BCR) program. WR appreciates the sponsors’ willingness to work with stakeholders to improve the legislation. In particular, the definition of who a producer will be key to retailers’ interest in the WRAP Act. Under the BCR program, WR supports the voluntary nature of the takeback sites. Both bills were heard yesterday and WR testified with suggested improvements. Public hearings for both bills have already taken place and additional meetings will be scheduled.
SB 5160 would increase the punishments for retail crimes that involve multiple accomplices, with increased penalties for cumulative values of involving multiple thefts over a 180-day period from one or more businesses. If the same person stole goods over 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 it. The bill was heard on Monday.
SB 5217, referred to as the Ergonomics bill, would give the state the ability to regulate certain industries and risk classes and is purported to prevent musculoskeletal injuries. WR strongly opposes this bill. This issue failed to pass in the last session, but Sen. Dhingra has reintroduced a similar version. The bill would focus on industries where ergonomic claims are two times higher than the overall state workers’ claim rate. WR testified in opposition to this bill at a hearing on Tuesday of this week.
SB 5482 would replace the state’s Business & Operations (B&O) tax with a margins tax and is modeled on legislation passed in Texas. Sen. Noel Frame (D-36-Seattle) is the prime sponsor of the bill A margins tax would allow deductions, which the current B&O tax system does not. The sponsors believe this is a fairer system that would allow for more equitable payment and be revenue neutral.
As proposed, instead of a business paying tax on their gross revenue with no deductions, SB 5482 would give all businesses a deduction. Each year, Washington businesses can take one major deduction of their choosing, such as the cost of labor or the cost of goods sold. Businesses will pay a flat 30% or a flat $1 million. The tax would then be calculated on their remaining margin. The rate for all business activity in Washington state under this proposal is 3.1966%. Businesses with $5 million of revenue or less can opt instead to use the EZ rate of 1.75% and pay on gross receipts rather than their margin.
WR plans to testify with concerns at the hearing this afternoon.