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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This Week in Springfield – 100-20

WAGE HISTORY
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AGREEMENT
GIFT CARDS/UNCLAIMED PROPERTY
TELECOMMUNICATIONS MODERNIZATION
GEO-LOCATION AND $15 MINIMUM WAGE
2018 SESSION SCHEDULE

 

This Week In Springfield, lawmakers returned to Springfield for the second and final scheduled week of the 2017 Veto Session. Lawmakers returned amongst a maelstrom over allegations of sexual harassment.

In between House and Senate sexual harassment training seminars, lawmakers continued to override some of Governor Bruce Rauner’s total vetoes and amendatory vetoes.  Of the 39 total vetoes issued by the Governor, 15 were overridden while 22 were sustained. The rest were not called for an override so the veto stands. Of the 10 amendatory vetoes issued by the Governor, three were overridden, three were sustained, and four were not called for an override or acceptance of the amendatory veto. The vetoes overridden included, but were not limited to, Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s ‘Debt Transparency’ bill (HB 3649), Treasurer Michael Frerich’s ‘ Life Insurance’ bill (HB 302),  and the Illinois Student Loan Bill of Rights (SB 1351 Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston/Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago). At one point, the Senate overrode eight vetoes in 21 minutes. By the end of the week 18 total and amendatory vetoes were overridden and 23 were sustained. By comparison, prior to this year only one gubernatorial veto was overridden.

Although a surprising number of the Governor’s vetoes were rejected by lawmakers, they were unable to override the Right to Work veto that provides the foundation, symbolically or otherwise, to his Turnaround Agenda.

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WAGE HISTORY

Last week, several House Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in overriding the Governor’s veto of the Pay History Prohibition legislation, HB 2462 (Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin/Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie). The bill sought to prohibit an employer from asking job applicants their wage or salary history. The idea is that women are getting paid less than men and this follows them from job to job. The theory is that if an employer is not able to ask about a person’s previous wage they will be paid more.

In reality, the bill does a great deal more than just prohibit employers from asking about prior wages and salaries. It does not allow a company to base an employee’s salary or raise on seniority, merit, quality or quantity of production. These are the current defenses to an unequal pay claim in Illinois and almost every other state. Courts have repeatedly upheld this process as legitimate business measures that protect and promote employees. HB 2462 would have prohibited a company from using these common sense and practical measures as defenses if an employee can find any “alternative practice” used by any company in the United States for a similar job.  In Illinois, a state of just under13 million people, only 266 claims have been filed in the last four years. Only 13 claims were found to have any merit. Only ½ of 1% of all businesses in Illinois are responsible for any paid out unequal pay claims. Companies spent more money defending frivolous claims than unequal pay claims were awarded by the courts. Frivolous claims will only be exacerbated by the fact the legislation also provides for additional penalties that includes but is not limited to compensatory damages, punitive damages, and special damages. Additionally, a claimant would be allowed to pursue federal damages in addition to the state damages. Unfortunately for all, this all could have been avoided if compromise was alive and well in Springfield.

Early in the process, IRMA drafted legislation that was based off the Massachusetts law that was supported by Massachusetts businesses and advocacy groups alike. IRMA and a coalition of business associations including the Illinois Manufacturers Association and the Illinois Chamber supported this legislation. Rather than negotiate a compromise, the proponents ‘accepted’ two minor changes, concluded they compromised, and dared legislators to vote against women. Fast forward to the Senate override, when it became clear that lawmakers understood the overreach of the legislation in lieu of the offered compromise by the business coalition and there was not enough votes for the override, the proponents drafted another ‘compromise’ that removed one minor penalty but left the remaining six penalties in the legislation and made no other substantive changes or considered the aforementioned Massachusetts model. Lawmakers in the Senate responded to this faux compromise by sustaining the veto by a vote of 29-17-1. IRMA would like to thank those legislators who voted to sustain the Governor’s veto. The advocacy groups continue to reject compromise and have vowed to re-introduce the legislation next year.

