NCASEF Legislative News

House Republicans Drop Debit Rule Repeal

Florida franchisees pose outside of the U.S. Capitol after a day of meetings with members of Congress. (L to R) Michael Jorgenson, Alan Harris, Teeto Shirajee.


Franchisees visited the U.S. Capitol on May 16 to help protect the Durbin Amendment, which rolled back debit card swipe fees charged on every transaction, translating to thousands of dollars saved per year per store.

According to the publication Politico, House Republican leaders have dropped language from a sweeping bank deregulation bill that would have eliminated a cap on debit card swipe fees, namely the Durbin Amendment, which franchisees supported and had a large part in passing. GOP leaders decided to remove the proposal from the nearly 600-page Financial CHOICE Act after confirming that it threatened support for the rest of the bill. The legislation, which would have repealed and replaced key parts of the landmark 2010 Dodd-Frank law, specifically the Durbin amendment, still is a top priority on the GOP’s agenda.

         Franchisees worked hard to get Durbin passed, and benefitted from the drop in debit card fees from 44 cents to 22 cents per transaction. Passing the Financial CHOICE Act with the Durbin language would have wiped out this effort. The House of Representatives on June 8 passed the measure on a virtual party line vote, but Capitol insiders believe it had virtually no chance of passing in the Senate.

$15 Federal Minimum Wage Bill Introduced

         Top congressional Democrats recently introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, up from its current level of $7.25, reported the Washington Examiner. The move marks a stark policy change for the party, which was promoting an increase to just $10.50 as recently as 2015. The legislation, called the Raise the Wage Act, would fully phase in the rate by 2024. It also would eliminate an exception for tipped workers. It has 35 co-sponsors in the Senate and 152 in the House.

         The measure is unlikely to go far in the Republican-controlled Congress, although some increase short of the $15 level is possible. President Trump has expressed openness to a level as high as $10, though at other times his comments suggested he would leave the level untouched.

Labor Department Rolls Back ‘Joint Employer’ Rule

         The U.S. Labor Department recently announced that it was rolling back an Obama administration rule that expanded the “joint employer” doctrine, the conditions for when one business can be held liable for employment and civil rights law violations at another company, reported the Washington Examiner. The move marks a win for business groups, which had staunchly opposed the Obama rule.

         However, despite the Labor Department’s reversal, the Obama-era standard can still be applied to businesses. The National Labor Relations Board, an independent agency that serves as the government’s main labor law enforcer, was the first agency to adopt the standard and has not rescinded its interpretation. President Trump has yet to pick nominees for the five-member board’s two open seats. Business groups said they would continue to push Congress to write the direct control standard into law.

         The joint employer doctrine refers to cases in which a business can be said to effectively control the workplace policies of another company, such as when a company subcontracts to another business. Until 2015, the department said the doctrine applied only to cases in which the company had “direct control” over the other’s workplace. In 2015, the department under then-Labor Secretary Tom Perez changed the standard to the much more ambiguous “indirect control.” Companies, particularly ones that engage in franchising, feared they could be held liable for all manner of violations at workplaces they didn’t directly oversee.

NYC 7-Elevens Must List Calorie Info

         New York City’s Health Department has expanded a rule requiring chain restaurants to list calorie counts to include chain convenience stores or supermarkets serving prepared foods, reported the New York Daily News. As a result, 7-Eleven stores in New York City must now list calorie information for the taquitos, hot dogs, and other prepared food items they sell. The health code was actually updated with the rule in 2015, but the city delayed enforcing it because a similar federal rule was set to take effect this year. But that rule has now been postponed, so the city began enforcing its own on May 22, and will start issuing fines on August 21. New York City has required calorie counts for meals at chain restaurants since 2008, when it was the first jurisdiction to implement the rule.

         Chain restaurants and retailers will also be required to keep full nutritional information on site for their standard menu items. They also must include a statement on their menus and menu boards that reads: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” City officials estimates the rules will affect 3,000 restaurants and 1,500 convenience and grocery stores in the city. Restaurants and retailers violating the rules will be subject to fines ranging from $200 to $600.

