FMI State Affairs Updates

  • Vermont "Bans the Box" for Private Employers

    May 23, 2016
    Earlier this month, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D) signed H. 261, a bill that prevents employers in the state from requesting any information regarding criminal history on an initial employee application form. Vermont had previously removed such questions on applications for state employment in an Executive Order last year.  Inquiries into criminal history are allowed during an interview or once the prospective employee has been “deemed otherwise qualified for the position.”
    The law creates exceptions to this blanket prohibition in instances where federal or state law requires disqualification based on certain criminal offenses, or otherwise prohibits employing an individual who has been convicted of certain criminal offenses. However, in such cases the questions on the application must be limited to the types of criminal offenses that create the disqualification.  Furthermore, after such an inquiry, the applicant – if still eligible for the position – must be given the opportunity to explain the information and circumstances regarding any convictions.
    The law takes effect on July 1, 2017 and employers will be assessed civil penalties of up to $100 for each violation.

    Vermont becomes the eighth state to “ban the box” for both public and private employers (HI, IL, MA, MN, NJ, OR, RI), along with 13 cities. An additional 16 states and over 100 cities and counties have laws that cover only public employers. 
    We’ve previously discussed the challenges “ban the box” laws can create for employers on FMI’s Voice of Food Retail Blog.
  • Maine GMO Bill Amendment Seeking Public Referendum Fails

    Apr 28, 2016
    In Maine, an Amendment to a pending bill, L.D.  991 , has failed. Maine's genetically modified food products labeling law includes a delay of the effective date until mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food is adopted by at least 5 contiguous states, including Maine, by January 1, 2018 (this is known as a “trigger”). The failed Amendment would have asked the Maine voters to repeal the GMO labeling law trigger in favor of immediate mandatory labeling similar to Vermont. While that Amendment failed, a second amendment proposes to simply push out the repeal date from 2018 to 2022.

    The Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association reports that while the Legislature recessed on Saturday, April 16, the Legislature will return to Augusta on Friday, April 29 to work through a number of vetoes as well as a handful of unfinished bills, including LD 991. The bill has a fiscal note attached to it but if removed, it would be taken up by the Senate for final enactment if it received enough votes. If it were enacted, the bill would be sent to the Governor who has maintained his support for leaving Maine's GMO laws intact.   The Governor would have ten days to sign or veto the bill.

    With legislation failing to pass the House earlier this year in New Hampshire, and with bills in other Northeast states failing to gain traction, Connecticut and Maine's labeling laws will not go into effect any time soon. Click here to see a comparison chart of all the GMO labeling bills/laws in the Northeast. 
  • Predictive Scheduling Legislation Across the States

    Feb 19, 2016
    Following a slew of “predictive scheduling” legislation in 2015, and the enactment in San Francisco of a “Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights” that addresses the issue, bills are again under consideration in 2016. FMI has created a chart that shows pending state legislation. View it here. In Massachusetts, a ballot initiative petition regarding predictive scheduling failed to garner enough signatures by the December 2015 deadline.
    A Washington State bill, S.B. 6578, introduced by Senator Michael Baumgartner (R), relates to local authority. Specifically, it establishes that no locality may require, enforce, or otherwise regulate by means of charter, ordinance, regulation, rule, resolution, contract, or purchasing agreement any of the following for private employers: payment of wages, hours of work, employee retention, or leave from employment. The bill was heard in the Commerce and Labor committee on February 1; substituted; passed committee (4-3); and referred to Senate Rules Committee 2/4/2016. This measure next awaits consideration by the Senate Rules Committee before next being considered on the Senate floor. The Democratic Party controls the House and Governor's Office, but the Republican Party holds the Senate.
  • States Opt Out of Lifetime Ban from SNAP for Felony Drug Convictions

    Feb 08, 2016
    In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. In part, the Act created the TANF program and the requirement of paid work associated with the receipt of TANF benefits. Among other reforms in the Act was a little-discussed change that prevented those convicted in state or federal courts of felony drug offenses from receiving SNAP and TANF for a lifetime, unless states opted out of the ban.
    The Marshall Project has just released a report on states that are opting out of penalizing felony offenders from receiving SNAP and TANF. In fact, starting this month, the Marshall Project reports that the SNAP ban will officially be lifted in Alabama. Last September, Texas opted out of the SNAP ban. In their paper, they also report that eighteen states have completely abandoned the prohibition and twenty-six others have partly eased restrictions on SNAP, often by providing the benefits only if the recipient complies with parole, for example; or does not commit a second offense, or enrolls in treatment. At least three more states — Georgia, Nebraska, and Indiana — are now considering similar reforms. Thirteen states continue to fully prohibit anyone with a drug-related conviction from receiving TANF, and 23 others maintain a partial ban.
  • 2016 50-State Legislative Outlook Released

