January 6 brings the start of a new Congress and a new team in charge of the United States Senate and the largest Republican majority that has existed in the House of Representatives since 1928.
What should we expect?
The goal of this group is to repeal the label of their predecessors as the "Do Nothing Congress" and methodically move through legislation that the President will sign or if he does not sign, the American public will remember in 2016.
Look for the House to send bills to the Senate that can be scheduled for hearings and markups with chances for Senators to add amendments and legislate through regular order. Although 51 Senators equals control of the agenda and control of the body, in order to stop debate and move to final passage of a bill, 60 votes are needed. With only 54 Republican Senators, there will still need to be a lot of reaching across the aisle to pass legislation.
We survey our members to determine those priorities on which they want FMI to focus in 2015. Among those priorities, we will be focusing on:
Common Sense Nutrition Labeling: Supermarkets are not restaurants, and no one needs to go to jail over mislabeling how many calories are in shredded carrots or garbanzo beans or a slice of Boston cream pie. That wasn't the intent of the law, and it needs to be changed.
Health Care: There are problems with the Affordable Care Act that need to be addressed in 2014, such as the definition of a full-time associate and auto enrollment, in addition to other employer provisions on the horizon that will have an impact on a large percentage of companies as costs rise like the Cadillac tax. These concerns need to be addressed quickly.
Tax Reform: Tax reform should include both rates for corporations and pass-throughs. We need to stop the year-after-year dance to pass tax extenders and to address the penalty that brick-and-mortar businesses like supermarkets face when compared to their online competition.
Food Safety Modernization Act: FMI policy experts have read, analyzed, discussed and filed comments on more than 6,000 pages of Food Safety Modernization Act proposals in 2014 with even more regulatory actions expected in 2015 in their final form. Nothing is more important to our members than food safety, and we want to make sure the rules reflect the input from our members.
WIC Reauthorization: There is perhaps no program more important and more excruciating to work through the operational complexities than the WIC program. The good news is that small efficiencies can make a big difference, and we have an opportunity to achieve these improvements.
Labor Issues: In the last few days of 2014, the NLRB went into overdrive to issue decisions that will significantly change the amount of time employers and employees are allowed before a union election vote from the current average of 38 days down to as little as 10 days. A second final case will also allow employees to use the employer e-mail system for union organizing activities in many instances. Early in 2015, the Department of Labor is expected to issue a rule that would significantly change the overtime rules, both in salary required for a manager and the duties required to be performed to designate someone as a manager. We have met with the Secretary of Labor and will continue to outline our concerns.
There are clearly lots of other industry priorities that we work on that need to be addressed, and this list is not complete without mentioning others like data security, patent trolls and infrastructure needs, and extending the current omnibus-granted hours of service reprieve past 2015, in addition to the many other issues that emerge on a regular basis. We look forward to a productive 2015.