FDA Delays Menu Labeling A Year

         The Food and Drug Administration recently delayed menu labeling compliance a year—to May 7, 2018—for restaurants and retail food establishments, reported Supermarket News. The Department of Health and Human Services previously set a compliance date of May 5, 2017. “We are taking this action to enable us to consider how we might further reduce the regulatory burden or increase flexibility while continuing to achieve our regulatory objectives, in keeping with the administration’s policies,” the FDA said. Menu labeling requirements were originally included in the Affordable Care Act, which was signed by former President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.

Nevada Governor Vetoes Minimum Wage Hike

         Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval recently vetoed a bill—SB 106—that would have eventually raised Nevada’s minimum wage to as high as $12 an hour for some workers, reported KRNV My News 4. In Nevada, most employers must pay a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour if they offer health insurance, or $8.25 an hour without that benefit. SB 106 would have incrementally raised the minimum wage by 75 cents annually through 2022, reaching $11 an hour for those with insurance and $12 an hour for those without insurance. In his veto letter, Sandoval called the objective of the bill “commendable,” but said the wage increase would result in fewer available jobs and higher costs for goods and services.

California Senate Votes For Single-Payer Health Care

         California senators recently voted to pass a $400 billion single-payer health care plan that will possibly be funded by a 15 percent payroll tax, reported The Mercury News. Senate Bill 562 passed 23-14 and will now advance to the Assembly, where it will likely be amended to include taxes. That would mean the measure would require two-thirds votes in both chambers.

         A study commissioned by the California Nurses Association concluded that Californians could save tens of billions of dollars annually under such a system through lowering of drug prices and elimination of administrative overhead. A Senate committee analysis, however, estimated that the state would have to raise $200 billion in revenue each year, which it said could be done through a 15 percent payroll tax.

Indiana C-Stores Launch Alcohol Reform Campaign

         Indiana convenience stores want state residents to hear directly from them on the need for changes to the state’s alcohol laws, so they launched an advocacy campaign to educate the public on the kind of reforms they seek: allowing all retailers to sell cold beer and legalizing Sunday alcohol sales, reported WBBA News. The campaign, “Chill Indiana,” is led and funded by the state’s convenience store trade association, and was launched just as lawmakers prepare to study alcohol laws this summer. The group’s executive director said the campaign will use the most influential tool at the organization’s disposal—retailers’ relationships with customers. Chill Indiana released a public poll to coincide with its launch that shows strong support for the changes c-store owners want.

Florida Laws Aim To Deter Credit Card Skimmers

         With credit-card skimming thieves eluding law enforcement, state lawmakers are targeting the devices themselves, reported the Palm Beach Post. Two bills before the Florida Legislature this session, SB 766 and HB 343, would make it a third-degree felony to possess or sell credit-card skimming devices in Florida. One of the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, said much of the work behind the legislation was focused on tightening the definition of the skimmer itself so it would not impede the needs of retailers and anyone else involved in credit-card transactions. “There are two parts to this legislation,” he said. “Part of it is to precisely define what is legal and what is illegal. The other part is criminalizing the sale of and use. There is no legitimate need for these skimming devices.”

         Rodriguez added that cracking down on the use of skimmers to steal credit-card information from gasoline pump machines and ATMs, is difficult because police have to catch the thieves in the act. By making the possession and sale of the devices illegal, he said police would have a more effective tool. Both the Senate and House versions have one more committee hurdles to clear before they can make it to floor votes in each chamber.

San Francisco To Ban Flavored Tobacco Products

         San Francisco and Oakland are advancing proposals to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and other tobacco flavored products, reported the San Francisco Examiner. The move is meant to protect the health of children and black communities who are largely targeted by manufacturers of such harmful products, the article states. If the legislation is approved, San Francisco would ban the sale of such tobacco products as menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, flavored smokeless tobacco, flavored shisha, and flavored nicotine solutions that are used in electronic cigarettes. Oakland officials crafted a similar proposal. If approved, the San Francisco law would go into effect January 2018. Retailers that violate the law could have their tobacco sales permit suspended.

