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Regulatory Wrap-Up: Insider’s guide to retail-related legislative developments

BY CSA Staff

Wages

Maine: Governor LePage is supporting a bill to scale back the scheduled increases in the state’s minimum wage law that passed by ballot initiative in 2016. The proposal would reduce the 2018 wage from $10/hr to $9.50/hr and allow for increases to $11/hr by 2021 instead of the previously approved $12/hr. It would also eliminate the cost-of-living adjustment and establish a training wage. The proposal faces an uphill climb in the state legislature.

Massachusetts: The Joint Labor and Workforce Development Committee heard testimony earlier this week on the merits of proposed ballot initiatives that would mandate paid leave as well as raise the state minimum wage to $15/hr. The legislature could adopt the initiatives as proposed but if it does not or passes legislation that is in anyway different from the proposed initiative, activists could still proceed to the ballot.

Rhode Island: Activists that successfully won a 2017 minimum wage increase to $10.50/hr by 2019 are again pushing legislation – this time increasing the state’s wage level further to $15/hr.

Utah: The Democratic sponsor who annually, and unsuccessfully, introduces legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr is now sponsoring a bill that would require a more nominal increase to $12/hr. Also included in the proposal is an increase in the cash wage to at least $3.25/hr, up from the current $2.13/hr. Due to strong Republican majorities in both chambers, a wage increase is unlikely to pass at this time, but the inclusion of potential changes to the cash wage for tipped employees is a notable development.

Washington: A house committee heard industry testimony in support of a law that would allow younger workers or those out of work more than five years to be paid 75% of the state minimum wage for a limited period of time after hiring.

Redwood City, CA: The city council concluded a series of public workshops on legislation to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15/hr by 2019. Current state law calls for a longer escalation to $15/hr by 2022. Several cities in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley are considering, or have already enacted, similar mandates. The bill will be voted on during the March 26 council meeting.

St. Paul, MN: During an annual “Meet the Mayors” address to both the Minneapolis and St. Paul chambers of commerce and other business leaders, Mayor Melvin Carter reiterated his intent to pursue a $15/hr minimum wage ordinance similar to the current law in Minneapolis.

Paid Leave

Maryland: Senate Democrats have indicated support for a bill that would delay implementation of the recently passed paid leave law but house Democrats are reluctant to revisit the issue. Progress on a delay bill is unlikely prior to the law going into effect Feb. 11.

Taxes

Georgia: An economic nexus bill that passed the house but stalled in the senate last year, advanced through the Senate Finance Committee this week. The committee vote suggests more momentum in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to review the nexus standards of a similar South Dakota law. The bill would require remote sellers with annual retail sales exceeding $250,000 into the state, or at least 200 in-state transactions, to either collect and remit sales tax or report the tax information.

Soda Taxes

Philadelphia, PA: The state Supreme Court agreed to take up the industry-backed appeal of their case to overturn the city’s 1.75 cents per ounce tax on sugary beverages. The case has lost twice in lower courts since the law went into effect in 2017.

San Francisco, CA: The city has been granted en banc review of their appeal of the 9th Circuit decision which invalidated a 2015 law mandating health warning labels on some soda advertisements. The rare session in front of an eleven judge panel is only granted in roughly twenty cases per year.

Retail Crime

Tennessee: Sen. Richard Briggs introduced legislation establishing penalties for pawn shops and other second-hand stores that do not comply with the gift card database law that passed in 2017 that requires them to input gift card sales into a database for use by law enforcement. Criminals and drug addicts are known to return stolen merchandise to a store in exchange for a gift card which is then sold to a third-party seller such as a pawn shop for cash.

Menu Labeling

Philadelphia, PA: The city council is considering legislation to mandate that chain restaurants include a warning label beside items on their menu that have high sodium content, defined as 2,300 milligrams. Industry representatives continue to negotiate language and the bill now excludes delivery and limited time offerings.

Labor Policy

NLRB: The National Labor Relations Board extended the deadline to March 19 for responses to the Request for Information on the agency’s review of the 2014 ambush election rule.

