Retail Leaders Tout Legislative Wins
Sandy Kennedy, writing on the Retail Industry Leaders Association’s Retail Checkout blog, said retailers had a banner year when it came to chalking up legislative victories.
Durbin Amendment Protected
Tops on Ms. Kennedy’s list was the industry’s defense of the Durbin Amendment. The debit card swipe fee legislation, originally passed in 2010, faced intense opposition from banking institutions that sought to have it overturned or, at the very least, weakened substantially. According to Ms. Kennedy, in the end the industry achieved "a win that will save merchants and consumers money and bring competition to a market where there previously was none."
Next on the agenda is to have Congress passing legislation that would bring similar reforms to credit cards.
Progress Made on Amazon Tax
Efforts made on the state and federal level to require that Amazon and other retailers collect sales tax are paying off as federal legislators are considering a law that would cover all 50 states. The legislation, surprisingly to some, has the backing of Amazon.
Congress Approves Trade Pacts
Trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea that had been stalled have now been approved, giving American companies greater access to these foreign markets. According to Ms. Kennedy, "the greatest benefit of this year’s activity on the trade front is that it clears the way for additional job-creating trade agreements, most importantly the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)."
The RILA is optimistic about the potential of the TPP to create investment opportunities and "well-paying U.S. jobs." President Obama has signaled his support for the TPP.
House Passes Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act
Retailers are opposed to a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision they believe would enable unions to "gerrymander workplaces" and establish "micro-unions." It would also allow unions to push through labor votes in as few as 10 days after notice was given. The Republican-majority House passed the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act to overturn the NLRB’s decision. The industry’s attention will turn to lobbying the Senate in 2012.
Health Care Reform
Implementation of the Affordable Care Act is clearly a major concern for retailers, and industry groups such as the RILA’s Flexibility in Health Care (EFHC) Coalition have worked to create rules that are more beneficial to employers. According to Ms. Kennedy, two areas of success include agencies adopting "RILA-proposed solutions are the development of an affordability test safe harbor for employers and the definition of full-time employees."
Looking ahead to 2012, RILA expects to weigh in on a variety of topics including what constitutes a full-time worker, automatic enrollment and tax penalties for employers that don’t comply with mandates.
Discussion Question: What do you see as the most important legislative accomplishment for retailers in 2011? What area do you think will require the greatest attention in 2012?