Just 39 days remain of the 105-day 2023 legislative session, barring an extended special session. As of today, legislators have filed 2,035 bills.
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.
Here is a short list of bills we are working on:
HB 1155 — Health Data Privacy
One of the more challenging bills this session is House Bill 1155, which relates to health data privacy. The bill seeks to protect sensitive healthcare data not currently covered by the federal HIPAA Law (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). However, the legislation is extremely broad as presently written and would unintentionally include many non-sensitive healthcare products and services, such as numerous over-the-counter medications, vitamins, health foods, health-related clothing, devices, and tools. The bill passed the House of Representatives on March 4, mainly on a party-line vote. The measure was given a public hearing on the 14th in the Senate Law and Justice Committee and now awaits action, at which WR testified.
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.
Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-48-Bellevue), is the prime sponsor of HB 1155. The bill must be voted out of committee by March 29, which we expect to happen. Per the AG, the bill doesn’t currently have a fiscal impact, so it will likely go directly to the Rules Committee unless leadership forces it to stop in the fiscal committee for further scrutiny.
SB 5352 — Law enforcement vehicle pursuits
SB 5352 addresses House Bill 1054, which raised the bar in 2021 for police pursuits from reasonable suspicion to probable cause that an individual has committed certain crimes before initiating a pursuit. SB 5352 would authorize law enforcement officers to initiate a pursuit if they reasonably suspect that an individual in the fleeing vehicle has committed or is currently committing a violent crime, sex offense, vehicular assault, domestic violence, an escape, or driving under the influence. It does not include retail theft. The bill includes amendments that mandate additional training and require law enforcement officers to communicate more effectively with local authorities during chases to safeguard bystanders. WR is working for retail theft to be added back into the bill as a reason for pursuit.
ORC Task Force Funding – Operating Budget
The House and the Senate will be releasing their proposed budgets soon. WR has met with the House and the Senate budget writers regarding funding for the Attorney General’s ORC Task Force, and we are hopeful that they will include $3 million in funding for the task force.
SB 5144— Battery stewardship
SB 5144 requires producers of certain types of batteries to participate in a stewardship organization that plans and provides for battery collection and end-of-life management, beginning January 1, 2027, for portable batteries and January 1, 2029, for medium-sized batteries. The department of ecology would be required to report policy recommendations to the Legislature related to the collection and management of electric vehicle batteries by April 2024. Retailers would be prohibited from selling covered batteries from producers that do not participate in an approved stewardship plan. Labeling requirements for batteries sold in Washington and battery disposal collection sites are also covered. While WR would prefer a national solution and recognition of voluntary collection that is already taking place, we feel the bill is a step in the right direction. In particular, we appreciate that the bill does not include a mandatory tack back or point of sale fee.
The bill was voted out of the Senate last week and had a public hearing on March 13 in the House Committee on Environment & Energy. WR testified at the hearing.
HB 1068 — Injured workers’ rights during medical exams
HB 1068 concerns injured workers during independent medical exams. In the workers’ compensation system, a State Fund or self-insured employer’s claim manager may request an injured worker submit to an independent medical examination (IME) to (1) determine whether to allow or re-open a claim; (2) resolve a new medical issue, an appeal, or case progress; or (3) evaluate a worker’s permanent disability or work restriction. The examinations are performed by medical providers approved by the Department of Labor and Industries.
HB 1068 would allow an injured worker to make an audio and video recording of an IME by one person of the worker’s choosing during the examination. WR opposes this bill because L&I anticipates it will cause scheduling delays if a provider does not consent to an audio or video recording, and even more problematic amongst mental health providers. Any delays in services for injured workers will increase future disability and claim costs. The bill was voted out of the House last month, had a hearing before the Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce this Tuesday, and now awaits executive session in that committee.
SB 5217 — Ergonomics
SB 5217 repeals the voter-approved initiative to prohibit promulgating ergonomics regulations (e.g., musculoskeletal injuries) by the state. Referred to as the Ergonomics bill, the legislation would give the state authority to adopt ergonomics regulations to purportedly prevent musculoskeletal injuries. WR strongly opposes this bill’s one-size fits all approach which will be difficult and costly for businesses to comply with while yielding minimal results. The bill narrowly passed out of the Senate, was heard in the House, and is scheduled for executive session in the committee on Labor & Workplace Standards tomorrow, March 17. WR testified in opposition to the bill.
SB 5259 — Employee Retail Theft
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.
WR’s concerns were addressed, and we are now supporting the legislation. The bill had a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Ways & Means committee on March 9 and is awaiting further action by the Senate. WR testified in support of the legislation.