Labor Activism

Fight for $15: Marking the 50th anniversary of the famous Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, Fight for $15 will hold protests at QSRs in “two dozen southern cities” on Feb. 12. While QSRs appear to be the initial targets, other restaurants and retail locations could also experience protests and disruptions as well.

Key Takeaways

• The announcement this week that Amazon, JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway are forming a healthcare company to lower healthcare costs for their employees could be a game changer. They intend to leverage their internal technical expertise and take custody of the administration of their self-insured plans instead of outsourcing it to third-party plan managers as most companies do. Sharing resources, they intend to cut out significant amounts of red tape with regard to new models for payment and plan delivery and increase price transparency. Amazon’s involvement should be of particular note to retailers as they look to broaden their competitive advantage over traditional retailers and increasingly, grocery and restaurant operators.

• The upcoming Feb. 12 Fight for $15 protests across the Southeast will likely fail to capture significant national media but may earn meaningful attention in local protest markets. Because they are commemorating the labor strike that ultimately took Martin Luther King to Memphis, it is a natural backdrop to the SEIU’s effort to combine the income inequality and social justice narratives into one campaign – just as they did in 1968.

Legislature Status for Week of 2/5/18
• The United States Senate is in session this week
• The United States House is in session this week
• Forty-one state legislatures are meeting actively this week:
o AL, AK, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV

Podcast

Check out our Working Lunch podcast each week that includes further analysis into these legislative issues, policy, politics and much more. You can find Working Lunch on the Nation’s Restaurant News website, or by clicking here, and when you download the podcast and subscribe on iTunes here.

The Regulatory Wrap-Up is presented by Align Public Strategies. Click here to learn how Align can provide your brand with the counsel and insight you need to navigate the policy and political issues impacting retail.

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Check out Amazon’s Alexa Super Bowl commercial

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon has enlisted an eclectic mix of celebrities — including founder Jeff Bezos — to star in its Super Bowl commercial for virtual-assistant Alexa.

The 90-second ad, which will run in the 4th quarter of the game, imagines a scenario where Alexa has lost her voice. The company recruits some famous folks, including famed chef Gordon Ramsay, rapper Cardi B, and actors Rebel Wilson and Sir Anthony Hopkins, to fill in for her. Things don’t go very well.

Amazon will also air a 60-second spot for Amazon Studios’ new dramatic series, “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” which will launch over Labor Day. It’s the first time Amazon has promoted Prime Video on television.

According to a report in Variety, NBC is charging $5 million for a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl broadcast.

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Target going all out for the Super Bowl

BY Marianne Wilson

The fact that its home team did not make the Super Bowl is not stopping Target from celebrating the game big time.

With football fans on their way to the game, which will be held Feb. 4 in the discounter’s home base of Minneapolis, Target is joining in the city’s celebration. It has transformed its Target Plaza Commons space into the “Bullseye Lodge,” opening it to the public for the first time through Feb 4.

The space, which is located across the street from the retailer’s headquarters on Nicollet Mall, has been decked out with a Minnesota-inspired north woods theme and filled with activities, snacks and fun. (Click here to see a video) Visitors can take a photo on a snow swing, pick up complimentary hot chocolate, and have their photos digitally printed onto a marshmallow for a unique photo opp. They also can play jumbo bubble hockey or curling, pose for more photos as they dive for a football, and show off their best touchdown dance for the camera and see it projected onto the lights display at the top of the Target Plaza building.

Other attractions include a “Mountain Dew Ice Lounge” (complete with ice furniture), a “Mars Candy Shop,” and a shop stocked with products from Target’s limited edition collaboration with local outdoor clothing company Askov Finlayson and other merchandise.

Target is also tying its community outreach into the big game. As a partner of the Super Bowl Legacy Fund’s 52 Weeks of Giving Program, the retailer provided a $300,000 capital grant, plus its associates’ time and talent, to create a Wellness Hub at the People’s Center & Clinic in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

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