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UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AGREEMENT

Every two-to-three years the business community and labor come together and enter into an agreed bill process for unemployment insurance. IRMA leads the business coalition while AFL-CIO leads the labor coalition. Two years ago, the process led to labor getting the repeal of the Social Security offset and employers getting a re-definition of ‘misconduct’. This year SB 1381 (Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Bellevue/Sen. Terry Link, D-Gurnee) is the result of the agreed bill process and extends the ‘speed bumps’ for another two years. Speed bumps are increases in UI taxes on employers and UI benefit cuts on labor. ‘Speed bumps’ are intentionally inserted to incentivize both sides to return to the table to review the current UI agreement and negotiate any changes that may be necessary for either side, or the Governor’s Office, desires.  In this case, no changes are necessary and it is speed bumps that brings everyone together.  As it is an agreed bill, it passed the House and Senate unanimously.

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GIFT CARDS/UNCLAIMED PROPERTY

Last year lawmakers passed a revenue bill to pay for the state budget that included a sweeping re-write of Illinois’ unclaimed property law. At that time, working with the office of State Treasurer Frerich’s, IRMA managed to preserve the exemptions for gift cards and remove a provision that would have made in-store credit escheatable. The Governor vetoed the revenue bill because it also increased income taxes but it was subsequently overridden. Over the summer, IRMA and other parties worked with the Treasurer’s Office on a trailer bill to clear up some ambiguity in the legislation.  SB 868 HA#2  (Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago/Rep. Deb Conroy, D-Villa Park) resolves the ambiguity regarding a gift card versus a store value card. SB 868 passed both the Senate and the House unanimously.

IRMA would like to thank the Treasurer’s Office for their willingness to consider clarifying language.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS MODERNIZATION

IRMA testified in House and Senate committees in favor of a proposal enabling the implementation of small cell “networks” in Illinois by telecommunication companies. IRMA testified that with mobile data traffic expected to double annually, small cell base stations are set to play an important role in expanding the capacity of retailers to meet the technological demands of the consumer for highly customized, on-demand services. At a time when consumers are relying on smartphones and tablets more than ever for their shopping needs small cells address coverage, capacity, and reliability concerns to ultimately enable a superior experience both consumers and retailers and the use of cutting edge, data intensive technologies not only in retail but all business sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, and finance.  To meet these demands, SB 1451 (Sen. Terry Link, D-Gurnee/Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Oak Lawn) updates the regulatory framework to enable the latest technology networks, like 5G, that depend on deploying a large volume of small cells.

SB 1451 passed both the House and the Senate and now will be sent to the Governor for his signature.

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GEO-LOCATION AND $15 MINIMUM WAGE

As reported last week there a few vetoes that were not called for an override due to the fact the sponsors did not have the requisite votes for an override. These included Geo-location (HB 3449), Workers Compensation ‘Reform’ (HB 2525), and $15 Minimum Wage (SB 81). The sponsor of the minimum wage bill specifically stated that she did not have enough support in the Senate for an override. IRMA appreciates our members’ support and due diligence in educating lawmakers on the negative impact this type of mandate would create and is creating in jurisdictions who have implemented such increases.

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2018 SESSION SCHEDULE

The 2018 legislative calendars for each chamber were released this week. You can view the House schedule here and the Senate schedule here.

 

This Week in Springfield – 100-19

IN THIS ISSUE:

This Week in Springfield the Capitol caught fire while lawmakers looked to override or sustain Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto.

As lawmakers returned to Springfield to consider vetoes and other business a rogue space heater started a fire that caused the temporary evacuation of the Capitol. The temporary respite did nothing to stall the inevitable bipartisan overrides that were partially ignited by Governor Rauner’s signature on a ‘state funded abortion’ bill (HB 40) and ‘sanctuary state’ bill (SB 31) that caused much consternation among some lawmakers in the Republican Party.  This consternation was evident as Republican lawmakers in the House joined Democrat lawmakers in overriding the Governor’s veto of several bills which included but are not limited to Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s ‘Debt Transparency’ bill (HB 3649) and Treasurer Michael Frerich’s ‘ Life Insurance’ bill (HB 302)–both of these bill head to the Senate where the same outcome is expected.  Governor Rauner was not without some ‘wins’ of his own. While some Senate Republicans joined Democrats in overriding the Governor’s veto of a bill that would have prohibited right-to-work zones in Illinois (SB 1905), the veto was subsequently sustained by one vote in the House.

