Retailers File Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction to Block Cook County’s Sweetened Beverage Tax

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
June 27, 2017

CONTACT

Ryan McLaughlin, 312-969-0255
ryan@macstrategiesgroup.com

Retailers File Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction to Block Cook County’s Sweetened Beverage Tax

Vague regulations and policy’s lack of uniformity violate the state’s constitution

SPRINGFIELD – Today, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, on behalf of Cook County retailers, filed a temporary restraining order and is seeking a preliminary injunction in the Cook County Circuit Court challenging the sweetened beverage tax saying it violates the uniformity clause of the Illinois Constitution and is impermissibly vague. The ordinance is designed to place a penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages and is poised to go into effect in only a matter of days on Saturday, July 1st. The lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Horwood Marcus & Berk who specialize in state and local tax as well as business and finance law.

The sweetened beverage tax creates classifications of taxable sweetened beverages that violate the uniformity clause of the state’s constitution, which requires taxing bodies to draw reasonable classes of taxable categories and imposes a uniform tax within the classes. Specifically, the ordinance taxes ready-to-drink, pre-made sweetened beverages, but generally excludes sweetened beverages made on demand. Not only are these sweetened beverages the same other than how they are served, but when considering the purpose of the ordinance, to promote public health and decrease obesity rates, the classification bears no reasonable relationship to accomplishing those goals. The argument can be made that Cook County has failed to meet the minimum standards in creating classes of taxable sweetened beverages.

Example of a violation of the uniformity clause:
A ready-to-drink sweetened iced tea served out of a chilled beverage urn is taxable, but a sweetened iced tea that is shaken behind the counter before giving it to the customer is not taxable. The beverages are substantially similar, except for the “shake” before giving it to the customer.

Additionally, the ordinance is impermissibly vague and fails to provide precise application under the circumstances it is intended to operate, creating a burden on retailers to accurately calculate the proper amount of tax.

Example of vagueness in the ordinance:
A retailer is responsible for collecting the Sweetened Beverage Tax for fountain sodas based on the amount it will sell in a certain-sized cup. In practice, however, by adding ice, the retailer is actually serving less sweetened beverage than the tax which was collected from the customer. A similar problem is possible in the refill context when the tax could be under-collected based on additional ounces consumed, with either scenario leaving the retailer legally exposed in an untenable situation.

Causing further complication, there has been an unavailability of guidance on the issue with the County changing the rules just days before the tax goes into effect making it impossible for retailers to properly implement in such quick order.

Ever-changing rules for SNAP may result in retailers being pushed out of program
SNAP does not allow a state or local unit of government to collect local sales taxes on purchases made under this program. Many retailers may not be able to correctly charge the Sweetened Beverage Tax, especially since the rules have been changed approximately two weeks prior to the date retailers must begin collecting the tax. If retailers do not comply they might be in jeopardy violating the terms of their SNAP contracts. In some cases, SNAP represents a significant portion of their business.

“As it stands, this ordinance is incomplete and it’s a perfect example of the disaster that awaits when policies are hurried through without serious thought to how they might impact the businesses that have to try to comply with these policies. To implement this tax correctly by the July 1 deadline is inconceivable with rules and regulations that are so poorly defined and continually changing. If enacted, Cook County retailers would be unfairly exposed to lawsuits for failure to comply and that’s a situation we’re not willing to accept for the retailers in Cook County,” said Rob Karr, president and CEO of IRMA.

Retailers are urging the court to block implementation of the ordinance due to the lack of clarity in how to properly apply and administer the tax and its unequal application.

 

About the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA)
One of the largest state retail organizations in the United States, IRMA serves as the voice of retailing and the business community in state government. Founded in 1957, IRMA represents more than 20,000 stores of all sizes and merchandise lines. From the nation’s largest retailers to independent businesses in every corner of the State, merchants count on IRMA to fight for the best possible environment in which to do business in Illinois.
About Horwood, Marcus & Berk
Horwood Marcus & Berk is a Chicago law firm that represents a wide range of clients from Fortune 500 corporations, to mid-sized and closely-held companies. While serving a number of different industries, the firm is specializing in state and local tax as well as business and finance law. In recent years, the firm has fought on the side of retailers in Qui tam lawsuits, which whistleblowers have used to unfairly target companies under the False Claims Act.