    Jan 19, 2016
    U.S. Map The 2016 50-State Legislative Outlook is now available. FMI collaborates with its members and the state grocery and retail associations to annually compile this comprehensive document. This state-by-state report provides information on priority state issues for the current legislative session to provide members with insights on the issues they are likely to face. It also includes 2016 election information. 
  • Minimum Wage Rising in 12 States this January

    Jan 11, 2016
    Come January 1, 2016, the minimum wage will go up in 12 states:  AK, AR, CA, CT, HI, MA, MI, NE, NY (12/31), RI, VT and WV (12/31). The District of Columbia and Maryland, meanwhile, will see a rate hike on July 1, 2016, with Minnesota following suite on August 1. Since January 2014, 16 states have raised their minimum wage either through legislation or ballot measure. Currently, only five states (AL, LA, MS, SC and TN) have not adopted a state minimum wage. A full list of state minimum wages and increase effective dates may be found via NCSL.  
  • Increasing the Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

    Jan 11, 2016
    An emerging issue with respect to tobacco enforcement is raising the legal purchase age to 21. In November 2015, both the Kansas City, Missouri, City Council and the Kansas City, Kansas, City Council, voted to raise the legal purchase age of tobacco and vapors from 18 to 21. The ordinances are directed toward retail sales only; underage purchasers will not be penalized. It went into effect within ten days of passage.

    In early December, the Cleveland, Ohio City Council passed legislation banning the sale or distribution of tobacco to anyone under the age of 21. These three recent local ordinances are following in the steps of more than 100 local cities, including New York. In fact, the state of Massachusetts has more than 80 communities that have passed local ordinances raising the tobacco purchase age to 21.  Needham, Massachusetts is credited with starting the local trend – in 2005, it became the first city in the U.S. to do so. In Boston, the Public Health Commission is scheduled to vote December 17 whether to follow suit. A strong proponent of this change is Tobacco Twenty-one.

    In the states, Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah require tobacco users to be at least 19. Hawaii will become the first state to increase the smoking age to 21 on January 1, 2016. We expect to see more efforts to increase the tobacco purchase age in 2016. 
  • Maine Looks to Apply Asset Test to SNAP Recipients, Despite High Food Insecurity Rate

    Nov 03, 2015
    Produce PhotoThe Maine Department of Health and Human Services, in a proposed rule expected to be implemented November 1, 2015, addresses an “asset test” for SNAP recipients. Applying only to those without children, the proposed rule requires SNAP recipients and applicants to disclose all assets, including bank accounts, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, RVs, boats, jet skis, campers, motorcycles, second homes or properties, and second passenger vehicles. Anyone with assets over $5,000 in value will be ineligible for SNAP. Maine estimates that 8,600 SNAP recipients could be impacted.
    Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) President Jim Weill told FMI, “Well over two-thirds of the states have rejected asset tests in SNAP – and for really good reasons. Making seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and others use up meager assets that they need for crucial big bills and unexpected emergencies – medical bills, tuition bills, car repairs, rent deposits – just pushes people into deeper hunger and poverty, with all the costs to them and public systems that such hunger and poverty bring. And it burdens overwhelmed caseworkers with a whole new set of unnecessary paper-pushing jobs – all in all it manages to hurt both struggling people and the state government without helping anyone at all."
    Maine has the fourth highest percentage of food insecurity in the United States, according to a just-released USDA report: Household Food Security in the United States in 2014.
  • Pending MA Bill Requires Banks to Disclose Contract Changes to Merchants

    Nov 03, 2015
    A measure pending in Massachusetts, S.B. 182 requires financial institutions to notify merchants with whom they are engaged in a contract, when a rule is modified and or added. The bill requires that any changes need to be explained to merchants and that the merchant must be given access to the rules in the contract.  Among other requirements, the bill provides that a contract between a financial institution and a merchant must contain a complete schedule of interchange fees, credit and debit card transaction rates and any other fees it may charge merchants and an explanation of which rates apply to the merchant and when. The bill was introduced by Senator Michael Rodrigues (D) and has been referred to Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.  Brian Houghton, Vice President of the Massachusetts Food Association, told FMI, “In the name of common sense and common courtesy, this should be the practice already.  Imagine if food stores changed the rules for their retail customers without informing them prior to any transaction?”
  • Alabama Data Breach Notification Bill

    May 29, 2015
    Alabama’s S.B. 106, introduced by Sen. Arthur Orr (R), creates the “Alabama Information Protection Act of 2015.” It calls for the protection of personal information and notice to individuals when a breach has occurred. Ellie Taylor, president of the Alabama Grocers Association, said “S.B.106 is fair data breach legislation that will give protection to consumers while not overburdening businesses.”