None of the aforementioned bills necessarily have a direct impact on retail but are worthy to note in that there are more than the usual political undercurrents in play during this Veto Session.

Republican lawmakers also helped Democrats in overriding the Governor’s veto on the Gender Pay History legislation, HB 2462 (Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin/Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie). The bill prohibits an employer from screening job applicants based on their wage or salary history. The idea is that women are getting paid less than men and this follows them from job to job. In order to stop this perpetual cycle, an employer will not be able to ask about a person’s previous wage therefore, the theory goes, previous inequities cannot be taken into consideration when offered a new salary.

This override was expected as it initially passed the House with 91 votes–20 votes more than the 71 needed for an override. This legislation is prime example of a “wedge” issue propagated by the anti-Trump/anti-Rauner reactionaries. Despite evidence that this initiative would actually hurt employees, including women, Democratic lawmakers wanted to force Republican lawmakers into a vote that would have been marketed as ‘anti-woman’ in a time when the Republican Party is being portrayed as not inclusive. What is surprising is that although the veto was overridden, it only garnered 81 votes, more than needed but less than it initially passed the House.

HB 2462 now moves to the Senate for an override vote. It should be pointed out that although HB 2462 initially passed the House with a veto proof majority. It did not pass the Senate with a veto proof majority.  IRMA expects the Senate to override the veto but it will be closer than first expected.

Additionally, lawmakers sustained the Governor’s veto of a bill that would have created a state run workers’ compensation program. HB 2622 (Rep. Laura Fine, D-Glenview/Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie) would have required $10 million in employer money from the Workers’ Compensation Commission Operations Fund to create a state-run Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Company to compete with the over 300 private insurance companies already competing in Illinois. HB 2622 passed the House with a partisan vote of 67-51 and the Senate with a vote of 32-20-1. On the override motion, the House Democrats stood alone and could only muster 65 votes–6 votes shy of the requisite 71.

The following vetoes were not considered this week, but still may considered during the second week: Geo-location (HB 3449), Workers Compensation ‘Reform’ (HB 2525), and $15 Minimum Wage (SB 81). IRMA does not believe any of these initiatives have enough support for a veto override.

Finally, lawmakers considered legislation beyond veto motions. This included an unemployment insurance (UI) bill agreed upon by employers and labor. SB 1381 (Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Bellevue/Sen. Terry Link, D-Gurnee) extends the ‘speed bumps’ for another two years. Speed bumps are increases in UI taxes on employers and UI benefit cuts on labor. ‘Speed bumps’ are intentionally inserted to incentivize both sides to return to the table to review the current UI agreement and negotiate any changes that may be necessary or either side, or the Governor’s Office, desires.  In this case, no changes are necessary and it is speed bumps that brings everyone together.  As it is an agreed bill, it passed the House unanimously and IRMA expects the Senate to pass it during the second week of the veto session.

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121 CRMA Report – October 2017

In this issue

CHICAGO BUDGET ADDRESS
COOK COUNTY BUDGET PREVIEW
CITY COUNCIL UPDATES

CHICAGO BUDGET ADDRESS

Earlier this morning, Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered his budget address for the upcoming 2018 budget year. Much of the speech focused in on the importance of investing in communities, from using the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to develop and expand neighborhood retail and restaurant businesses to hiring more police officers and getting them better training, to investing in education and increased local job opportunities for teens and young adults. As for the city’s finances, the Mayor noted that all of the pensions are on a direct path to solvency, that he is balancing the budget without raiding the rainy day fund, selling assets or borrowing money to pay off existing loans. Through tough negotiations, the city has been able to keep its healthcare costs relatively flat and decreased its structural deficit since the Mayor’s been in office by 82%. He highlighted how important it was to eliminate the head tax during his first term, and announced that unemployment over the last six years has been cut in half.

The city’s $9 billion budget for 2018 will build on these successes but will not be without some additional revenue. The next installment from the previously approved increases in the property tax will hit next year as well as an increased amusement tax for large venues. Ride share fees will also increase in order to tackle public transportation modernization and address lost revenue from the parking garage tax and the flailing taxi industry. Outside of the previously scheduled property tax increase, the retail and restaurant industry should be able to survive next year’s budget largely unscathed. This will give us some time to figure out how to adjust to the next increase in the minimum wage, find ways to address the complexities of the paid sick leave and FMLA ordinance and prepare for any additional proposed regulations on the workforce.