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BUSINESS GROUPS LABEL 2017 SESSION “ONE OF THE WORST FOR EMPLOYERS”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 31, 2017

CONTACT:

Ryan McLaughlin, 312-969-0255 | ryan@macstrategiesgroup.com

Rachel Peabody, 217-753-1761 | rachel@macstrategiesgroup.com

BUSINESS GROUPS LABEL 2017 SESSION “ONE OF THE WORST FOR EMPLOYERS”

Litany of anti-employer, job-killing measures rock employers

 

SPRINGFIELD – The state’s premier business groups have labeled the spring legislative session as “one of the worst for employers”, citing lawmaker’s apparent “race to the bottom” and litany of anti-employer, anti-job growth measures considered this year.

At a press conference on the final day of session, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and NFIB joined together lamenting the continuous effort to tax, over-regulate, mandate and constrict employers at every turn by lawmakers in both chambers which has created one of the most crushing business climates in the nation. While this is not a new phenomenon in Springfield, the massive uptick in these anti-employer measures coupled with the accompanying rhetoric has exasperated an already hostile business climate.

Ironically, many of these measures – in theory – are aimed at increasing pay, hiring more employees or giving workers more certainty, yet they achieve quite the opposite. While the intention of our business community is to provide jobs with competitive pay and generate revenue to fix the state’s problems, the anti-employer narrative is having a chilling effect.

“My Democrat friends like to say we are in a race to the bottom. Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you we are winning but that means Illinois businesses and families are losing. The high cost of workers’ compensation is one of the biggest issues facing manufacturers but lawmakers fail to act because they continually side with wealthy trial lawyers. Their failure to act and create an attractive economic climate means that Illinois will continue to bleed jobs and remain a laughingstock of the nation,” said Greg Baise, president and CEO, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

“Every day seems to bring another report of another round of retail store closings. Instead of talking restraint and recovery for the retail community, the narrative out of Springfield, like the actual actions in Chicago and Cook County, is higher taxes, labor and regulatory burdens, and, in the case of Cook County, incentivizing theft. This ‘campaign against Main Street retailers’ will only hasten the continued job loss and store closings that have become all too familiar. Retailers have limited responses; reduce employee hours, lay people off, increase automation, or close. Passing legislation to mandate artificially higher wages when the jobs don’t exist doesn’t help anyone,” said Rob Karr, president and CEO, Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

“The ping pong of anti-employer policies coming from both Chicago and Springfield is unsustainable. At every corner, Chicagoland businesses are being asked to pay higher property taxes, soda taxes, and sales taxes while also being forced to implement countless mandates that do not grow the economy. Chicago has so much to offer but this economic death by 1,000 paper cuts does not create the jobs, quality of life and revenue Springfield should be seeking,” said Michael Reever, Vice President of Government Affairs, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

“Time and again lawmakers have suggested policies that shift greater financial burdens to employers statewide. Whether it is during the budget impasse or after it is resolved, standing up against job-crushing legislation is crucial for our economy. Increasing minimum wage, passing “fake” workers’ compensation reform and proposing a significant arbitrary tax increase is far from the progress Illinois deserves. We need pro-growth economic policies to prevent the steady decline of Illinois’ economic competitiveness. And we need them now, that is, if we want to continue to attract the best and the brightest individuals to Illinois,” said Todd Maisch, President and CEO, Illinois Chamber of Commerce

“Our members aren’t surprised by the legislature’s anti-business antics this session, but they are disappointed and fed up. Illinois is broke and we haven’t had a budget in two years. We need leaders who are less focused on scoring easy political points and more on enacting good policies that benefit all Illinoisans. We need legislators who will act like adults, set aside their political differences, and make the difficult decisions that would make things better for working families and allow businesses to grow and create jobs,” said Mark Grant, Illinois State Director, NFIB

Springfield’s Dirty Dozen

  1. SB 81: Legislation that raises the minimum wage to $15
  2. HB 2771: A costly government mandate forcing employers regardless of size to provide paid leave to every employee regardless of hours worked.
  3. HB 160: A $5,000 fee on every employer for the “privilege” of doing business in Illinois
  4. HB 156: Massive property tax shift onto commercial and industrial taxpayers
  5. SB 1502: Trial lawyer supported legislation that burdens every e-commerce business, and every company with a credit card, loyalty program app or website, without providing any consumer protections
  6. HB 3449: Trial lawyer supported legislation that unfairly targets companies that share or store location data and requires ecommerce businesses to ask for permission before collecting location data from your device
  7. HB 3538: Penalizes business that move even one job out of state while discouraging future investment
  8. HB 2802: Government mandate forcing businesses to pay the transportation costs of their workers
  9. HB 2525: This bill codifies “a cause” workers’ compensation standard that mandates insurance rate review without providing any meaningful reform
  10. HB 2622: Legislation that would disrupt the private workers’ compensation insurance market without having a strong reason to exist
  11. HB 3337: A bill that allows someone to steal $2,000 of merchandise from a retailer
  12. SB 9: Imposes $5.4 billion in new taxes on Illinois businesses and families – *revenue without reforms

