Policy action shifts to states and localities

From overtime laws to alcohol delivery, here are some of the latests issues state restaurant associations are focused on.
Photograph: Shutterstock

State restaurant associations advocating for restaurants at the state and local levels are engaged in a range of issues that have the potential to reshape how restaurants do business.

Most state legislatures will wrap up their sessions by June, but the debates won’t stop there. “These are new conversations,” says Mike Whatley, vice president, state and local policy, National Restaurant Association. “These issues will be on the horizon for the foreseeable future.”

Some of the issues Whatley and his team are working on include:

Consumer privacy: Many states are looking at measures similar to the sweeping California Consumer Privacy Act that took effect Jan. 1. As states look to protect the data that businesses collect on customers, one huge concern is the impact on restaurant loyalty programs.

Scheduling: Proposals to govern how employers schedule employees remain a front-burner issue. Last year, bills were passed in Chicago and Philadelphia, but New York State had to withdraw its proposed changes.

Tipped wages: Virginia has become the latest state to reject an effort to eliminate or scale back the “tip credit,” which allows employers to credit a portion of tips toward servers’ wages. Servers and bartenders have often joined the fight, proving to be an effective voice across red and blue states alike.

Overtime: More states are updating their overtime rules after a new federal overtime standard took effect Jan. 1. Colorado this year joined Washington and Maine in making more employees eligible for overtime pay.

Plastics and waste: More cities are taking an aggressive position to try to eliminate any single-use foodservice plastics that can’t be washed and reused.

Third-party delivery: State restaurant associations are pushing for clarity on the rules for app-driven food-delivery services, including food safety liability.

Alcohol delivery: Texas and Louisiana have passed laws allowing alcohol delivery for restaurants. Others are likely to follow.

Cashless transactions: New York City recently joined Philadelphia, San Francisco, Massachusetts and New Jersey in banning businesses from going cash-free. Policymakers point to the 15 million people that are “unbanked” or “underbanked” and don’t have access to credit or debit cards.

Real-time tax collection: Proposals have been seen in Massachusetts and Arizona to require businesses to remit employment and sales taxes in real time, rather than monthly.

Natural gas: The California Restaurant Association has sued Berkeley, Calif., to block the city’s ban on natural-gas hookups in new commercial facilities. More than 60 municipalities across the nation have discussed similar environmental rules.

Expanded menu labeling: Philadelphia and New York require sodium-warning labels for some restaurant foods. Added-sugars warning labels could be next.

Portable benefits: Some legislators are promoting “portable benefits” as an option for employees looking to collect partial benefits proportional to the hours they work in any part-time job.

Get involved! The National Restaurant Association and state restaurant associations offer members extensive resources to stay updated and engage on these emerging issues. For information, contact Michael Ambrose at mambrose@restaurant.org.

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