The departmental budget overview will kick off on Monday, October 23rd with a public hearing on the budget scheduled for Wednesday, November 8th directly after the City Council meeting. CRMA will attend all departmental hearings that affect the retail industry and continue to update you on the budget process. All relevant budget documents can be found here.

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COOK COUNTY BUDGET PREVIEW

Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle, issued her annual budget recommendation prior to the vote on the sweetened beverage tax (SBT) repeal. The $5 billion budget for 2018 originally included $200 million in revenue from the SBT. Before the vote to repeal the tax, President Preckwinkle warned each department that they would have to find 11% in cuts in their departments to make up the “lost” revenue. It is hard to imagine how in a $5 billion budget, a lost $200 million would necessitate cuts that deep, but it made headlines. Now that the SBT repeal vote is over, and the tax will actually be repealed on December 1, 2017, the Finance Chairman is asking each department to find 10% in cuts to kick off actual budget discussions.  

It is clear from the speeches made during the SBT repeal vote that Commissioners will be looking for ways to make the county leaner and more efficient before pursuing another tax. With 85% of the voters in Cook County expressing their opposition to the SBT, and frankly, to more taxes, Commissioners have their marching orders. They must find ways to maintain essential services, collaborate with the city of Chicago to save money and consolidate. The days of telling taxpayers that the County needs more revenue from them in order to survive, and then turning around and approving generous pay raises, increased benefits and future step pay increases are over. The taxpayers want a proper accounting for how the money is spent and for how the County plans to hold the line on spending. Employers want the same thing.

The County will be engaging in meetings through mid-November to hear from each department on how it plans to make cuts and increase savings. The budget will be adjusted throughout this process until a compromise is reached. Generally the County issues its budget before the Thanksgiving holiday, but this year, it may extend that process. Depending on how negotiations proceed, the County could issue its budget in February which is allowed by state law. We will keep members informed on the progress.

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CITY COUNCIL ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS

INTRODUCTIONS

ORDINANCE – BAN ON REFUSING CASH AS PAYMENT FOR GOODS/SERVICES

Sponsors: Alderman Edward M. Burke (14th Ward) and Alderman Walter Burnett (27th Ward)

Committee: License and Consumer Protection

A recent Chicago Tribune article highlighted the “trend” of some retailers and restaurants moving away from allowing customers to pay with cash and instead only accepting card and mobile payments. The proposal cites concerns with escalating credit card balances and unnamed studies that suggest that when consumers pay with credit cards they are more likely to spend more. It also refers to a promotion offered by VISA that offered financial rewards to restaurants that met its “Cashless Challenge” by converting exclusively to cashless transactions. The proposal suggests that going cashless is a ploy to help enrich credit card companies while giving merchants access to consumer data with every swipe of the card. This data, according to the proposal, can then be susceptible to a breach, or it can be shared/sold for marketing purposes.

The proposal continues on to suggest that cashless transactions have a disproportionate effect on children under the age of 18 who are unable to apply for credit cards, as well as undocumented immigrants, the homeless and low-income consumers who are un-banked or under-banked. As evidence of this trend, the proposal names several restaurant chains where the price of a cup of tea can run $4.00 and a salad or sandwich averages $10.00. Hardly a place where the homeless or customers on a fixed income are frequenting.

Suggesting that this is a solution in search of a problem, the only other jurisdiction that has passed a law requiring merchants to pay with any acceptable form of legal tender is Massachusetts. That law was passed in 1978, prior to the internet being invented.

CRMA is currently developing its position on this matter.

 

ORDINANCE – EMPLOYEE DISCRIMINATION

Sponsors: Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward) and Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward)

Committee: Human Relations

This proposal would prohibit employers from discharging, or otherwise discriminating against, an employee for changing or attempting to change their name, SSN or federal employment authorization document. It is unknown at this time if this is related to the city developing its own ID card for use with city services, but this section is being added to that section of the Municipal Code.

