National Coalition Legislative Activity
As small businessmen, 7-Eleven franchisees are constantly at risk of new legislation and government rule-making that affects our businesses. For the National Coalition, the big value of getting involved in legislative activities is the opportunity to help our FOAs influence legislation not only at the national level, but more importantly at the local level in state, county, township or municipal governments.
When so many communities are struggling, governments looking for a quick financial fix can enact legislation that impacts our businesses and ultimately our bottom lines. Environmentalists looking to clean up our communities enact legislation that gets recyclable materials off the street (not a bad thing), but long-term costs us money. At times legislation is enacted that helps protect us, and we support it, but this is not usually the case. Franchisees most often get involved in legislative activity when government makes it harder for us to run our businesses or make money. When government gets involved, we usually think it is for the wrong reasons and it ends up costing us money. To be proactive, we must get involved with the issues, and get involved early in the process to protect our interests.
Over the past two years, the NCASEF Board has made legislative issues a priority on our national agenda, and we have gotten involved. At the request of the Board we hired a public relations team and drew up a list of legislative priorities we needed to act on or monitor for future action. We have worked with NACS and SEI’s VP for Legislative Affairs Keith Jones in an attempt to keep up with current legislation, and we have written news releases, Action Alerts, and Avanti articles and posted legislative items to our website to keep franchisees informed.
On the national level we have been most involved with the Durbin amendment on debit card interchange fees that last year lowered the interchange fee rate to 21 cents from 44 cents per transaction. We support the current lawsuit by NACS, three retailer associations, Boscov’s Department Store and Miller Oil Company to force the Federal Reserve to lower the fee to the original rate of 12 cents. We believe that the Federal Reserve was influenced by large banks and they ignored the law. At a minimum the Durbin Amendment was designed to protect small businesses, and that’s not what happened. NACS has a great presence on Capitol Hill and we need to continue to go there to visit our congressmen and support national initiatives.
NCASEF member FOAs can have their greatest impact on state and local issues. Our local FOAs need to continue to build relationships with local and state legislators in the 30 states where 7-Eleven operates. We need to go to city council meetings and shake hands and make sure our elected officials know who we are. We need to continue to go to local events and build relationships so that when we make that phone call, legislators know who we are.
When the Department of Justice issued a legal opinion on the Federal Wire Act of 1961 and opened the door for nationwide online lottery sales, the state of Illinois was among the first to move forward. We worked with the FOAC in Chicago, the Illinois Petroleum Marketers’ Association, and the Illinois Association of Convenience Stores to voice our concerns. The FOAC, with help from the National Coalition put together a plan that involved weekly phone calls, a package of information for the media, and a press conference to bring all the parties together. FOAC members did TV, newspaper and radio interviews, and met with the Lottery Commission. While we may not have stopped online lottery, we brought pressure on the Illinois Lottery Commission to have our concerns addressed. Maryland, New York and other states are looking to adopt online lottery, which will likely spread slowly throughout the country, but the message delivered in Illinois was, “We will get involved to protect our interests.”
More recently, we have taken on the “Roll Your Own” issue of retailers who rent rolling machines to customers who use them to create cigarettes out of tobacco taxed at a significantly cheaper rate. Some estimates place the number of U.S. cigarettes purchased this way as high as 5 percent. We sent out legislative alerts to our FOAs, we wrote a letter to and eventually met with Arizona’s 3rd congressional district Representative Benjamin Quayle, and we eventually ended up sending a contingent of franchisees to Washington, D.C. to visit congressmen on both sides of the aisle on this and other issues. To date, eleven states have enacted laws that range from licensing RYO retailers to paying an equivalent tax, to outright banning commercial cigarette rolling machines. The message also has been received in Washington, D.C. that we need national legislation on this issue.
We have seen quite a bit of legislation recently that could increase state excise taxes on cigarettes, cigars and rolling tobacco significantly. The National Coalition’s approach, agreed on by our Board, is that we don’t want to offend any of our customers. Today it is not always the best approach to oppose an increase in tobacco taxes. We need to be sensitive to our nonsmoking customer base that has become increasingly more vocal on the issue. Some franchisees don’t want to put signs in their stores for fear of offending our non-smoking customers.
There is a great deal of concern about impending legislation that taxes sugary drinks, or like in New York City, bans all sugary drinks over 16 ounces. We can have a national doughnut day, but we can’t have a 17-ounce drink? Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter proposed a sugary drink tax of 1 cent for every 2.5 ounces (defeated twice), and Chicago Alderman George Cardenas in May proposed a tax on sugary beverages that could be as high a penny an ounce.
The National Coalition is one of the largest groups of independent small businessmen. When we work with organizations like NACS, the Arizona Retailers Association, the Illinois Association of Convenience stores, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, and the many other franchisee or business trade associations out there with common interests, we can make our presence known by showing up at legislators’ offices and at events to make sure they know that we vote, and we want to work with them.
The most important way individual franchisees can get involved supporting legislative efforts is communicate. Communicate legislative issues and concerns in your area to your local FOA and the National Coalition. Show up at your local FOA meetings to discuss legislation that is a concern in your area. Help your FOA leadership develop a plan, and get others involved. The National Coalition is committed to working with your FOA to get you the resources you need to have your message heard.