    The bill requires governmental entities and third-party agents to notify the Attorney General and the individual owners of personal information upon a data security breach. S.B. 106 has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 7-0 on April 9 with a proposed substitute. The offered substitute removes the portions of the original language that prohibits a person from retaining data from a credit, debit or other financial card for a specified period of time and requires persons in violation to reimburse financial institutions for costs upon a breach of security. The substitute must be adopted by the full chamber in order for the measure to be amended. This measure was held over for further consideration.
  • NY Gov Creates Wage Board – Other States Can Too

    May 26, 2015
    Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has instructed State Labor Commissioner Mario J. Musolino to create a Wage Board to investigate and make recommendations on an increase in the state minimum wage in the fast food industry. Under New York Labor Law, Sections 653654 and 655, a Wage Board can suggest changes to the minimum wage in a specific industry or job classification if it finds that wages are insufficient to provide for the life and health of workers within that industry or classification.

    At the conclusion of a three month period, the Labor Commissioner will have the authority to accept, reject or alter the board's recommendations. Read Governor Cuomo’s press release here. Read Governor Cuomo’s full op-ed announcing his instructions to Acting Labor Commissioner Musolino, click here. According to the National Employment Law Project, Governors in several other states including California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Wisconsin have similar authority to raise the minimum wage on their own without need for action by the legislature, and have done so in the past.
  • Local Plastic Bag Ordinances Challenged in Texas

    May 15, 2015
    Last September, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued his advisory opinion questioning the legality of local plastic bag restrictions under the Texas Health and Safety Code. As expected at the time, the non-binding opinion has provided fodder for several recent challenges to local bag ordinances in the state.

    Section 361.0961 of the “Solid Waste Disposal Act” prohibits local governments from adopting ordinances that:
    • "(1) prohibit or restrict, for solid waste management purposes, the sale or use of a container or package in a manner not authorized by state law ... or (3) assess a fee or deposit on the sale or use of a container or package."
    Abbot concluded that that a municipal ordinance banning or restricting plastic bags “for solid waste management purposes” likely would violate the above provisions. Furthermore, he found that “the plain language” of the subsection likely prohibits a political subdivision from “assessing a fee on the sale or use of a replacement bag” as well.

    Latching on to the Attorney General’s interpretation of the statute, four bag manufacturers are challenging the Dallas plastic bag ordinance that went into effect on January 1. In addition to mandating a five-cent charge for single-use carryout bags, the ordinance imposes a number of additional requirements on retailers, including that bags have a thickness of at least 0.70 mil and be printed with the name of the business establishment and the thickness of the bag in mil.

    In their petition, filed May 1, the challengers point to Abbot’s opinion for support, noting the “Texas Attorney General agrees with Plaintiffs.” The petitioners additionally maintain that the ordinance’s five-cent fee is an unlawful tax. Under Texas law, municipalities are authorized to impose taxes only in specified circumstances – to reduce bag usage is not one of them, according to the Plaintiffs. “Despite being labeled a fee,” the bag charge “is in fact an impermissible tax,” the challengers state.

    For their part, Dallas city attorneys claim the Health and Safety Code does not preclude the city’s ordinance because its purpose is environmental protection, rather than waste management. In his opinion, AG Abbot did concede that ordinances enacted for other purposes than waste management would not be prohibited by the statute. Ultimately, it will be up to the court to decide what the purpose of the ordinance is.

    In March, the Laredo Merchants Association challenged Laredo’s plastic bag ban on similar grounds as the Dallas lawsuit. There are at least 10 local plastic bag ordinances in the state of Texas. FMI’s Shopping Bag Issue Paper is available to assist retailers at both the state and local level. 
  • Bills Require Sound Science, Look to FDA, for GMO Labeling Guidance

    May 07, 2015
    The last several years have produced a plethora of bills in the states requiring the labeling of genetically modified food (GMO). This year, however, bills in nine states have taken a different approach to GMO labeling.

    In Hawaii, S.B. 986 reinforces the “Right to Farm” law in the state, dictating that counties cannot enact laws, ordinances or resolutions to limit the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in agricultural practices. This measure was introduced after counties either banned or restricted the use of pesticides and GMO’s because residents feared they were being exposed to chemicals that compromised their health.