CRMA is currently developing its position on this matter.

 

ORDINANCE – ELECTRICAL CODE AMENDMENTS

Sponsor: Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Committee: Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards

Most of the changes made here are not substantive and look like an attempt to clean up some of the Code and ensure that the correct citations to other parts of the Code are noted by reference. There is new language governing branch circuits, feeders, PVC, RTRC, luminaires, lampholders and lamps. Please ensure that persons in control of your building operations review the changes.

CRMA takes no position.

 

ORDINANCE – ENERGY PERFORMANCE RATING SYSTEM

Sponsor: Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Committee: Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards

This proposal would set in place an energy performance rating system for covered buildings which assigns stars based on performance. A four star rating would be the highest and zero being the lowest. Buildings would be provided their rating on an annual basis and must disclose their score in any advertisement to sell the building. Water usage information could be made readily available to the public.

CRMA takes no position at this time. Please let us know if you have concerns.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 8, 2017.

The next Cook County Board meeting is scheduled for November 15, 2017.

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Tanya TricheTanya Triche Dawood
Vice President, General Counsel
IL Retail Merchants Association
312-726-4600
ttrichedawood@irma.org

121 Report – CRMA – August 2017

CITY COUNCIL ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS

INTRODUCTIONS

 

RESOLUTION – CALL FOR CITY TO FILE REQUEST FOR REVISED PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENTS

Sponsor:  Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward)

Committee:  Finance

 A recent Chicago Tribune investigative report raised concerns that property in Cook County was being over-assessed in poor neighborhoods and under-assessed in more wealthy neighborhoods.  Suggesting that the system used to evaluate a property’s value was fundamentally flawed, the report indicated that a more fair and accurate system, developed by professors at the University of Chicago, was never implemented.  The report set off a media blitz questioning the direction of the Assessor’s office, led by Joe Berrios.  Subsequently, the Cook County Board held a meeting to question the Assessor regarding the allegations made in the Tribune report and have vowed to make changes.

This resolution asks for the city to file a request for the Assessor’s office to revise assessments made on Chicago’s homes and businesses if the assessment resulted in a more than 7% negative variance from the market value of the property.  In addition, the resolution requests that the assessor’s office write rules for how it will address the inequities highlighted in the report.  Lastly, it directs the city’s Corporation Counsel to review whether there were any civil rights violations as a result of the current assessment system.

 

ORDINANCE – REGULATION OF AUTOMATIC SHUT-OFF VALVES AT GAS STATIONS

Sponsor:  Alderman Raymond Lopez (15th Ward)

Committee:  Finance

Concerned that gas station owners are not being diligent in ensuring that the automatic shut-off valves in their pumps are in good working order, Ald. Lopez introduced this proposal to require more frequent inspections of gas stations and greatly increasing fines specifically for not having an appropriately operational automatic shut-off valve.  Today the fine is not less than $500 and no more than $1000 for each offense.  The new fine for automatic shut-off valves would increase to $2500 per offense per day until the problem is fixed.

 

ORDINANCE – REVISION TO THE ELECTRICAL CODE

Sponsor:  Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Committee:  Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards

This over 200-page document seeks to update and revise the city’s electrical code.  It is an attempt to bring the code in line with the National Electrical Code.  The city’s code has not been updated in about 14 years, and as you can imagine, much has changed.  We encourage your real estate professionals and building teams to review the changes and contact us with questions or concerns.

The City Council and Cook County Board do not meet in the month of August.  The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 6, 2017 and the Cook County Board is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, September 13, 2017.

 

Tanya TricheTanya Triche Dawood
Vice President, General Counsel
Illinois Retail Merchants Association
312-726-4600
ttrichedawood@irma.org

121 Report – CRMA – July 2017

In this issue

  • City Council Updates

More about CRMA

CITY COUNCIL ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS

INTRODUCTIONS

RESOLUTION 

REGULATION OF EMPLOYEE SCHEDULES

Sponsors:  Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and Alderman Toni Foulkes (16th Ward)

Committee:  Human Relations

This resolution calls for hearings to help alleviate what the sponsors consider to be unfair employee scheduling and employment practices.  It particularly highlights employees being “forced” to work part-time, employees’ inability to provide input or exercise control over their schedules and employer-initiated changes to schedules.  It concludes that such practices harm productivity.  This issue was originally discussed as part of Mayor Emanuel’s Taskforce on Working Families.  IRMA was a member of that taskforce.  CRMA members will recall that the taskforce ultimately decided not to move forward with a mandate.

