Business Day 2017 Key Note Speaker

MATTHEW DOWD
Special Correspondent and Analyst for ABC News
Author of Best-Selling Applebee’s America
Campaign Strategist for More Than 100 Campaigns

Matthew Dowd is a well-known and respected cultural commentator and strategist. For the past 30 years, he has helped shape strategies and campaigns for CEOs, corporations, foundations, governments, candidates, and presidents. He currently serves as a special correspondent and analyst for ABC News where he appears on This Week, Good Morning America, and Nightline, and he has written regular pieces for publications like National Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and the Huffington Post. With triumphant political campaigns under his belt and independence from both political parties, he uses his wealth of experience and knowledge to provide audiences with a view of America today and how our political, economic, and social institutions need to respond. Dowd covers not only politics but cultural, economic, and spiritual trends. He is exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau.

Building a Name-Brand Candidate. Dowd’s political work includes serving as the chief strategist on two winning reelection efforts – for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 and for President George W. Bush in 2004. His innovative approach on the 2004 and 2000 campaigns led the bi-partisan American Association of Political Consultants to name him “Strategist of the Year.” In 2004, he oversaw all of the campaign’s media, message development, targeting, and research.

He has also given strategic advice to President Barack Obama after the 2010 midterm elections, Bono at the One Campaign, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior to his work for President Bush, Dowd worked for 25 years for Democratic candidates around the country, including Senator Lloyd Bentsen and former Texas Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, who he helped win two terms as his chief campaign consultant.

Now Serving Politics and Prose. He is coauthor of the wildly popular New York Times best-seller Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community, which examines the tactics used by two great politicians and a groundbreaking company to thrive in an era of immense change.

Dowd has taught seminars on campaigns and communication at Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently a senior fellow at the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California.

Over the last 20 years, Dowd has been an active entrepreneur, founding three highly successful companies including Vianovo and Public Strategies. He recently started Paradox Capital, a social impact venture fund which is focused on for-profit social good companies. His experience in business and politics will help bridge the paradox between capitalism and social consciousness.
Updated WMS 11/15

This Week in Springfield – 100-10

$15 MINIMUM WAGE
PROPERTY TAX SHIFT
GENDER PAY HISTORY
WRONGFUL DISCHARGE
FOOD HANDLER FEE REDUCTION
ATM FEE LIMITS
“LIFELINE” BUDGET
TELECOMMUNICATIONS MODERNIZATION
JOIN US FOR BUSINESS DAY

This week in Springfield a disturbing anti-employer narrative continued to build as proposals to increase the minimum wage to $15, shift the property tax burden to employers, remove the ability to pay employees based on merit, seniority, or production, and eliminate at-will employment that put employers and employees at risk advanced.

$15 MINIMUM WAGE

 

HB 198 Amendment #1 (Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago) seeks to raise the state’s minimum wage from the current $8.25/hour to $15.00/hour over a period of 5 years.  The increase would begin on January 1, 2018 and increase every January 1st for all employees aged 18 years or older according to the following schedule:

  • 1/1/2018: $9/hour
  • 1/1/2019: $10/hour
  • 1/1/2020: $11.25/hour
  • 1/1/2021: $13/hour
  • 1/1/2022: $15/hour

There is a limited income tax credit for employers of 50 or fewer employees.  This credit does not extend to franchises or other similar business models that have more than 10 locations combined between the franchisor and all franchisees (or the equivalent) nationwide. The tax credit has the effect of providing an additional year for businesses with 50 or fewer employees to reach $15.00/hour.  All current minimum wage exemptions will remain intact.  Those exemptions allow an employer to (1) pay an employee $0.50 less per hour for the first 90-days of employment; or (2) pay employees under the age of 18 $0.50 an hour less than the minimum wage.  As we did in the previous subject matter hearing, IRMA testified in opposition.  The bill passed out of the House Labor & Commerce Committee on a partisan vote of 17-6-0 and has been sent to the House floor for additional consideration.

Return to Top

PROPERTY TAX SHIFT

 

HB 156 (Rep. Michelle Mussman, D- Schaumburg) seeks to shift several billion in property taxes from residential payers to employers. The shift comes by way of increasing the homestead exemption in Cook County by 14% and 33% in all other counties. This would make the homestead exemption uniform $8,000 statewide. Additionally, there are special tax breaks for senior citizens and veterans. The House debate was interesting in that many noted this was nothing more than political gamesmanship but they wound up voting ‘yes’ for fear of getting attacked for failing to provide property tax relief. While HB 156 received bi-partisan support as a result of these fears, it was the House Democratic response to Governor Bruce Rauner’s call for permanent property tax relief.

IRMA joined a long list of other entities in opposition with the Taxpayers Federation of Illinois (TFI) providing detailed testimony. TFI estimated that the homestead exemption would shift nearly $5.2 billion while the senior exemption would shift another $800 million in equalized assessed valuation (EAV). If applies across the board, TFI estimates this shift will add at least another 2% to the property tax bills of commercial and industrial property tax payers.

HB 156 now proceeds to the Senate for additional consideration.

Return to Top

GENDER PAY HISTORY

 

An initiative to prohibit employers from requesting the wage, salary, compensation and other benefits history of a prospective employee continues to progress through the General Assembly. IRMA has made it very clear that it can support an initiative that prohibits an employer from asking about prior wages and salary but cannot support an initiative that 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. HB 2462 (Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin) would prohibit 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 position.  As such, an employee who has no experience but has the same educational and technical background as a person with 25 years of experience arguably must be paid the same.  An employee who has a sales metric of $100,000 arguably must be paid the same as a person who has a sales metric of $1 million. This is contrary to how businesses operate in the real world. Additionally, courts have repeatedly upheld these processes as legitimate business measures that protect and promote employees. In fact, in a state of over 13 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 proposed legislation also provides for additional penalties that include but are not limited to compensatory damages, punitive damages, and special damages.

IRMA was told by the advocates of HB 2462 that we should support the bill because the Massachusetts’ Retail Association supported a law that the Illinois’ bill was modeled upon. IRMA does support the Massachusetts’ approach. Unfortunately HB 2462 bears no resemblance to the Massachusetts’ law.  To date, that compromise has been rejected.

Return to Top

WRONGFUL DISCHARGE

 

Legislation that would eliminate the ‘agreed bill process’ passed out of the Senate Labor Committee on the assurance of the sponsor he would work with opponents including IRMA. SB 1760 (Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Crest Hill) is a union initiative that would require an employer to furnish to a discharged employee a statement of reasons for the discharge. A discharge would be wrongful if the discharge was a constructive discharge, if it was not for good cause, or if the discharge was in violation of the employer’s personnel policy.  Illinois would be the only state to have such a law.

