As the saying goes, all politics is local. That couldn’t be truer than in the present time, when environmental activists often have the loudest voices in persuading legislators to consider new laws that impact both cities and states.
Luckily for grocers, state trade associations are serving a powerful purpose by weeding through new legislation to find the measures that will hit retailers most significantly, and ensuring that their members’ voices are heard in political discussions.
- State trade associations weed through new legislation to find the measures that will affect retailers the most, and ensure that their members’ voices are heard in political discussions.
- Pertinent issues affecting retailers in several states include recycling, plastic bag bans, cap-and-trade programs on petroleum, and other environmental issues, as well as sweetened beverage taxes.
- Since grocery stores are critical to neighborhoods, there needs to be some consideration about the effect of a proposed mandate on a food retailer’s ability to open or remain in a particular area.
Progressive Grocer recently caught up with leaders from three state trade associations – California Grocers Association, Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, and Illinois Retail Merchants Association – to hear about some of the latest regulatory issues coming down the pipeline and how their groups have made a difference for their retail members. Not surprisingly, multiple states are often facing the same kinds of challenges – many of which directly affect the retail supply chain.
California: Big State, Big Issues
Ron Fong, president of the California Grocers Association (CGA), based in Sacramento, jokes that many of his colleagues around the country see him as the “man with the crystal ball,” because so much legislation starts in California before it eventually makes its way to other states. In fact, in California’s latest legislative session, which ran Jan. 2-Sept. 13, 2019, there were a jaw-dropping 2,500 bills introduced.
New rules related to improving California’s environment continue to lead the trend in the state, and Fong counts newly passed legislation, Assembly Bill 54, as a recent success story for CGA. The bill was designed to deal with an old law originally passed in the 1980s that requires grocery stores to accept consumers’ recycling in their stores when they no longer have recycling centers available in their parking lots.
Due to a major change in how plastic bottles have been received in recent years (there’s essentially no more money in plastic bottles anymore, especially since China has stopped buying them from the United States, explains Fong), California’s largest recycling company recently shut down all of its centers in the state. So that meant that by default, California grocers were required to accept consumers’ recycling in their stores.
Every year, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) brings together retail trade associations and grocery professionals from each state to discuss legislative issues at its State Issues Retreat.
“With gridlock at the federal level in Congress, state and local issues continue to grow in importance in the public policy arena – including local ordinances, state legislation and ballot initiatives,” notes Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer at Arlington, Va.-based FMI.
At the annual retreat, Hatcher says, attendees explore critical industry issues in depth and share ideas to prepare for the upcoming legislative sessions. “Providing our members with a forum to deep dive into emerging issues with industry experts has allowed us all to be more effective at the state and local level," she says. "As food retailers, many aspects of the business are regulated at the state or local level, and many of those same public policy issues also have the potential to transition to the federal level.”
At this year’s retreat, Tanya Triche Dawood, VP and general counsel of the Springfield-based Illinois Retail Merchants Association, received the Donald H. MacManus Award in recognition of her achievement in public and regulatory affairs. One of Dawood’s most impressive accomplishments was working to help repeal the Cook County sweetened-beverage tax.