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Regulatory Wrap-Up: Weekly review of retail-related legislative, judicial developments-July 1

BY CSA Staff

Wages

Federal – Rep. Scott Peters, a California Democrat, introduced legislation that would prevent local governments from enacting discriminatory wage rates that apply differently to franchised chains versus other employers. Mandates increasingly exempt independent small business and focus requirements on corporate chains.

Alabama – Arguments were heard this week before a federal appeals court to determine whether Alabama’s minimum wage preemption law is discriminatory. At issue is whether or not the state law which nullified a local minimum wage discriminates against Birmingham’s majority African-American population. The plaintiffs, a group of fast food workers backed by a number of advocacy groups, originally lost their case at the lower court level but that decision was overturned on appeal by a three-judge panel. The business community is now appealing that decision.

Delaware – Legislation to raise the minimum wage continues to stall and will likely not be voted on this year. Lawmakers are concerned that the state budget could not absorb the mandated wage increase. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn June 30.

Pennsylvania – Despite a significant uptick in rhetoric by Democratic leaders in the state, the Republican Speaker of the House reaffirmed that no provisions to change the state minimum wage levels will be included in this year’s budget, essentially killing the issue for the year.

Rhode Island – A senate-passed bill to raise the minimum wage by one dollar to $11.50/hr by 2020 appears to have run out of steam in the house. With only one day of the legislative session remaining, it appears the issue will be delayed until next year.

Chicago, IL – Legislation to increase the city minimum wage to $15/hr by 2021 (four years earlier than the scheduled statewide increase to the same level) appears to be gaining momentum and will likely be voted on soon. The bill, as currently written, would also eliminate the tip credit.

Paid Leave

Connecticut – The governor signed legislation to mandate 12 weeks of family leave to care for a new child or to care for a sick family member. The bill calls for a .5% payroll tax and covers 95% of wages not to exceed $900/week.

Oregon – Legislation requiring 12 weeks of paid family leave passed the senate and heads to the governor’s desk for her expected signature. The cost of the program is split between employers and employees, 60 percent and 40 percent respectively. Small businesses, defined as companies with fewer than 25 employees, could apply for grants to cover some cost of the program.

Bernalillo County, NM – The county commission is considering legislation that would require one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours a year for unincorporated areas of the county.

Scheduling

Chicago, IL – The proposed scheduling ordinance is slated for consideration on July 24. As currently written, the vast majority of restaurants in the city have been exempted, leaving mostly larger multi-unit national chains subject to the ordinance.

Labor Policy

Joint Employer – The comment period on the Labor Department’s proposed joint employer rule closed last week. The agency now begins the process of reviewing the comments and finalizing the rule. Meanwhile, nineteen state attorneys general sent a letter to the Labor Department expressing their opposition to the new rule, stating it would undermine existing state law. A number of top tier Democratic presidential contenders sent a similar letter to the agency.

Minneapolis, MN – Shortly after the state enacted one of the most comprehensive wage theft laws in the country, Minneapolis appears poised to tackle the issue as well. A proposal under consideration at city hall would empower city staff to work with the state to assist in the enforcement of existing wage and hour laws.

Study – The National Low Income Housing Coalition released its annual report, Out of Reach, that found that a worker earning the federal minimum wage cannot afford to rent a two-bedroom home anywhere in the country.

Report – The AFL-CIO released its annual executive pay watch report. For the first time, the union was able to access data that companies are now required to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) related to executive compensation.

Healthcare

California – The legislature passed a bill that will tax those who do not purchase health insurance, sending it to the governor for his expected signature. The legislation essentially reinstates the tax required under the Affordable Care Act. When signed, California will join Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington, D.C., as the only governments in the U.S. to penalize people who don’t buy health insurance.

Packaging

Rhode Island – The house deferred action on both a bill to ban plastic bags in the state as well as to enact a “straw on request” law. Both bills seemed likely to pass with support from the affected industries but concerns could not be addressed before the end of session.

Taxes

ConnecticutLegislation expanding sales tax collection obligations to online sellers was signed into law by the governor. The law establishes a minimum economic threshold of $100,000 in annual sales for all sellers and mandates that online marketplace providers collect sales taxes on sales made by third-party vendors on their site. 

IllinoisLegislation expanding sales tax collection obligations to online sellers was signed into law by the governor. The law establishes a minimum economic threshold of $100,000 in annual sales for all sellers and mandates that online marketplace providers collect sales taxes on sales made by third-party vendors on their site.

MaineLegislation expanding sales tax collection obligations to online sellers was signed into law by the governor. The law establishes a minimum economic threshold of $100,000 in annual sales for all sellers and mandates that online marketplace providers collect sales taxes on sales made by third-party vendors on their site.

North CarolinaLegislation expanding sales tax collection obligations to online sellers was vetoed by the governor as part of a larger budget package. The language was similar to what has passed in other states and may be revisited during the remainder of the session.

PennsylvaniaThe governor signed into law a bill updating the state’s existing law mandating that online marketplaces collect sales taxes on behalf of third-party sellers. The language brings the state in line with other state action on the issue this session.

Trade

ChinaThe United States and China announced they would hold off on further tariffs on imported products and resume bilateral negotiations. No formal timeline for specific negotiations has been announced.

Key Takeaways

  • The President’s delay on his much-hyped ICE raids should not be viewed as a lack of vigor in this space by the administration. The two-week delay should be seen as just that – and brands should be using the window to prepare accordingly.

 

  • The industry needs to carefully consider any involvement in the pending legal case in Alabama over preemption. This issue long ago stopped being about wages and jurisdiction and for the last two years has been about race. In fact, the NAACP has been candid about their intent to use this case to conjoin wage disparity and racial justice. There are plenty of other more legally significant players already participating in this process.  Considering the reputation assault that the industry is currently under by the Democratic establishment and their progressive allies, the industry should be staying far away from this particular issue in this particular jurisdiction.

Legislature Status for Week of 7/1/19

  • The United States Senate is in recess this week
  • The United States House is in recess this week
  • Four state legislatures are in regular session:
    • CA, MA, MI, NC

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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