SB 1760 would create a “good cause” for termination standard for all Illinois workers.  It allows any employee, except those covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), to challenge any termination or resignation as not being for “good cause” pursuant to the specific definitions in this bill.  As defined, a discharge would be wrongful if; (1) it was a constructive discharge, (2) it was in retaliation for the employee’s refusal to violate public policy or for reporting a violation of public policy, (3) it was not for good cause and the employee had completed the employer’s probationary period for employment, or (4) the employer violated the provisions of their written personnel policy. Additionally, employers would be banned from providing truthful references. Any time an employee is terminated for what the company considers to be for good cause and in compliance with the law would be subject to the employee’s challenge.  The legislation would also be in conflict with employer’s drug and alcohol policy and limit the employer’s ability to enforce that policy in a necessary and safe manner for the entire workplace.  Finally, the legislation threatens the agreed bill process. Passage of SB 1760 would reverse the terms agreed to by labor during the agreed bill process.

Return to Top

FOOD HANDLER FEE REDUCTION

 

HB 3684 (Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Oak Lawn) removes an obsolete fee paid by restaurant and grocery retail workers. It passed the House unanimously by a vote of 114-0-0.  Illinois is one of only a few states that require a separate food handling certificate and fee in addition to the national food handling certificate. Currently under Illinois law, an individual must complete an Illinois Department of Public Health (IPDH) approved training program and then pass an exam provided by an accredited exam provider. Once the individual pays for and passes the exam and receives the national certificate, he/she is required to electronically send the national certificate to the state and pay an additional $35 for a redundant Illinois specific certificate. When the Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act was initially implemented, Illinois drafted, maintained, amended, mailed and graded their own examination. As such, an administrative justification existed for an additional fee. This Illinois specific exam no longer exists, therefore the administrative expenses no longer exist.

The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.

IRMA would like to thank Rep. Kelly Burke for her sponsorship and efforts in achieving passage in the House.  IRMA would also like to thank Sen. David Koehler for sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

Return to Top

ATM FEE LIMITS

 

HB 1274 Amendment #1 (Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago) would prohibit ATM withdrawal fees from being higher than $1.00, and would prohibit other costs and fees from financial institutions related to withdrawing cash from the ATM.  This bill attempts to address the fact that fees have increased over the years and state government currently doesn’t have any control over how much a person can be charged when withdrawing money from an ATM.  There are specific costs to the business for financial transactions, and businesses use these fees to help cover the costs of these transactions.  As there is much competition in the ATM marketplace, the customer has the right to comparison shop and do business with financial institutions, or utilize ATM’s that give them the best value.  The bill passed out of the Consumer Protection Committee on a partisan roll call of 3-2-0 and we expect that there will be more debate on the House floor.

Return to Top

“LIFELINE” BUDGET

 

Lawmakers passed an $817 million “lifeline budget” out of the House that would provide temporary funding relief to higher education and social service and health programs. This included $258 million for programs, including senior meals and crime prevention, and indigent burials. It also included $559 million for state universities, community colleges, and educational grants for low-income students.

Before the debate had even taken place, Governor Bruce Rauner had pledged to veto any stopgap measure absent property tax relief. As such, no Republican voted for the initiative and argued that the measure was just delaying a real fix to the problem.

HB 109 (Rep. Greg Harris, D- Chicago) passed on a vote of 64-45-1 and heads to the Senate for additional consideration.

Return to Top

TELECOMMUNICATIONS MODERNIZATION

 

IRMA joined an array of entities testifying in support of HB 2691 (Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg) that seeks to modernize Illinois’ telecommunications laws. Historically, retail is the most dynamic of the business sectors as we are in a constant state of change adjusting to changes in products, technologies, and consumer tastes and desires. As technology has evolved, the pace of change has accelerated and created tremendous opportunities and challenges. Illinois retailers need a modern and flexible telecommunications system in order to compete and meet the customized experiences consumers now expect.

Return to Top

JOIN US FOR BUSINESS DAY

 

The constant attacks to your business are real.  State government stands poised to pile on instead of exercising caution.  They are considering proposals to raise the minimum wage to $15, require paid sick leave, increase the threshold for felony retail theft to $2,000 or more, eliminate the retail discount, and the list goes on.

So what can you do about it?  You can show up when it counts.  Attend IRMA’s annual lobby day on Wednesday, April 26th. Bring a fellow business owner and have a frank discussion with legislators about the impact that all of these proposals will have on your business.  Join the largest gathering of employers in Illinois each year.  Additional information, including registration and sponsorships can be found here. We hope to see you there.

Return to Top

This Week in Springfield 100-09

RETAIL THEFT
$15 MINIMUM WAGE
PAID SICK LEAVE
RETAIL DISCOUNT
DATA PRIVACY – RIGHT TO KNOW
DATA PRIVACY – GEOLOCATION INFORMATION
ORDER OF PROTECTION REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION MANDATE
FOOD ALLERGEN TRAINING
REMOTE SELLERS
SNAP PHOTO ID
TOBACCO MERCHANDISING
VAPOR PRODUCTS RETAIL LICENSE
CRIMINAL LIABILITY FOR BUILDING OWNERS AND MANAGERS
GUN DEALER LICENSING
BUSINESS DAY APRIL 26TH

 

This week in Springfield, both the Senate and the House were in session with the House focused on committee action leading up to their Friday committee deadline.  Below is a summary of action on bills of importance to retail.

RETAIL THEFT

 

The debate over whether or not to increase the threshold for felony retail theft continued this week with the advancement of HB 3337 (Rep. Elgie Sims, D- Chicago) out of the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee. The advancement occurred based on the sponsor’s commitment to return to the committee with an amendment. IRMA has been working with Rep. Sims in an effort to develop an alternative to raising the threshold.

The debate is occurring within a larger discussion of criminal justice reform with an eye toward reducing the state’s prison population by diverting more non-violent offenders from prison. However, the studies upon which the proponents based their recommendations to increase the threshold for felony retail theft make false comparisons and have been completely undermined. Those claims included that people are sitting in prison solely for retail theft or because they cannot afford bail for retail theft, or retail thieves steal largely for need, or that retail theft has not increased in states that increased their retail theft threshold. All of the aforementioned claims have now been thoroughly refuted. As an example, let us focus on the claim that retail theft has not increased in states that have increased their threshold for felony retail theft.

According to the FBI, over the last five years as other states have increased their felony thresholds, retail theft has increased nearly 18%. Over the same period, the value of the merchandise stolen has increased 30% strongly indicating retail thieves know the limits and steal to them. So why the difference between the FBI statistics and those being cited by the proponents of increasing the felony retail theft threshold? The proponents are using larceny numbers and not retail theft specific numbers. Larceny is a catch-all category of many crimes. As a category, larceny has been decreasing. However, as noted above, the specific crime of retail theft has been increasing.