Ignored Reforms of the 2017 Legislative Session

  • Pension reform
  • Workers’ compensation reform
  • Tax reform
  • Restraint of local government
  • Property tax relief
  • Education and workforce development

 

About the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA)

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is the only statewide association dedicated exclusively to advocating, promoting and strengthening the manufacturing sector in Illinois.  The IMA is the oldest and largest state manufacturing trade association in the United States, representing nearly 4,000 companies and facilities.

About The Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA)

One of the largest state retail organizations in the United States, IRMA serves as the voice of retailing and the business community in state government. Founded in 1957, IRMA represents more than 23,000 stores of all sizes and merchandise lines. From the nation’s largest retailers to independent businesses in every corner of the State, merchants count on IRMA to fight for the best possible environment in which to do business in Illinois.

About the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce represents over 1,000 member companies, their 400,000 employees, and over $24 billion in revenue. We combine the power of our membership with our legacy of leadership and business advocacy to drive a dynamic economy. We focus on delivering value for our members, making Chicagoland a world-class place to live and work. Visit ChicagolandChamber.org

About the Illinois Chamber of Commerce

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has been the unifying voice for Illinois business since 1919. The Chamber advocates prosperity and a pro-business climate in Illinois. www.ILChamber.org

About the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Illinois

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Illinois is a chapter of America’s leading small business association, promoting and protecting the right of our members to own, operate and grow their businesses. NFIB represents 325,000 small businesses in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and is dedicated to leveling the playing field with Big Business, Big Government, and Big Labor in every key area – taxes, healthcare, regulations, and more.

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IRMA Responds to House Passage of the Minimum Wage Bill

May 30, 2017

  CONTACT

Rachel Peabody, 217-753-1761 | rachel@macstrategiesgroup.com

Ryan McLaughlin, 312-969-0255 | ryan@macstrategiesgroup.com

IRMA Responds to House Passage of the Minimum Wage Bill  

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) issued the following statement regarding the passing of the minimum wage bill out of the Illinois House that seeks to increase the minimum wage in Illinois to $15.00 per hour by 2022.
“The political campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour has already resulted in reduced hours and eliminated positions in major cities where this has been enacted, including the City of Chicago. In fact, we have seen automation and self-service alternatives replace jobs due to continued efforts to artificially increase wages through government actions instead of working with employers. Quite simply, the state cannot bear another proposal that eliminates what little opportunity exists in Illinois. We urge lawmakers to show more restraint when making decisions that significantly impacts a businesses’ bottom line.”

Facts about the minimum wage:

  • Illinois’ minimum wage is already the highest in the Midwest. Illinois is poised to add another anti-competitive burden to retailers’ ability to compete with retailers in border states.
  • Raising the minimum wage will continue to keep people, especially teens, out of jobs. According to a January 2016 report from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute, only 12.4 percent of African Americans, 15 percent of Hispanic or Latinos and 24.4 percent of Whites (non-Hispanic or Latinos), ages 16 to 19 years old, are employed in Chicago. This destroys what little opportunity exists.
  • Minimum wage salaries are a floor, not a ceiling. Workers are not locked into minimum wage jobs, they have the ability to garner the necessary skills to advance and earn higher wages. Retail ranks are filled with those who started in minimum wage jobs.
  • Penalizes brick-and-mortar retailers over internet retailers. The minimum wage hike will not impact internet retailers, but penalize those retailers that invest in a physical property, workforce, pay property and sales taxes, etc.

 

About The Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA)
One of the largest state retail organizations in the United States, IRMA serves as the voice of retailing and the business community in state government. Founded in 1957, IRMA represents more than 23,000 stores of all sizes and merchandise lines. From the nation’s largest retailers to independent businesses in every corner of the State, merchants count on IRMA to fight for the best possible environment in which to do business in Illinois.

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121 REPORT-CRMA – February 2017

February 27, 2017          

In This Issue

Legislative Initiatives

CHICAGO CITY COUNCIL AND COOK COUNTY BOARD 

ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS

INTRODUCTIONS

Proposal to Implement Pharmacy Work Rules

Sponsors: Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th Ward) and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward)

Committee: Finance

This initiative is modeled after a bill in the State Legislature to implement work rules under the Pharmacy Practice Act (PPA). That bill received a subject matter hearing last week and IRMA testified in opposition. As those members with pharmacies may already be aware, we are set to renegotiate the PPA during this legislative session since the entire Act is scheduled to sunset at the end of the year.

