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Regulatory Wrap-Up: Weekly recap of retail-related legislative developments –Dec. 17

BY CSA Staff

Wages

Federal – The Republican-led House Education and the Workforce Committee cancelled the scheduled hearing on the negative consequences of a mandatory $15/hr minimum wage on workers and businesses. The cancellation came as staff identified controversial writings by of one of the proposed witnesses. Democrats plan to hold hearings and advance a bill in 2019.

New Hampshire The state’s Progressive Caucus identified a $15/hr minimum wage as one of its top three issues for the 2019 session along with decriminalizing marijuana and paid family and medical leave. Democrats took over both chambers in the recent election, however the governor’s mansion remains in Republican control.

New Jersey – The expected hearing on the house bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15/hr was postponed. Unrelated to the postponement, the governor recently questioned some of the provisions that extend the phase-in period for youth and seasonal workers.

Washington, DC – A DC Superior Court judge halted a campaign to overturn the recent city council vote that rescinded Initiative 77 – in effect re-establishing the city’s tipped wage. The decision ended a signature gathering effort to place a referendum on the ballot. Activists may appeal the decision but as of now the city’s tipped wage of $3.89/hr is current law.

Paid Leave

Poll – The Cato Institute, a respected libertarian think tank, released a poll showing 74 percent of Americans support a federal leave program. However, the poll points to 60 percent opposition if programs result in smaller pay increases in the future. The right-leaning think tank could influence Republicans as they continue to debate the funding mechanism of a paid leave program.

Scheduling

New York – The state labor department released proposed regulations on worker scheduling. Hotels and restaurants are not covered by these proposed regulations but other industries such as retailers will be impacted. Covered employers must provide call-in pay if they adjust shifts without at least 14 days advance notice among other provisions. The regulations are subject to public comment for thirty days ending on Jan. 11.

Joint Employer 

NLRB – The National Labor Relations Board has again extended the comment deadline for its proposed joint employer rule to Jan. 14.

Activism

Burgerville – This week another store voted to unionize, bringing the total number of unionized locations to three for the regional QSR chain.

Product Safety

New York – Attorney General Barbara Underwood brought suit against Target, Walmart and LaRose Industries over sales of a specific jewelry-making kit that tested for lead levels higher than the federal limit. The product was identified as a hazard by LaRose in 2016 and was voluntarily pulled from shelves at the time.

Taxes

California – The Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) announced that they will begin requiring out-of-state-sellers to collect the sales tax on purchases above a certain threshold as of April 1, 2019. The agency mirrored South Dakota’s law and set the threshold of $100,000 in annual sales or 200 transactions. Further authorizing legislation will be debated during the legislative session and additional regulations around third-party marketplace and other specifics could arise.

Jersey City, NJ – Businesses in the city brought suit in Hudson County Superior Court against the recently-passed payroll tax. The plaintiffs are asking that the judge bar the city from collecting the tax until the case is heard. The tax is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1.

Miscellaneous

FCC – The Federal Communications Commission approved a proposal to create a centralized reassigned telephone numbers database. Consumers have long complained about increases in “robocalls” from unsolicited merchants. The creation of this database will allow merchants to ensure they are only communicating with consumers who have opted-in and not with phone numbers that have been reassigned.

Key Takeaways

  • The cancelled hearing on minimum wage in the U.S. House Education & Workforce committee was an unfortunate, missed opportunity for the business community to get out ahead of this issue prior to a pending national conversation on a $15/hr minimum wage next year. While the window in Washington, DC is likely closed for the year, operators should push their trade association and political allies in key states to replicate this effort and get ahead of the conversation – especially in those states with new Democratic trifectas as a result of November’s elections. 
  • The delay to the NLRB’s joint employer comment period is concerning. Further delays on this issue (or others for that matter) could push the rulemaking process deep into the presidential election cycle. Election year politics could bog down the process further and legal challenges may delay implementation, offering a new administration an opportunity to revise or overturn the rules. In short, important issues like joint employer need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

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.

Legislature Status for Week of 12/17/18

  • The United States Senate is in session this week
  • The United States House is technically out of session this week but will convene to address a potential vote on a funding deal prior to Friday’s deadline for funding the government.
  • Five state legislatures are meeting actively this week:
    • MA, MI, NJ & NC

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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