Proposals in Illinois seek to increase the felony retail theft threshold to as high as $2,500. Yet California, which “only” increased its threshold to $950, experienced a substantial increase in theft. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department recorded a 25% increase in the incidence of retail theft. Again, it goes back to comparing larceny to retail theft.

The Illinois Municipal League, the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, and numerous business groups and local chambers have joined with IRMA in opposition to increasing the threshold. Largely because increasing the threshold shifts the burden to local governments while at the same time eroding their sales tax base.

IRMA has long worked with legislators on efforts such as sealing, expungement, and lowering barriers to employment for those with criminal records. Likewise, IRMA continues to work with Rep. Sims on a possible alternative to increasing the felony threshold for retail theft. But there are limits and increasing the threshold for felony retail theft is one such limit.

Return to Top

$15 MINIMUM WAGE

 

On the heels of last weeks subject matter-only hearing in the House Labor & Commerce Committee at which IRMA testified, this week, Rep. Will Guzzardi (D- Chicago) filed House Amendment #1 to HB 198 proposing to increase the Illinois minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $15 per hour by January 1, 2022. The proposal seeks to increase the minimum wage on the following schedule:

 

  • January 1, 2018 = $9.00
  • January 1, 2019 = $10.00
  • January 1, 2020 = $11.25
  • January 1, 2021 = $13.00
  • January 1, 2018 = $15.00

 

Such a schedule would increase Illinois’ starting wage by an average of 16.36% each year or a total increase over the five years of over 81%. This added cost would come on top of the billions in new taxes that are certain to be imposed when Springfield ultimately deals with its deteriorating fiscal situation. This would be a double-whammy for employers in the City of Chicago and Cook County who enacted ordinances imposing a $13 minimum wage on top of billions in new taxes. Additionally, it comes as record-numbers of citizens leave the state making it impossible for retailers to grow sales.

House Amendment #1 to HB 198 does not contain language preempting local governments from regulating labor so they are free to continue this ever-upward spiral effectively killing what little opportunity exists. Additionally, the amendment contains a tax credit for employers with fewer than 50 employees. This tax credit has the effect of delaying full implementation for such employers for one year. It is also the first time the proponents have publicly admitted there is a cost to such increases. Historically, they have steadfastly denied such an impact.

IRMA anticipates House Amendment #1 to HB 198 will be considered by the full House within the next few weeks.

Return to Top

PAID SICK LEAVE

 

HB 2771 Amendment #1 (Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago) and SB 1296 (Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights) were both advanced out of their respective committees this week.  Both bills will be amended to reflect much of the same language of the existing Chicago and Cook County ordinances that will take effect on July 1st.  While the bills are not direct copies of the ordinance language, they reflect most of the ordinances key components.  As we did in both Chicago and Cook County, IRMA testified in opposition.

Layering another costly mandate on top of significant tax increases that are certain to come, will present employers with a significant challenge.  Employers large and small never get the benefit of experiencing costs in a vacuum.  They will see this mandate in combination with other government-imposed costs without any corresponding increase or accounting for revenue.  Many businesses are already in a precarious financial position and this bill ensures that the challenges will keep coming.  As Illinois bleeds consumers at an alarming rate, there is no opportunity to grow sales. Nevertheless, the House Economic Opportunity Committee passed the bill out on a party line vote of 7-5-0 and the Senate Labor Committee did the same with a vote of 11-3-0.  Both bills may be further amended before being called on the floor.

Return to Top

RETAIL DISCOUNT

 

This week, Sen. John Mulroe (D- Chicago) introduced a proposal (Senate Amendment #1 to SB 472) that included eliminating the Retail Discount. This is the 1.75% Illinois retailers are allowed to retain as a partial reimbursement for serving as the administrator and collector of sales taxes imposed by the state and units of local government. The inclusion of the Retail Discount in the proposal adds insult to injury as retailers are underwriting the collection of sales tax and are not even reimbursed for their true costs.

We fully expect others to look make similar proposals in an effort to avoid having to make the truly difficult decisions to correct decades of fiscal mismanagement. IRMA is ready to defend the Discount and urges members to contact their State Senator to express opposition.

Return to Top

DATA PRIVACY – RIGHT TO KNOW

 

HB 2774 Amendment #2 and Amendment #3 (Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago) was heard in the Cybersecurity, Data Analytics and IT Committee this week.  IRMA testified in opposition. This bill requires that companies which share or sell data to third parties must tell consumers, upon request, what personal information has been shared or sold and with whom the information has been shared or sold.  It seems like an easy enough request, but presents a major challenge for companies that have various ends of their business that collect and share data.  For instance, companies that have their own credit cards, loyalty programs, apps, and/or website may collect and share different kinds of data at different times.  Data is also shared in order to conduct surveys with third party manufacturers of products sold in stores.  All of the data is not kept in one neat box to pull from upon customer inquiry.  Businesses will have to build out a mechanism to search and find data that has been shared.  There is a cost and time component to that effort that would be better used doing things that would actually protect consumers, such as reinforcing software programs used to catch predators seeking to breach collected information.

This bill is based on the state of California’s “Shine the Light” law which is much more narrowly focused in scope.  That law requires disclosure to persons that have an established business relationship if information is shared for direct marketing purposesHB 2774 has no such qualifiers.  It is much more expansive.  In addition, the bill defines personal information very broadly.  It can be something as simple as a person’s address which can be found through a simple Google search, or even information that people put out on the internet themselves like educational information that a person may post to LinkedIn.

The state of Illinois has already protected consumers through updating the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).  PIPA requires companies to notify consumers when personal identifying information has been breached that could cause consumers financial harm or put them at risk of identity theft.  Consumers can then do things to protect themselves such as seek new credit cards and put fraud notifications on credit reports.  HB 2774 doesn’t provide the consumer with any actual protection, just knowledge that information has been shared.  In fact, notice about information sharing practices can be found in a company’s privacy policy today.  This bill doesn’t give consumers any further protections than what they have already.  It would instead require businesses to divert precious resources that could be better used to focus on protecting the data that companies collect.

We should also note that political organizations organized under 501(c)(4) are exempt from the bill.  This means that Super PACs and data collection arms of political organizations could collect, share and sell without providing any notice to voters.

In order to give the sponsor more time to work on amendments and to give the committee more time to ask questions of advocates and industry, the bill was passed out of committee 6-0 based on the sponsor’s promise the bill will be brought back to committee for further discussion.

Return to Top

DATA PRIVACY – GEOLOCATION INFORMATION

 

HB 3449 (Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago) is a bill that would require companies that use geolocation services through an app to provide a way for users to affirmatively consent to that use.  The consent must be through a hyperlink or other action that will require the consumer to show that they have consented to the specific use.  Therefore, mentioning that such activity will be used in a privacy policy is not enough.

