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Under the dome

The political machine in Washington DC and your own state capitol may seem too far away, too big, or just too complicated. Legal jargon, hard-to-reach legislators and an unending stream of issues, bills, and regulations make keeping up with the political process daunting. Yet what goes under the domes and beams of the capitol building affects you, your restaurant, and your livelihood.

According to the National Restaurant Association, "Restaurants need a powerful voice before Congress and federal regulatory agencies because Uncle Sam's long arm reaches into every facet of the $376 billion restaurant business." To help maintain an advantageous and beneficial political presence in the capitols and on the ballots, our national and state restaurant associations have created a phenomenal network of lobbyists, activists, educators, and information sources. Now it's your turn to get involved.

Minimum wage & scheduling laws
Mandated wage increases fall heavily on restaurants. It slows job creation and reduces entry-level job opportunities. Therefore mandated increases should be coupled with targeted tax relief that would mitigate the negative effects. In addition, the restaurant industry's unique scheduling needs demand an expanded definition of "managerial duties," expanded scheduling flexibility, and relief for the inequities in the treatment of tips under state and federal law.

Alcoholic beverage control
Many regulations covering the production and sale of alcoholic beverages are antiquated and confusing to many restaurant operators, these regulations should be reviewed and reformed. In addition, license fees for each class of licensee should bear reasonable relations to the regulatory burden created by the license class.

Economic regulation and taxation
Restaurants should not be singled out for tax audits merely because they serve alcohol. Audit procedures must be updated to reflect realistic restaurant practices which include acknowledging appropriate shrinkage and breakage percentages. Also, targeted tax credits are appropriate to offset the economic inequities of current minimum wage requirements.

Food safety
Public confidence in the safety and quality of food served in restaurants is crucial in this day of outbreaks and foodborne illness. Regulations should be based on objective evaluations that reflect the compliance and food safety track record of a restaurant over time.

Workers' compensation
Workers' compensation reforms in 1993 succeeded in lowering employer costs and increasing employee benefits. Ongoing support of workplace safety laws that stress a cooperative, not adversarial, relationship between our industry and the regulatory community is a priority.

There are many more issues that are important to the welfare of the foodservice and hospitality industry. Check out the NRA's Government Issues Page to get the background, then find out how you can get involved.

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