Washington Retail Report

Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Renee Sunde. WR president and CEO were featured speakers in Wenatchee in January. Submitted Photo


Legislative Update

WR's policy and government affairs team are continuing to review bills closely. Legislators have filed 1,822 bills, an increase of 175 over the previous week in February.

HB 1155 is purported to protect health data privacy relating to collecting, sharing, and selling consumer health data. WR has significant concerns about the bill as currently written because of the overly broad scope. The bill would impact the delivery of low-cost access to healthcare which has become a primary directive over the past years. Onerous and overbroad restrictions and requirements such as those related to geofencing, consent and deletion obligations, set the stage for unfair advantage.

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 criminal stole goods in 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 this legislation. Executive action was taken in the Senate Committee on Law & Justice last Thursday and passed for a second reading in the Rules Committee the following day.

HB 1131 and SB5154 would enact the Packaging Extended Producer Responsibility—also known as the WRAP Act—and create a beverage container reimbursement (BCR) program. WR is working with stakeholders on the definition of “producer” and sharing comments on improving the BCR program. WR supports the voluntary nature of the takeback sites.

SB 5217, referred to as the Ergonomics bill, 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. No additional hearings have been scheduled since the January 24 hearing in the Senate Committee on Labor & Commerce.

SB 5482 would replace the state’s Business & Operations (B&O) tax with a margins tax—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. WR has significant concerns on the increased tax burden this change could have on many of our members.


WR weighs in on police pursuit bills

The week of February 14th, Washington Retail testified in support of several bills designed to allow law enforcement to once again pursue suspected criminals.

Three years ago, when the legislature passed several police reform bills, it severely restricted the ability of law enforcement to pursue suspects. Today many law enforcement agencies feel powerless once a suspect leaves a crime scene in a car. Under current law, for example, if a suspected retail thief leaves a store with stolen product on their person, once they get into their getaway vehicle, the police are not allowed to pursue them.

Considering that Washington State does not have a “concealment” of product law, which is when someone hides goods on their person or in a bag, backpack, or other with the intent to steal, it creates somewhat of a predicament for law enforcement and retail loss prevention staff. Since the suspect cannot be apprehended in a store while concealing product, the only opportunity to catch the suspect is in the distance between the store’s exit door and their car. This narrow window of time creates a dangerous scenario and could lead to an employee, customer, law enforcement, or even the crook getting hurt or killed. This puts public safety at risk.

Allowing police to safely pursue suspects, with specific guidelines and regulations to ensure safety, will protect innocent bystanders, employees, and criminals themselves from potential harm.

WR wants to reemphasize that enacting meaningful pursuit legislation is not the only solution to solving public safety problems, retail theft, and organized retail crime. It is, however, one crucial part of a multi-pronged approach to address these serious and pressing community issues.

To help tackle these public safety issues, funding is needed for an Organized Retail Crime Task Force as well as better education for law enforcement, the public, and our elected officials. Funding is also crucial for the recruitment and retention of law enforcement. Washington is 51st of the 50 U.S. states and Washington DC for officers per capita, substance addiction, and mental health treatment. This statistic means Washington needs more facilities, counselors, mental health professionals, and officers, and we must disincentivize thefts by making the monetization of stolen goods more difficult.

Two bills before the legislature seek to study police pursuit issues over the next several years. Studies would be helpful, and WR supports these efforts. However, these studies are not a replacement for passing meaningful police pursuit legislation as soon as possible so that law enforcement can keep the public safe and minimize criminal activity.

WR encourages the legislature to act swiftly on House Bill 1363—allowing police pursuits—sponsored by Rep. Alicia Rule (D-42.) We also support Senate Bill 5533,


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