To date, there has been no evidence presented that there is something different about geolocation information and any other data that is collected that would warrant an affirmative notice outside of a company’s privacy policy.  It is widely understood that geolocation services can be turned off by a person on their device either through the app or through the phone or tablet.  With such a simple remedy already available to consumers, retailers are concerned that the bill will mostly be used by trial attorneys seeking to create class actions and file lawsuits based on technicalities.  This is a trend that Illinois should refrain from setting.  The bill is being pushed by a law firm that has filed class action lawsuits against companies like Facebook and Google in California, and it is possible that similar lawsuits could be filed against Illinois based companies if this law was passed.  The power to control whether geolocation services are used is already in the consumer’s hand.  This bill provides no further protection.  IRMA testified in opposition.

Considering the impending committee deadline, the bill was passed out by a vote of 6-4-0 with the understanding that amendments would be brought back to committee for further discussion before moving to the House floor.

 
Return to Top

ORDER OF PROTECTION REASONABLE

ACCOMMODATION MANDATE

 

HB 647 (Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora) would require a retailer to provide ‘reasonable accommodation’ for any employee that has an order of protection against an individual. This ‘reasonable accommodation’ includes changing the employee’s email address, telephone number, screening their telephone calls, restructuring their job functions, changing their work location, installing locks and other security devices, and allowing the employee to work flexible hours.

Retailers do not have locked gates, security checkpoints or any other measure that deters customers from entering their stores.  Retailers must encourage consumer interaction. Additionally, some retailers are open 24-7 to accommodate the public.  Very few, if any, retail associates have their own work emails or work phone numbers.  Moreover, depending upon the skill set, training, or knowledge of the individual employee, retailers cannot ask a greeter to become a cashier, or the barista to work in the sports section, or the cosmetic clerk to work in the technology center, or the hostess to become a cook, or the cashier to work in the pharmacy. Even if this were possible in limited circumstances, this “restructuring” would move the employee no more than a few hundred feet from their original job function in a space that is open to the public. Consequently, a retailer would not be able to provide the reasonable accommodations required under this legislation.

The Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) already applies to the circumstances of HB 647 and provides a balance between the needs of the employer and the employee. For instance, the current law already recognizes the unique position a retailer holds with the public and provides consideration for this public accommodation.  While opponents were not allowed to testify in committee, the legislation passed out of the Judiciary – Civil Committee on a vote of 6-4 because the sponsor agreed to bring an amendment back to committee for additional consideration.

Return to Top

FOOD ALLERGEN TRAINING

 

A bill that would require redundant allergen training and additional fees passed out of committee with a promise to bring an agreed amendment back to committee. HB 2510 (Rep. Sarah Feigenholtz, D-Chicago) requires additional allergen training for those holding a Food Service Sanitation Manager Certification (FSSMC). This is an initiative of the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA) and the National Restaurant Association. This is similar to legislation enacted in Virginia, Massachusetts, Michigan and Maine. The current FSSMC training already contains a 90 minute segment that includes discussion of allergens.  As such, an FSSMC holder will now be required to pay another fee for another training program. Additionally, the IRA believes that the additional training is necessary to remain ‘progressive’ in the restaurant industry. To that point, any restaurant can voluntarily choose to require their employees to receive additional training without passing a law that mandates additional redundant requirements and expenses on every restaurant in Illinois.

On the agreement that the sponsor would bring an agreed bill back to committee, the legislation passed out of the Consumer Protection Committee on a vote of 5-0. IRMA will be neutral if and only if the following occurs: (1) the training would only be required for restaurants under the Category I food establishments pursuant to the Food Enforcement Act; (2) Category II and III food establishments (i.e. convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, etc.), would be exempt; and, (3) any restaurant that has an internal food training program on file with the Department of Health as of a certain date would be exempt from the extra training.  IRMA does appreciate the efforts of Rep. Feigenholtz to reach a workable compromise.

Return to Top

REMOTE SELLERS

 

Legislation to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers when it comes to the collection of the Illinois sales tax, advanced to the House floor this week. The idea is to require remote sellers who do not collect the Illinois sales tax to submit notices to online purchasers about their tax liability. Illinois has already passed legislation requiring remote sellers to collect and remit the Illinois sales tax.

HB 3057 (Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Sycamore) provides that retailers that have more than $100,000 in gross sales to Illinois purchasers in the previous year and do not collect the tax under the Illinois Use Tax Act must:

  1. provide a notice to each Illinois purchaser that the tax under the Act is due on purchases that are not tax exempt and that the State requires the Illinois purchaser to file a return under the Act;
  2. provide a notice to each Illinois purchaser who purchases more than $500 worth of goods in a year containing specific information about purchases that may result in Illinois use tax liability; and
  3. file an annual report with the Department of Revenue showing the total amount paid for purchases by those Illinois purchasers during the preceding calendar year.

 

The legislation exempts any retailer that currently collects a sales tax under the Use Tax Act. Therefore, the intent of the legislation is to target companies with online sales only.  The legislation is modeled after a Colorado law that was implemented in 2012. A legal challenge by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) failed. To this point, the Colorado Department of Revenue has struggled to administer and enforce the requirements on a business that has no physical presence in the state.

The legislation passed out of the Revenue & Finance Committee by an 11-0 vote. IRMA supports the legislation as drafted.

Return to Top

SNAP PHOTO ID

 

SB 1709 (Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Champaign) would have required the Department of Human Services to seek a waiver from the federal government so that it could include photos on each LINK card issued under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The bill is modeled after a similar program in Massachusetts where the federal government granted that state to include photos on benefits cards in order to help reduce fraud.  The program has been found to be very costly in the states that have attempted to implement it and the return on fraud has not been worth the effort.  Estimates for Massachusetts just in the upfront costs of adding the photos have been around $2.5 million.  When Pennsylvania did the math, it determined that the cost of their cards would have jumped from $.23 per card to $7.77.  New York dropped the issue due to the rising costs of implementing the program and Missouri overturned its law due to the cost.  Meanwhile the federal government has worked hard to improve the program and tackle fraud head on.  They introduced cards with PIN numbers, states now have the ability to check the Social Security Death file, states can check the prison system as well for disqualified applicants.  While imperfect, the SNAP program is a vital program for needy families and the LINK card is used by everyone in the household.  Therefore a photo ID could limit legitimate use of the card.  Moreover, due to equal treatment provisions enforced by the federal government, coupled with rules developed by VISA, retailers are actually not able to check the photo ID for verification.  So the state would expend resources for photos that are ultimately not used for what they were designed to do.  Both sides presented testimony in the Senate subcommittee on Special Issues and the bill failed to pass.