The proposal attempts to regulate the following areas:

* Prescription filling limits

* Number of Pharmacy Technicians on staff during operating hours

* Prohibition on certain activities in the pharmacy such as advertising and promotions as well as certain productivity quotas put in place by the employer

* Rest breaks and meal periods

* Number of hours worked per day for pharmacists

* Record retention

it is our reading of current law that local jurisdictions, including home rule jurisdictions like Chicago, are prohibited from regulating the practice of pharmacy and any other subject covered by the PPA. Therefore, we are confident that this proposal, if passed, would be declared invalid in a court of law.

Nevertheless, we will be meeting with the sponsors to discuss the substance of the proposal.

IRMA is opposed

Establishing an Appeals Process for Prohibited Tobacco Locations

Sponsors: Ald. Edward M. Burke  

(14th Ward) and  Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th Ward)

Committee: Finance

This proposal would allow the Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to establish rules governing the appeals process for flavored tobacco retailers that the city has determined are located within 500 ft. of a secondary school and therefore unable to sell flavored tobacco including menthol cigarettes.

IRMA supports the proposal

Prohibition on Hidden Fees
Sponsor:  Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th Ward)
Committee:  Finance

This proposal would require any business licensed in Chicago or any business that has a physical location to post a sign indicating all fees related to the purchase of goods or services.  The sign would have to be posted in a conspicuous location on the premises as well as online if the business has a website.

This proposal is in response to former President Obama’s report on hidden fees included in transactions for airline purchases, telecommunications companies, banks, and other industries.

Amendment to Age Restrictions for the Sale of Alcoholic Liquor
Sponsors:  Ald. Tom Tunney (44th Ward), Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st Ward) and 30 co-sponsors
Committee:  License and Consumer Protection

This proposal would permit adults that are at least 18 years old to sell alcoholic liquor in restaurants and supermarkets as long as they have first completed BASSET training.  When serving alcohol persons under 21 years old can served mixed drinks prepared by a bartender and wine and beer that was previously opened by a manager or co-worker that is at least 21 years old.

Supermarkets are defined as a store:

(i)   with an interior floor area of the licensed premises of not less than 10,000 square feet devoted to retail sales;

(ii)   that holds a valid package goods license;

(iii)   that sells, at retail, a variety of food and household products, including fresh, prepared, frozen and canned foods, dairy products, vegetables, fruits, meat, and poultry; and

(iv)   in which the display space for alcoholic liquor does not exceed 25 percent of the floor area devoted to retail sales.
 

PASSED LEGISLATION

Small Business Tax Payments

Sponsor: Ald. Matthew O’Shea (19th Ward)

This ordinance will allow taxpayers to remit on an annual basis (rather than making monthly or quarterly payments) if they have a total liability equal to or less than $2400 for the previous 12-month period and they filed returns for the previous 12-month period.

EFFECTIVE DATE: March 28, 2017

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 29, 2017.


Contact Information

Tanya TricheTanya Triche Dawood
Vice President & General Counsel
312/726-4600
ttrichedawood@irma.org

 

This Week in Springfield – 100-05


In This Issue:

PHARMACY MANDATES
EMPLOYEE PRE-JUDGEMENT LIENS
WARN ACT EXTENSION
BUSINESS DAY 2017

This Week in Springfield only the House was in Session. A subject matter hearing was held on a Teamsters pharmacy mandate bill and two bills passed the labor committee that are a concern for Illinois’ businesses.

Pharmacy Mandates

 A subject matter hearing was held to discuss HB 2392 (Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago) that was filed on behalf of the Teamsters in attempt to capitalize on a Chicago Tribune investigative report regarding drug interactions. The problem presented in the report involved a patient presenting two scripts which, if dispensed together, had the possibility of a severe interaction. What should have happened is the pharmacist should have called the prescriber, who should not have prescribed the combinations in the first place, or counseled the patient about the potential interaction and urged them to contact their prescriber. In response, at the behest of Governor Bruce Rauner, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) proposed new rules governing counseling by pharmacists. Once these rules are formally adopted by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) Illinois will have one of the strictest, if not the strictest, counseling laws in the nation. These significant regulatory changes move Illinois from an ‘offer to counsel’ state to a ‘mandatory counsel’ state.

Continue reading “This Week in Springfield – 100-05”