Proposed Bill Would Not Treat E-Cigs Like Tobacco

         A new bill looks to make electronic cigarettes exempt from rules that impact tobacco products, reported Convenience Store Decisions. “The Cigarette Smoking Reduction and Electronic Vapor Alternatives Act of 2017” aims to reduce the approval process time for e-cigarettes under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and would reverse the Obama administration’s “Deeming Rule,” which categorizes e-cigarettes as tobacco products that are subject to the same regulations on cigarettes.

         Currently, the FDA’s deeming regulation gives the agency the authority to review e-cigarettes before they hit the market, requiring all products that hit stores after February 2007 to apply retroactively for approval. The process is both expensive and could slow approval for newer e-cigarettes. But the new bill aims to make vaping devices exempt from that review, as well as other rules.

Massachusetts Considers Raising Tobacco Age

         A bill that would raise the legal tobacco buying age in Massachusetts is garnering attention in the state Capitol, reported The legislation would make 21 the statewide minimum age for purchasing cigarettes and all other tobacco products, and would prohibit health care institutions from selling these products. It would also ban e-cigarettes from the workplace. More than 140 cities and towns in Massachusetts have already passed legislation to raise the age to 21 on a local level. Gov. Charlie Baker has expressed his support for the statewide tobacco age raise. Last year, a similar bill passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate but failed to make it through the House.

NYC Mayor Backs Plan To Raise Price Of Cigarettes

         New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently pledged his support to a series of initiatives to cut tobacco use, proposing to raise the minimum price of a pack of cigarettes in the city to $13 and vowing to sharply reduce, over time, the number of stores that may sell tobacco products, reported the New York Times. Raising the minimum price of a pack to $13, from the current $10.50 minimum, would make New York the most expensive place in the nation to buy cigarettes. The proposed initiatives would also set minimum prices and create taxes on other types of tobacco products, like smokeless tobacco and small cigars.

         One measure would, over time, significantly reduce the number of stores allowed to sell tobacco products. Under a bill introduced in the council in April, the number of licenses issued to retailers to sell tobacco products in each of the city’s 59 community board districts would be set at half the current level. The reduction would be achieved gradually through attrition, because current license holders would be allowed to retain and renew their licenses.

Santa Fe Voters Reject Soda Tax

         Voters in New Mexico’s capital city recently rejected a tax increase on sweetened beverages, handing a rare victory to the soft-drink industry after a string of recent defeats, reported the Associated Press. The tax failed with 11,533 votes against and only 8,382 votes in favor, according to the Santa Fe City Clerk’s Office. The special election came after similar taxes were adopted last year in cities from Philadelphia to San Francisco. A variety of sugar-sweetened beverages would have fallen under the tax, including sport drinks such as Gatorade, iced teas, caffeinated energy drinks and lemonade, while diet soda and pure juices were exempt.

Seattle To Tax Sugary Soda

         The Seattle City Council recently approved a new tax on distributors of sugary drinks such as soda pop, reported the Seattle Times. The council ultimately settled on a rate of 1.75 cents per ounce, which means the tax would be about $1.18 for a 2-liter bottle of soda. Sports drinks such as Gatorade, energy drinks such as Red Bull and fruit drinks such as Sunny D all will be taxed, along with syrups used in soda-fountain pop. Diet soda won’t be taxed, and the council also chose to exempt baby formula, medicine, weight-loss drinks and 100 percent fruit juice. The tax will be collected starting next year unless opponents put a referendum on the ballot and succeed in blocking the measure. The tax is expected to raise about $15 million per year. Some money will support the city’s Fresh Bucks program, which helps people using food stamps buy more fruits and vegetables at farmers markets.