Return to Top

TOBACCO MERCHANDISING

 

HB 3809 Amendment #1 (Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago) attempted to regulate the sale of tobacco by requiring that it be placed no less than 5 ft. away from candy.  The sponsor had concerns that children might be enticed by brightly colored candy being placed in close proximity to colored packages of tobacco.  While there was no concern that children were buying tobacco products from convenience stores and gas stations, there was concern that the image might entice them to buy when they became legally eligible to do so.  IRMA provided testimony in opposition to the bill reminding the committee that there has been no uptick in the sales of tobacco to minors and that the latest data from the City of Chicago states that tobacco use among teens is the lowest that it has ever been.  Teen smoking in Chicago is actually lower than the national average.  Convinced by the evidence and hesitant to get involved in retail merchandising, the Consumer Protection Committee voted against the bill and it will remain in committee with a vote of 2-3-0.

Return to Top

VAPOR PRODUCTS RETAIL LICENSE

 

Federal regulations and the City of Chicago treat vapor products like tobacco products and therefore regulate them in the same manner. In an attempt to avoid being regulated like a tobacco product, the vapor industry introduced HB 3877 CA#1 (Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Northlake) to create a separate statute that will govern vapor products and vapor product retailers.

The Vapor Products Regulatory Act (“Act”) requires a retailer selling vapor products to pay a fee of $75, requires recordkeeping, provides for training, regulates the display of products, and provides for fines and fees.  In an ironic twist, all of these provisions are identical to the provisions in the Cigarette Tax Act, the Tobacco Products Tax Act of 1995, the Prevention of Tobacco Use By Minors and Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products Act, and the Display of Tobacco Products Act. HB 3877would only apply to a retailer that sells vapor products and exempts any retailer that is subject to the aforementioned tobacco acts. Therefore, if a retailer sells both vapor products and tobacco products, the retailer would be exempt from the vapor product regulations.

The legislation passed out of the Business & Occupational Licenses Committee with an 8-1 vote.  Due to the aforementioned exemptions, IRMA is neutral.

Return to Top

CRIMINAL LIABILITY FOR BUILDING  OWNERS AND MANAGERS

 

Amendment #3 to HB 531 (Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Northlake) is an agreed amendment that was the result of several rounds of negotiations between the sponsor and owners and managers of commercial buildings.  The amendment would create an offense for injury to first responders when they are hurt due to dangers that exist in buildings that the owner or manager knew about and actively concealed.  The resulting injury must have been the primary cause of the injury or death in order to be charged under the Act.  The amendment clarifies that the new cause of action does not result from unknown dangers.  The earnest negotiations produced a bill that is narrowly tailored to address the issue and allowed the opposition, which included IRMA, to change its position to neutral.  The bill passed out of the House Fire & Emergency Services Committee unanimously.

Return to Top

GUN DEALER LICENSING

 

SB 1657 (Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park) would require all sellers of guns and ammunition to apply for a state license to sell.  Gun dealers are already licensed and inspected by the federal government.  This license would allow the state to separately inspect locations and possibly take licenses away for violations of the Act.  IRMA was a part of the negotiations last legislative session to discuss the licensing effort and it was decided at that time that retailers that do less than 20% of their sales in guns and ammunition were not the target of this bill and such retailers would be exempt from licensing requirements.  The exemption would certainly be revisited if it is later found that such retailers have not been acting as good stewards of the privilege of selling firearms in Illinois.  IRMA was assured that an amendment will be added soon containing this exemption.  The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill with a vote of 7-5-0.

Return to Top

BUSINESS DAY APRIL 26th

 

See lots of issues that negatively impact your business? Register now to attend Business Day 2017 on Wednesday, April 26th. Business Day is the largest gathering of employers like you in the state. It is the perfect opportunity to network with your peers and voice your collective concerns directly to policymakers. The day will begin with a luncheon keynoted by Matthew Dowd. Mr. Dowd will share insights on federal developments as well as cultural and economic trends. A renowned political strategist who has served notable candidates on both sides of the political aisle, Mr Dowd lends his expertise and insights as a special correspondent for ABC News. Business Day attendees will visit policymakers at the Capitol and mingle with them in an informal setting at the legendary ‘party under the tent’. Make plans now to attend!

Return to Top

This Week in Springfield – 100-08

 This week in Springfield the House concentrated on committee work.


In This Issue:

GAS TAX
ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
ORDER OF PROTECTION REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION MANDATE
BUSINESS DAY

GAS TAX

HB 3136 Amendment #1 (Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Sycamore) attempted to raise the gas tax from the current 19 cents per gallon to 29 cents per gallon beginning January 1, 2018.  Illinois has not increased the gas tax since 1990, and some have argued that an increase is needed in order to help build and repair roads and bridges.  On the other hand, raising gas taxes has come under fire because it is questionable whether all of the funding actually goes to improving infrastructure.  Additionally, it has a negative impact on gas stations near the borders as well as on consumers.  Considering the significant tax increases that Illinois businesses and consumers are likely to see as a result of the current state of the budget, IRMA was opposed to the measure.  The bill was called for a vote in the Transportation:  Regulation, Roads and Bridges Committee and failed on a vote of 2-9-0.

Return to Top

ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION

HB 494 Amendment #3 (Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake) would allow a person that is at least 18 years old to consume beer and wine at a restaurant if the person is with a parent, step-parent, grandparent or legal guardian.  Alcoholic liquor must not be the principal business carried out on the premises.  Restaurants can still refuse to serve persons under 21 years old.

Return to Top

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

The House Labor and Commerce Committee passed HB 2622 (Rep. Laura Fine, D-Glenview) that would take $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 Illinois’ private insurers.  Illinois changed its workers’ compensation system in 2011, limiting payments for carpal tunnel syndrome and for employees who can still work but whose injuries force them into lower-paying jobs.  There was also a 30 percent cut to payments for doctors, hospitals and pharmacies treating those injured on the job.  As a result, Illinois experienced a 13 percent decline in workers’ compensation medical costs between 2010 and 2014.

Despite these changes, Illinois insurers and self-insured companies paid an estimated $2.75 billion in workers’ comp benefits in 2014, according to the National Academy of Social Insurance. By contrast, employers in Indiana paid an estimated $589.2 million. Additionally, Illinois’ employers pay $2.23 for every $100 in payroll, while those in Indiana pay $1.05—the national median is $1.84. Today, Illinois is tied for having the eighth-most expensive premiums in the nation. The proponents of HB 2622 argue that workers’ compensation costs are still high for companies because insurance companies have not passed on the savings realized from the 2011 changes. They argue that in 2015, 332 insurance companies underwrote workers’ comp policies in Illinois, more than in any other state, collecting $2.83 billion in premiums. In 2010, insurers reported losses of nearly 11 percent; four years later, they reported the same in profits. The insurance companies contend that while the 2011 changes likely decreased the insurers’ losses, insurers in Illinois only averaged 6.1 percent profit annually between 2011 and 2014.

HB 2622 passed the House Labor and Commerce Committee with a partisan vote of 17-10.

