The OGA Government Affairs team is now publishing a bi-weekly update on government affairs issues affecting the grocery industry. Below are the newsletter archives:
November 20, 2015 Edition:
Five items or less…
An effort to increase Ohio’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2021 cleared its second hurdle at the end of October, paving the way for signature gathering efforts to begin. The Ohio Ballot Board certified the Ohio Fair Wage Amendment as one ballot issue, which means supporters can now collect at least 305,591 signatures of registered Ohio voters, including a certain number in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, by next July to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. The group behind the proposal, Stand Up for Ohio, seeks to increase Ohio’s minimum wage to $10 an hour on Jan. 1, 2017 and 50 cents per hour each year after until it reaches $12 an hour in 2021. After which, the minimum wage would be tied to inflation like it currently stands today. The amendment also would require employers to pay tipped employees $6 per hour in 2017 and increase wages by $1 per hour each year until it coincides with the full minimum wage. As this will likely be a top policy issue for us next year, OGA will continue to monitor the issue as it moves forward and keep an open dialogue with other business groups who also would be impacted by this measure.
- The Ohio 2020 Tax Policy Study Commission continues to hold hearings and solicit feedback on overhauling Ohio’s tax system by 2020. One of the main goals and a key charge of the committee is to explore how best to transition the state to a flat tax of 3.5% or 3.75% by the 2018 tax year. The committee, which was formed in the budget bill (HB 64) will likely meet next sometime in December followed by additional meetings into next year. According the joint chairman of the committee, they will continue to receive broad testimony on the state’s tax system as it relates to surrounding states. OGA will likely supply input when the committee focuses primarily on the CAT.
- Efforts to revise the FDA’s Menu Labeling regulations took a big step forward earlier this week as the House Energy & Commerce Committee passed H.R. 2017, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act by a strong bipartisan vote of 36-12. The legislation will provide much needed clarification and revisions to the Menu Labeling rule while maintaining the consumer nutrition information. Both Ohio members on the committee, Rep. Bill Johnson and Rep. Bob Latta, voted in favor of passage. With this strong vote out of committee, we are hopeful for a full House vote before the end of the year. Companion legislation in the Senate, S. 2217, was also just recently introduced and pending review.
- Substantial news regarding the GMO issue was announced just yesterday, as the FDA approved genetically engineered (GE) salmon in the marketplace. In addition, FDA also provided guidance on voluntary labeling for GE and non-GE food products. To summarize the guidance information, it provides manufacturers the voluntary option of labeling their foods with information on whether foods were not produced using bioengineering, as long as the information provided is truthful and not misleading. It will be interesting to see how these recent announcements impact the GMO/GE discussion moving forward.
June 22, 2015 Edition:
Five items or less…
After a plethora of floor amendments and debate for the better part of the day, the Ohio Senate wrapped up its work Thursday evening on the Biennial Budget, HB 64, by the nearly party-line vote of 23-10. Senator Sandra Williams broke rank with her Democratic counterparts and voted yes while Senator Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander) also broke ranks and voted no. The Senate passed version retains much of the Governor’s original policy recommendations, although rejecting, similar to the House’s version, much of the Governor’s tax proposals. All told, their version includes roughly $1.7 billion in net tax cuts, which is $500 million more than the House.
Upon passage, the House of Representatives quickly rejected the Senate’s version which set the stage for Conference Committee to reach an agreement on each Chamber’s version before sending to the Governor’s desk. We are happy to report that no CAT or sales tax increases were contained within the Senate version. Furthermore, the Senate re-added previously deleted Ohio Healthy Food Financing Initiative language and funding into their final package.
OGA remains concerned with the Senate’s proposed 40 cent cigarette tax increase and increases to the Other Tobacco Products (OTP) – which were not contained within the House passed version. Please see OGA’s and the Ohio Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (OPMCA) joint letter to President Faber outlining our concerns with the tobacco tax increases.Conference Committee wasted little time in their preparations as they held their first meeting on Friday, getting revised budget projections from the Office of Budget Management (OBM) Director Tim Keen. With projections and Medicaid savings higher than previously estimated, we continue to advocate against inclusion of the tobacco tax increases and for increased funding the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. The Conference Committee will seek to finish its final report this week in anticipation of passing the Biennial Budget by the June 30th deadline. Stay tuned for further updates as the week goes on.
- In Federal news, the Menu Labeling issue contains to gain momentum as the House Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee included a provision to delay FDA menu labeling rule effective date until Dec. 1, 2016 or one-year after final guidance is published. This is in addition to HR 2017, which has nearly 50 co-sponsors – including Rep. Jordan, Rep. Wenstrup, and Rep. Stivers from Ohio, and would also delay implementation of the Menu Labeling rule. Work continues to be done in finding Democrat support in Senate and getting a bill introduced.
If you have any questions please contact OGA President/CEO, Kristin Mullins for further information on these items or any government relations issue.
February 2, 2015 Edition:
“Ohio’s grocers and convenience stores are classic high-volume, low-profit businesses that make pennies on the dollar. The Ohio Grocers Association supports working with the Governor and Legislature to create a better tax environment for all Ohioans; however, increases to Ohio’s gross receipts tax, (the Commercial Activity Tax) and Cigarette Excise tax make it even harder for grocers to stay in business while facing a cost squeeze from increased minimum wages, rising health care costs and soaring [credit card] swipe fees. These proposed tax hikes respectively tip the scales to higher food costs and increased border/black market sales of tobacco products. We cannot afford tax reform that picks winners and losers with Ohio’s retail food industry being the biggest loser”.