Today is the 10th day of the 105-day 2019 state Legislative Session. Washington Retail already is busy tracking bills that could affect retailers. In all, upwards of 2,000 bills could be filed before various deadlines crop up at different points during the session.
With divided party power in the Legislature the past six years, many bipartisan outcomes resulted. But as a result of last fall’s elections, Democrats gained control of both the Senate and House of Representatives. Democrats have a 57-41 majority in the House and a 27-22 advantage in the Senate.
A couple of questions already have formed for this session. One is whether Democrat Governor Jay Inslee will see lawmakers adopt all or part of his proposed $3.7 billion package of tax increases. Inslee has proposed $54.4 billion in state spending, which is a 22 percent increase above the current budget cycle. The other question is whether controlling Democrats will continue to seek bipartisan outcomes or rule with their majority over major policy decisions.
Here’s a look at some of the key bills and issues WRA is following this year:
House Bill 1071: Shortens the time retailers must report computer security breaches from 45 days to 30. Negotiations involve arriving at a workable time frame to report and when a law would take effect so that companies can be prepared. A companion is Senate bill 5064.
Senate Bill 5057: It would raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 in Washington State. Washington Retail points out that the change would reduce sales at stores and tax revenue to the state. WR urges the outcomes to be weighed before final action.
Senate Bill 5376: The bill would place new controls over how larger retailers use personal information collected from customers. WR opposes the bill as introduced. WR is seeking reaction from members, some of whom have found the language confusing and unclear about potential impacts.
Senate Bill 5236: WR supports this bill, which would establish apprenticeships so that students could obtain course credit for preparatory training in specific fields.
Senate Bill 5323: It would ban most plastic bags across the state except for those used for produce or other items. Shoppers would be charged a 10-cent fee to instead buy paper or reusable bags.
At this writing, WR also was awaiting the introduction of bills on several issues including new statewide regulations in posting work schedules and new rules for overtime pay eligibility. Preliminary discussions indicate that WR will express concerns regarding both bills.
Regulating scheduling removes flexibility that employers and managers prefer and has resulted in reduced hours for employees where it has been tried. The state also has been considering whether to allow for more employees being eligible for overtime hours.
WR has urged Labor and Industries to await a federal Labor Department review of overtime hours rather than creating a different set of rules from the federal government.