Return to Top

ORDER OF PROTECTION REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION MANDATE

HB 647 (Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora) would require a retailer to provide a reasonable accommodation for any employee that has an order of protection against a violent individual. This reasonable accommodation includes changing the employee’s email address, telephone number, screening the telephone calls, restructuring the job functions, changing the work location, installing locks and other security devices, and allowing the employee to work flexible hours.

Retailers do not have locked gates, security checkpoints or any other measure that deters customers from entering their stores.  Retailers want to encourage consumer interaction. Additionally, some retailers are open 24-7 to accommodate the public.  Very few, if any, retail associates have their own work emails or work phone numbers.  Moreover, retailers cannot ask a greeter to become a cashier, or the barista to work in the sports section, or the cosmetic clerk to work in the technology center, or the hostess to become a cook, or the cashier to work in the pharmacy. Even if this were possible, this “restructuring” would move the employee no more than a couple hundred feet from their original job function in a space that is open to the public.

Consequently, a retailer would not be able to provide the reasonable accommodations required under this legislation.

Return to Top

BUSINESS DAY

Mark your calendars!  IRMA’s annual lobby day at the Capitol will take place on April 26, 2017.  We are having the event a week earlier this year to ensure that members are in Springfield when both houses are in session.  Our featured speaker at the luncheon will be Matthew Dowd.  Most people will recognize Mr. Dowd from his work as a Special Correspondent and Analyst for ABC News where he regularly appears on their headlining shows, Good Morning America, Nightline and This Week.  In addition, he contributes material for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the National Journal, among other publications.  Mr. Dowd has had a long, distinguished career as a political strategist, working on over 100 political campaigns, and is the co-author of the New York Times Bestselling BookApplebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community.

We hope that you will make plans to join us for what we know will be an engaging conversation not only on politics from a national perspective, but also emerging economic, spiritual and social trends that are influencing today’s political discourse.  After we break for a day of lobbying at the Capitol, be sure to come back and join us as we get Thunderstruck at our annual Party Under the Tent.  This year we will rock out to the tunes of an AC/DC tribute band.  Don’t let Business Day happen without you.  Reserve your space now.

Return to Top

This Week in Springfield – 100-07

IN THIS ISSUE:

RETAIL THEFT
$15 MINIMUM WAGE
DATA PRIVACY
MEDICAID
TELECOMMUNICATIONS MODERNIZATION
BUSINESS DAY

This Week in Springfield retail theft and minimum wage were among the issues debated.

RETAIL THEFT

 
IRMA, the Illinois Sheriffs Association, and the Illinois Municipal League joined together to oppose legislation that would increase the retail felony theft threshold from $300 to $2,000 (HB 3337 Rep. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago) and $2,500 (HB 3856 Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago) respectively. This means a person may steal $1,999/$2,499 from local businesses repeatedly while only being charged with a misdemeanor while Illinois’ retailers lose at least $2 billion a year, the State of Illinois loses at least $125 million a year in lost sales taxes, and police and local municipalities lose at least $25 million a year in lost sales taxes.

Proponents of this legislation lean on a Pew Charitable Trust study that purports to show that while states have increased the retail threshold, overall theft rates have declined. This is misleading as the report compares apples and oranges. The statistics the report cites are for larceny which is a catch all of a variety of property crimes. When you dig deeper, the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics prove that retail theft has increased as states increased their threshold. Specifically, the very same FBI UCR numbers that show that retail theft has increased nearly 20% in the last five years show the value of the items stolen have increased 30%–a direct response to raising the retail felony threshold.

Proponents also claim that retail theft is a matter of need. Again, the facts are not on their side. First, over 80% of retail thieves have the money in their pocket to pay for the item(s) they were caught stealing. Additionally, the most commonly stolen items include cigarettes, alcohol, energy drinks, GPS devices, laptops, cell phones, and designer clothing to name a few. While infant formula is on the list, law enforcement will tell you that it is stolen to ‘cut’ drugs, primarily heroin and cocaine, or to be sold in Asia.

Additionally, people are not sitting in jail ‘simply’ for retail theft. According to the Illinois Sentencing and Policy Advisory Council (SPAC). The average retail thief has 7 previous felony convictions, including drug and gun felonies, and 13 previous misdemeanors. This is a far stretch from your first time offender.

None of the opponents of the current proposals are against providing relief to first time offenders. In fact, IRMA teamed up with Cook County Sherriff Tom Dart’s office to pass the Accelerated Resolution Court Act that requires an immediate hearing and electronic bail for retail theft offenders. That means that as of January 1st, no one arrested for misdemeanor retail theft is sitting in jail because they do not have bond money. IRMA has also been one of the very few business groups to support expungement and sealing of non-violent offenses including retail theft and job training diversionary programs for non-violent offenders including retail theft. IRMA negotiated with advocates to pass ‘ban the box’ legislation that prohibited employers from asking about prior criminal history on employment applications. The retail industry hires more ex-offenders than any other industry. It is safe to say that IRMA is one of the few business groups that is consistently willing to work with advocate on the behalf of individuals who have made a mistake and who work towards correcting and moving beyond that mistake. However, IRMA will not cheapen these efforts by ignoring the damage that repeat and habitual offenders cause retailers, employees, consumers, tax payers, local communities and law enforcement.

 

IRMA looks forward to engaging on this topic by providing accurate and honest representation of the current retail theft environment in Illinois. IRMA also looks forward to continuing to lead the business community by working towards viable solutions for first time offenders and ex-offenders.

Article2

Return to Top

$15 MINIMUM WAGE

 

Wednesday afternoon, the House Labor and Commerce Committee held a subject matter hearing on proposals to increase Illinois’ minimum wage to $15 per hour. There are currently three different proposals in the committee all seeking to impose a $15 minimum wage. IRMA President and CEO Rob Karr testified against the proposal.

 

If spread over five years, such a proposal would mean an 81.8% increase in the starting wage or an average increase of 16.36% per year added onto the bottom line of every employer. This is just labor costs and doesn’t include the other costs of doing business (e.g. commodities, utilities, benefits, rent/lease, etc.). The current experiences of the City of Chicago and Seattle should be giving great pause.

 

The City of Chicago, and Cook County, have embarked upon a path of reaching into the pockets of employers with both hands. They have imposed billions in new taxes as well as imposing significant additional costs in labor mandates such as their own $13 minimum wage and paid leave. The result, at least in the City of Chicago, has been historic unemployment among workers with few or no skills, historic unemployment in minority communities, and expansion of food deserts and medically underserved areas. The combined costs have further destabilized neighborhoods across Chicago. Only the Loop and wealthier pockets in the City are surviving driven almost exclusively by a spike in tourism. If that bubble bursts, the retailers in the Loop, including restaurants and hotels, will be struggling as well. Municipalities across Illinois can duplicate the tourism experience of the City. The question then becomes why would anyone want to impose on the communities outside of Chicago the same negative outcomes? Seattle provides even more proof.