ORDINANCE

REGULATION OF EMPLOYEE SCHEDULES

Sponsors:  Alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), Alderman Toni Foulkes (16th Ward), Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) and 14 additional co-sponsors

Committee:  Committees, Rules and Ethics

The proposal seeks to mandate the following:

• Provide employees with a “good faith estimate” in writing of the employee’s work schedule that would include minimum hours and would presumably include more information such as what days per week an employee would expect to work

• The employee can request to modify the estimated work schedule prior to commencement of employment, and the employer can accept/reject the request as long as the communication is in writing

• Provide employees with a 2-week schedule by either posting it in the workplace or posting electronically as long as all employees are given access to the schedule at the workplace or remotely.  The employee can choose how they want their electronic schedule issued.  Upon initial hire, employers must provide employees an initial schedule to cover until the new schedule is issued

• If the employee changes their schedule after the schedule has been posted, there will be no ramifications under this ordinance

• Employees have the right to decline additional, previously unscheduled hours once the schedule has been issued; if the employee accepts the additional hours the employer must further compensate the employee with an additional hour of pay for the shift, including cases where an employee is asked to extend their current shift

• If an employer subtracts hours from a shift after the schedule has been issued or cancels a shift altogether, with less than 24 hours advanced notice, then the employer must pay the equivalent of 4 hours or the number of hours in the employee’s scheduled shift, whichever is less*

• If an employer moves a shift after the schedule has been issued, then the employee must be compensated*

• Penalty pay is not required when changes to schedules are made as a result of threats to employers, employees, property, or when civil authorities have recommended that work not continue; when the location is closed or business is interrupted due to public utilities’ failure to supply electricity, water or gas; failure in the sewer system; acts of nature, war, civil unrest, strikes or other issues outside of the employer’s control that cause operations to discontinue or mutually agreed upon shift swaps among employees

• Before hiring new employees, the employer must offer existing hours to current employees that are qualified to do the work; an employer is prohibited from not offering the hours because it may cause the employee to become eligible for employer-provided benefits under the ACA

• Employees have 72 hours to accept/decline the hours before the employer can hire for the position; if the offer of additional work is for an expected duration of 2 weeks or less, then the employee will have 24 hours to accept/decline the offer; all offers must be in writing or posted wherever schedules are posted; acceptance must be in writing; such writings and acceptance must be kept for 3 years

• If an employee works during the 11 hours following the end of a shift, the employee must agree to such a schedule in writing and must be compensated one and a half times the employee’s regular rate for the hours that are scheduled less than 11 hours from the end of the last shift

• Employees have the right to request numerous adjustments to their schedules, whether it be changes in hours, job sharing arrangements, or even part-year employment.  The employer cannot retaliate against the employee for exercising this right

• A notice of employee rights in the ordinance must be posted at the workplace and written notification must be given at time of hire along with the employer’s name, address and telephone number

• Private right of action is included and fines will be assessed

A covered employee does not include anyone who is paid on a salary basis and whose rate of pay per week is greater than the 40th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time non-hourly workers in the Midwest Census Region as determined by the USDOL.  Regardless, it will include all employees making less than $50,000/year or less than $962 per week.

CRMA is opposed.

DRUG PRICING TRANSPARENCY

Sponsors:  Alderman Edward M. Burke (14th Ward) and Alderman Sophia King (4th Ward)

Committee:  Finance

Citing the rising costs of prescription drugs and recent cases of drug manufacturers involved in what some consider to be price-fixing and/or price-gouging, this proposal seeks to establish a Chicago Prescription Drug Price Review Board convened by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health.  The Board would review trend anomalies in the list price of medications and highlight those trends in an annually published report.  That report might also suggest the need for legislative action on certain issues as informed by the data.  The Board will also issue public advisory opinions on its findings and establish a Pharmaceutical Price Watch Hotline for consumers to report increased prices.

