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Posts tagged: olympia

Credit card surcharges better addressed by the feds or by the states?

Today's Olympia-based story on efforts to block credit card surcharges in Washington's Legislature elicited some interesting online comments.

The story demonstrates the unexpected position by a conservative legislator (Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane) who argues a credit card surcharge is best left to federal legislation. States rightrs?  Parker isn't of the opinion that the state should step in.

Here is part of that story:

By Tom Sowa

Washington may join 10 other states that now prohibit merchants from adding credit card surcharges to purchases.

The state House of Representatives expects to vote on HB 1870 today and send it to the state Senate.

But even the bill’s House sponsors say they’re uncertain the state Senate will vote on a bill that some state business groups consider unnecessary.

If made into law, the bill prevents Washington merchants from adding a surcharge to any credit or debit card transaction. The bill does not stop merchants from offering discounts for cash-only purchases.

One sponsor, Rep. Cyrus Habib, a Seattle-area Democrat, introduced the bill in response to a recent federal court ruling that allows merchants to add a surcharge of up to 4 percent of a purchase cost.

That surcharge option took effect on Feb. 1, but national consumer and business groups have said few merchants have opted to use it.

Jan Teague, president and CEO of the Washington Retail Association, said her group opposes the bill because there’s no need to make it a state law.

“None of our retailers in Washington impose a surcharge. In fact, those who use MasterCard and Visa are contractually prevented from doing so already,” Teague said.

“So, it makes no sense to try to turn this into law,” she added. “I know of no retailers here who are doing that.”

The new surcharge option took effect based on a preliminary court ruling in a New York lawsuit filed by retailers against the nation’s largest credit card companies.

The ruling said merchants could add surcharges, but they needed to post them at the point of sale and could not charge more than the actual “swipe fee” – the amount a retailer pays the bank for each transaction.

The National Retail Federation says few retailers are adding the charges; it also notes that the court ruling is preliminary and could be reversed when a judge makes a final ruling later this year.

The bill was approved on an 8-7 vote last week in the Business and Financial Services Committee of the state House. Habib and committee chairman Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma, were among the sponsors.

Washington state getting more serious about creating a one-stop business portal

Each week during the legislative session, OfficeHours will focus on a single piece of legislation, seeing how it would affect state businesses and considering the bill's chances of going forward.

This week's bill is HB 1757, introduced by a bunch of legislators including Marcus Ricelli, who represents Spokane's Third District.

The companion Senate bill is SB 5718.

It would create a one stop business portal to simplify business interactions with regulatory bodies (like revenue, L&I and Employment Security).

The language of the bill is revealing, at least about the state's foot-dragging effort in this arena.

In 2006 the state legislature adopted a bill requiring the creation of the business portal. “But it has not been developed,” the bill's analysis notes.

That same summary says: The bill outlines “high-level technology architecture and implementation steps to achieve a single online place for businesses to accomplish their state business in a way that is consistent and efficient for both business and government.”

The bill further requires the office of the chief information officer to provide the economic development committees of the legislature with a plan for establishing  performance  benchmarks  and measuring  the  results of implementing a one-stop integrated system for business interactions with government.

This is a goal that Washington failed to execute so far, but which  Oregon has recently completed.
Here's the Oregon summary of its portal, called Business Xpress.


  

GSI launches new site to gather input on key business issues

Greater Spokane Incorporated, the area's main business advocacy group, has launched a satellite website to gather comments and opinions from area constituents.

It's YourPolicyVoice.org, and it launched in concert with the recent visit by GSI and about 90 business people to  Olympia last week to speak to legislators about Eastern Washington issues.

The goal is to have easier ways for users to submit letters to public officials on key issues. Site users can also use GSI's agenda summaries, legislative data and outlines of relevant public policy topics.

“This site allows our membership and the public to have a strong voice in issues related to them and their business,” said Rich Hadley, President and CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated. “What goes on in Olympia, and what goes on in D.C. affects every business. Our hope is that this site becomes a valuable resource for everyone.”

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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

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