 

The Seattle City Council, the same body that adopted a $15 minimum wage, also commissioned a study to measure impact. The study found that despite a growing economy fueled by technology and aerospace manufacturing, there were fewer jobs available for no-skilled or lower-skilled workers, their total weekly earnings had dropped as Seattle employers reduced hours to try and control costs, and these employees were working more outside Seattle in order to work more hours. It is important to note that these impacts are already being realized and Seattle has not yet imposed the $15 minimum wage on employers with fewer than 500 employees. Seattle’s experience begs the question of why Illinois wants to further extinguish opportunity?

 

Given all the costs being imposed in the City of Chicago and Cook County, retailers are reporting bottom line expense increases of 20% – 30% compared to last year. The problem is they have no ability to grow sales. Illinois lost at least 78,000 people the last three years. Those people represent lost sales. Those are people spending their money in other states. The financial impact is substantial. These lost sales represent $144 million in lost sales on apparel, $548 million in lost sales on food, $222 million in lost sales on entertainment, and $741 million in lost sales in transportation. Just in these four categories, that represents over $1.6 billion in lost sales and over $103 million in lost state sales tax not to mention the lost sales tax for local governments and the lost income tax. Finally, we shouldn’t overlook the impact on not-for-profits, universities, community colleges, park districts, YMCA’s, youth activity associations, etc. in terms of the increased costs they will have to pay at $15 and lost contributions from the people leaving Illinois.

 

The problem is that at some point, the state will be forced to address the fiscal situation. It will require massive tax increases that will pale in comparison to the billions imposed by the City of Chicago and Cook County. Many policy makers talk about returning stability. Stability isn’t achieved without restraint – restraint in Springfield and restraint of local governments. Otherwise, the vicious cycle that has plagued Illinois will continue to do so.

 

A vote on a proposed $15 minimum wage is expected in the House Labor and Commerce Committee sometime within the next two weeks.

Return to Top

DATA PRIVACY

 

A subject matter hearing was held two weeks ago to discuss several bills to regulate companies that collect, share and/or sell data on customers or users of websites and apps. The House Committee on Cybersecurity, Data Analytics and Information Technology heard testimony from experts on how data is collected, shared and used in the marketplace. It also took testimony from representatives of companies that buy, sell and collect such data to provide innovative services, create unique customer experiences and develop social media platforms. Lastly, the committee heard from Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office on whether Illinois residents have a right to know what data is being shared and who the data is being shared with.

 

The Sheriff’s bill, SB 1502 Amendment #2 (Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort) was debated this week in the Judiciary Committee. The bill allows companies to collect, share and/or sell data with 3rd parties but would require those companies to also provide a way for Illinois residents to inquire about whatpersonal information collected on them has been shared or sold. Personal information is defined broadly. It includes very basic information such as a person’s name, address or telephone number that can be easily found through a simple Google search. It also includes information that would widely be considered to be private, like a person’s social security number, account number and personal text messages. While the bill has been amended to address general concerns that the business community had with private rights of action, it continues to have an expansive definition of what information should be considered “personal.” For purposes of consistency and to avoid confusion, this proposal should utilize the same definition of personal information in the Illinois Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). IRMA has been in contact with the sponsor and Sheriff Dart’s office and they are willing to continue to discuss further changes that would narrowly tailor the bill to address information that truly should be considered personal. The bill passed with a vote of 7-4-1.

Return to Top

MEDICAID

 

 
The House Appropriations – Human Services Committee held a subject matter hearing Thursday morning on the potential impact on the state’s Medicaid program if the changes being discussed in Washington, D.C. are enacted. Felicia Norwood, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, provided a detailed overview of the anticipated impacts.

 

As described at the hearing, if federal Medicaid converts to a block-grant system, each state will be given a per capita target cap in Fiscal Year 2019. If a state spends above the cap, that state will have to repay their federal Medicaid matching dollars. Presently, Illinois receives 51.3% match or $0.513 cents on every dollar. That match declines on October 18th to 50.74%. Federal matches range from 50% – 75% depending upon the formula used by the federal government to determine the relative wealth of a state. Mississippi is at 75% while, historically, Illinois is near the bottom very near 50%.

 

Under the Affordable Care Act, an enhanced match was provided to states that chose to expand their Medicaid program to cover additional individuals. That match is presently at 90% but it ends December 31, 2020. States will have the option to continue to cover the expanded population after 2020 but that coverage will be matched at the traditional rate. Currently, 650,000 Illinoisans are covered under the expanded Medicaid program.

 

Clearly, under the current federal proposal, Illinois will fare poorly.

Return to Top

TELECOMMUNICATIONS MODERNIZATION

 

IRMA joined an array of business and labor groups in support of SB 1381 (Sen. Bill Cunningham, D- Chicago) that seeks to modernize Illinois’ telecommunications laws. Historically, retail is the most dynamic of the business sectors as we are in a constant state of change adjusting to changes in products, technologies, and consumer tastes and desires. As technology has evolved, the pace of change has accelerated and created tremendous opportunities and challenges. Illinois retailers need a modern and flexible telecommunications system in order to compete and meet the customized experiences consumers now expect. SB 1381 passed out of the Senate Telecommunications and Information Technology Committee by a unanimous vote of 15-0-0 and now goes before the full Senate.

Return to Top

BUSINESS DAY 2017

IRMA is proud to announce that our annual lobby day at the Capitol will take place on April 26, 2017. Our featured speaker at the luncheon will be Matthew Dowd. You may recognize Mr. Dowd from his work as a Special Correspondent and Analyst for ABC News where he regularly appears on their headlining shows,Good Morning America, Nightline and This Week. In addition, he contributes material for theNew York Times, the Washington Post and the National Journal, among other publications. Mr. Dowd has had a long, distinguished career as a political strategist, working on over 100 political campaigns, and is the co-author of the New York Times Bestselling Book:Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community. He has advised former President’s George W. Bush and Barak Obama as well as foundations include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

We hope that you will make plans to join us for what we know will be an engaging conversation not only on politics from a national perspective, but also emerging economic, spiritual and social trends that are influencing today’s political discourse. The luncheon will be followed by visits to the Capitol to interact with policymakers. Register today!

 

 

This Week in Springfield – 100-06


IN THIS ISSUE:

FOOD HANDLER FEE REDUCTION
OVERTIME THRESHOLD
GENDER PAY HISTORY
ENERGY DRINKS
LIQUOR ACT VIOLATIONS
TELECOMMUNICATIONS MODERNIZATION
MATTHEW DOWD KEYNOTES BUSINESS DAY

This Week in Springfield committees began hearing bills in earnest.