The proposal would compel manufacturers that allow their products to be sold in Chicago to report all brand-name and generic drugs sold, and for brand-name drugs, the must report any WAC increase of 10% or more, or a 12-month price increase of $10,000 or more or a drug that has a 12-month WAC of $30,000 or more.  For generic drugs, WAC increases need to be reported if they are 25% or more, have a 12-month increase of $300 or more, or for new drugs, have a 12-month WAC of $3000 or more.  The city must be notified at least 90 days before a new drug is introduced to the market or before a price increase is instituted.  Justification for the price increase must also be produced.  Manufacturers found to be in violation of the ordinance shall have their names posted publicly by the department.

CRMA is developing its position.

 

ADOPTED ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS

PUBLIC COMMENTS AT COUNCIL MEETINGS

Sponsors:  Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th Ward), Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward), Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th Ward) and 3 additional co-sponsors

The city is amending its Rules of Order and Procedure to allow for the public to comment on any matter being considered at any full City Council meeting.  Comments will occur at the beginning of the meeting immediately after the roll call and invocation.  All persons requesting to speak must be physically present within the Council Chambers and must keep comments focused on a subject that appears on the agenda.  Remarks will be limited to 3 minutes.  The public comment period will last for 30 minutes.  This comment period will be in addition to the public comments period already in place for committee meetings.  Written comments can also be submitted to the full Council through the Sergeant-at-Arms.

EFFECTIVE DATE:  The ordinance will be in effect for the July City Council meeting.

 

MAINTAINING THE PREPAID WIRELESS 911 SURCHARGE

Sponsor:  Budget Director

As the May 31st deadline for the end of the legislative session came and went without passing a budget, the city received word that unless it proactively passed its own ordinance, it would no longer be able to collect revenue from the 911 surcharge.  The 7% tax on cell phones was scheduled to increase to 9% and the landline surcharge was scheduled to increase from $3.90 to $5.00 but the increases were tied up in the budget bill.  The Mayor moved to pass an ordinance to preserve the surcharge before the deadline of July 1st, so that the city could continue to collect the revenue regardless of whether the legislature passes a budget.  The legislature has since passed a budget that was vetoed by Governor Rauner and later overridden by both houses.

EFFECTIVE DATE:  Increases will occur beginning on September 1st. 

 

LICENSING OF MASSAGE ESTABLISHMENTS

Sponsors:  Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th Ward), Ald Michelle Harris (8th Ward), Ald. Michael Scott, Jr. (24th Ward) and 5 additional co-sponsors

This ordinance will require businesses that offer massage services to obtain a regulated business license in addition to their limited business license.  The license, approved by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, requires each applicant to submit information on the types of massages offered, proof that employees are at least 18 years old, employment history of each applicant for the 3 years preceding the application, the previous experience of each applicant in the massage business, evidence of any previous business licenses for massage establishments revoked in any other jurisdiction, history of criminal violations and any lease information (if applicable).  Licenses will be denied to any person found to have violated certain sections of the Municipal Code, offenses involving sexual misconduct with children, trafficking of persons, other sexual offenses or any other felony not excused by the Commissioner.

As a condition of the license, licensees must keep the premises clean and sanitized, display prices in a written price list, require employees to wear nontransparent clothing of all sensitive areas, require clients to cover sensitive areas, launder sheets and towels after each use, refrain from touching any client in a sexual/genital area, keep physical facilities in good repair, keep a year’s worth of records of services rendered, have clear glass entrances to the establishment, separate entrances/exits from residences, post a sign identifying the name of the establishment, post an advisory notice for the benefit of customers, disinfect all massage tables, lavatories and floors, provide a toilet facility and provide closed cabinets for storage for towels and linens.

Massage therapists must be licensed by the state in order to work in the establishment, and licensees must keep a list of all employed massage therapists along with a copy of their license and state-issued photo ID.  The license must be displayed in the establishment and any advertisements must also show the city license number.  Licenses cannot be transferred.

EFFECTIVE DATE:  October 13, 2017

The next City Council meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

CONTACT

Tanya TricheTanya Triche Dawood
Vice President, General Counsel
Illinois Retail Merchants Association
312-726-4600
ttrichedawood@irma.org