FOOD HANDLER FEE REDUCTION

An initiative, to remove an obsolete fee paid by retail workers passed the House Consumer Protection committee unanimously.  Illinois is one of only a few states that require a separate food handling certificate and fee in addition to the national food handling certificate. Currently, under Illinois law, an individual must complete an Illinois Department of Public Health (IPDH) approved training program and then pass an exam provided by an accredited exam provider. Once the individual pays for and passes the exam and receives the national certificate, he/she is required to electronically send the national certificate to the state and pay an additional $35 for a redundant Illinois specific certificate. HB 3684 (Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Oak Lawn) eliminates an obsolete and outdated fee on grocery, restaurant and retail workers. When the Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act was initially implemented, Illinois drafted, maintained, amended, mailed and graded their own examination. As such, an administrative justification existed for an additional fee. This Illinois specific exam no longer exists, therefore the administrative expenses no longer exist.  Despite no justification for the fee, IDPH uses the fee to subsidize operation expenses that include but are not limited to state employee salaries, state employee retirement, group insurance, office equipment, state garage payments, library supplies, employee conference expenses, etc.

IRMA would like to thank Rep. Kelly Burke for sponsoring the initiative along with Rep. Lisa Hernandez, Rep. Randy Frese, and Rep. Norine Hammond and the support from Rep. Bob Rita and Rep. Theresa Mah.

Return to Top

OVERTIME THRESHOLD

Legislation that would require Illinois’ employers to pay any employee making less than $47,476 overtime pay passed the House Economic Opportunity Committee on a partisan vote. HB 2749 (Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago) will more than double the minimum salary level for exempt employees from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $913 per week ($47,476 annually).

This legislation is identical to former President Obama’s regulation on which a federal court ordered a nationwide injunction. States and business associations argued that the new rule’s extreme deviation from Congress’s unambiguous intent to exempt executive, administrative and professional (EAP) employees from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by adopting a minimum salary level that would exclude millions of employees performing exempt EAP job duties based solely on their salary level. The court agreed, noting that although there is no mention of a salary threshold in the statute, the new rule made the salary threshold a center-point.  Although there has been a salary requirement by regulation since 1940, since that time, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) has also set a low minimum salary level so that only “obviously” non-exempt employees are excluded from the exemption.  The court characterized the salary level increase as a “drastic” change that would exclude millions of employees from the exemption even though they perform exempt job duties.

The court’s concerns are well founded and should be a clear policy if not legal cautionary tale. Despite these precursors, HB 2749 passed out of committee on a partisan vote.

Return to Top

GENDER PAY HISTORY

The Senate Labor Committee and House Economic Opportunity Committee passed identical bills (SB 981 (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie/HB 2462 (Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin) that would prohibit a business from viewing, asking about or requesting the previous salary, wage, benefits or other compensation of any applicant for employment.  This is intended to address the concern that gender discrimination is continuously perpetuated by businesses based on salary history. The initiative was drafted and introduced by Women Employed and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.  The Illinois Department of Labor demonstrated that while unequal pay claims do occur they are not as prevalent as the proponents claim.  The proponents blame the lack of claims on current business “loopholes” in the current unequal pay statute. These “loopholes” are completely non-discriminatory factors in determining possible reasonable differences in wages such as merit or seniority that are used and shared in every other state.  In order to address these alleged loopholes the legislation includes a vague two prong ‘differential’ test and alternative employment practice standard—meaning if an employee can show an alternative practice exits anywhere in the United States for a similar job an employer may not use factors such as seniority or merit system to apply a wage offer defense. These are only a few of the many issues presented in the legislation.

The proponents highlight Massachusetts as the only state to have enacted a similar law. The differences between the law enacted in Massachusetts and the one proposed here are too great to list here. Suffice to say that while Massachusetts offers a reasonable and balanced approach to a perceived issue, the current Illinois’ proposal takes the opposite approach.

Return to Top

ENERGY DRINKS

The Executive Committee took brief testimony on a bill to ban the sale of energy drinks to persons under 18 years old.  HB 2861 (Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago) defines energy drinks as non-alcoholic beverages that contain at least one of the following ingredients:  taurine, guarana, glucuronolactone and ginseng.  IRMA, and others including manufacturers and employee groups, is opposed to the ban which would require cashiers to check the ingredient list of every non-alcoholic drink sold at checkout in order to ensure compliance.  The sponsor has continued to engage in conversations with the industry regarding the legitimate concerns of passing such a law.  The sponsor asked for a vote although he has agreed to hold the matter while we continue to talk.  The bill passed along party lines with a vote of 6-4-0.

Return to Top

LIQUOR ACT VIOLATIONS

Working with partners in the distributor community, IRMA supported an initiative to require the Illinois Liquor Control Commission to produce supporting documentation when citations are issued are when there is a proposal for a settlement negotiation.  HB 2878 (Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville) would require the ILCC to produce such things as photographs, reports and any other information that has been collected pursuant to an alleged violation of the Act.  In addition, it mandates that action be taken within 2 years of the alleged violation.  The bill passed unanimously out of the Executive Committee and will be sent for consideration by the full House.

Return to Top

TELECOMMUNICATIONS MODERNIZATION

IRMA joined an array of business and labor groups at a subject matter hearing in support of SB 1381 (Sen. Bill Cunningham, D- Chicago)/ HB 2691 (Rep. Brandon Phelps, Harrisburg) seeking to modernize Illinois’ telecommunications laws. IRMA President & CEO Rob Karr testified as to the importance to the retail industry. Historically, there retail is the most dynamic of the business sectors as we are in a constant state of change adjusting to changes in products, technologies, and consumer tastes and desires. As technology has evolved, the pace of change has accelerated and created tremendous opportunities. Illinois retailers need a modern and flexible telecommunications system in order to compete and meet the customized experiences consumers now expect. IRMA will continue to work with all parties to ensure enactment.

Return to Top

MATTHEW DOWD KEYNOTES BUSINESS DAY

IRMA is proud to announce that our annual lobby day at the Capitol will take place on April 26, 2017.  Our featured speaker at the luncheon will be Matthew Dowd.  You may recognize Mr. Dowd from his work as a Special Correspondent and Analyst for ABC News where he regularly appears on their headlining shows, Good Morning America, Nightline and This Week.  In addition, he contributes material for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the National Journal, among other publications.  Mr. Dowd has had a long, distinguished career as a political strategist, working on over 100 political campaigns, and is the co-author of the New York Times Bestselling BookApplebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community. He has advised former President’s George W. Bush and Barak Obama as well as foundations include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

We hope that you will make plans to join us for what we know will be an engaging conversation not only on politics from a national perspective, but also emerging economic, spiritual and social trends that are influencing today’s political discourse. The luncheon will be followed by visits to the Capitol to interact with policymakers. Register today!

Return to Top