    Kauai County enacted a law requiring companies to disclose the use of pesticides and cultivation of genetically modified crops, but a federal court judge ruled the law invalid in August 2014, saying state laws pre-empt the county laws. Two separate appeals have been filed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

    Bills in IdahoIllinois and North Dakota recognize FDA as the primary authority in uniform food labeling related to genetic engineering. Idaho’s H.J.M. 6 goes further to say that “existing FDA labeling rules and guidance, well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program, provide sufficient standards to address consumer interest in food production practices through the use of voluntary labeling.” North Dakota’s bill urges Congress to establish food labeling standards, direct the clarification of voluntary food labeling standards and provide for a review of foods derived through the use of biotechnology.

    Several states (IndianaMississippiMissouri and Texas) have introduced bills that “support the use of sound science to study and regulate such modern agricultural technologies as crop protection chemistries, genetically engineered or enhanced traits and oppose legislative or regulatory action at any level that may result in unnecessary restrictions on the use of modern agricultural technologies.” The Mississippi bill has just passed the House.

    In big sky country, Montana’s H.J. 33 requests the Legislative Council to designate an appropriate interim committee to examine the potential market effects of genetically engineered wheat within the state and the benefits or repercussions of GMO labeling.
  • Arizona Bans Local Bag Bans

    May 04, 2015
    With Governor Doug Doucey’s signature on S.B. 1241, Arizona has become the first state to prohibit localities from regulating plastic bags – without an accompanying statewide ban, as in California. Gov. Doucey signed the legislation on April 13, following its passage of the state Senate on April 2 (19-11). The measure had passed the House on March 31 (37-23).

    S.B. 1241 prohibits a city, town or county from “regulating the sale, use or disposition of auxiliary containers by a Business.” This prohibition includes the imposition of any “tax, fee, assessment, charge or return deposit” on auxiliary containers.

    Because of the breadth of what the law considers an “auxiliary container,” the law apparently goes much further than merely preventing localities from banning or charging a fee for plastic bags. The local preemption here seems to cover polystyrene bans, as well as any sort of local bottle ordinance. Specifically, “auxiliary container” includes: “reusable bags, disposable bags, boxes, beverage cans, bottles, cups and containers that are made out of cloth, plastic, extruded polystyrene, glass, aluminum, cardboard or other similar materials and that are used for transporting merchandise or food to or from a business or multifamily housing property. “ 

    The new law goes into effect on July 3, 2015. FMI previously reported on Arizona’s S.B. 1241 in the April 3 edition of the State Issues Report. For more information on the law, contact Tim McCabe, President of the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance. FMI’s Shopping Bag Issue Paper is also available. 
  • Governor Brown Issues Executives Order on Mandatory Water Reductions

    Apr 07, 2015
    Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) issued an executive order last Wednesday, putting in place tough new restrictions on water use, in the midst of an ongoing two year, and increasingly worsening, drought. In January 2014, Gov. Brown proclaimed a state of emergency due to severe drought conditions, and reaffirmed it in April 2014. In November 2014, Californians approved Proposition 1, the Water Bond (AB 1471), which enacted the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, that provides some  $272 million into safe drinking water efforts and maintenance of water recycling infrastructures.

    The executive order came on the heels of the least snow pack ever, in the Sierra Nevadas. It outlines four areas where the state’s residents will work together to improve water conditions: 
    • save water; for example, directing the creation of a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with more water and energy efficient models, as statewide usage must decrease by 25%; 
    • increase enforcement; agricultural water users will be required to report more water use information to state regulators, increasing the state's ability to enforce against illegal diversions and waste and unreasonable use of water; 
    • streamline government response; that is, prioritizes state review and decision-making of water infrastructure projects and requires state agencies to report to the Governor's Office on any application pending for more than 90 days; and,  
    • invest in new technologies, by providing incentives to make the state more efficient through a new program administered by the California Energy Commission.
    Read more about these four focus areas here. The state has put together a toolkit to help businesses conserve water. See it here.  In August 2014, California Agricultural Secretary Karen Ross keynoted the FMI State Issues Retreat in La Jolla, California, and spoke at length about the state’s ongoing drought and what the state was doing. She said that 11 trillion gallons of water are needed for California to recover from the drought emergency.
  • FMI Weekly Local Monitoring Report

    Apr 03, 2015
    This week's FMI Local Monitoring Report has results in the following states: Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada and New York; in these issue areas: ecigarettes, plastic bags, polystyrene and wage and labor. Of particular note is the sunsetting of the City of Phoenix’s emergency food tax that was implemented in 2010. Here is the April 1, 2015 statement of Daniel Valenzuela, Vice Mayor of the City of Phoenix: 

    "The city’s emergency food tax has completed its five-year-mission for the residents of Phoenix. This food tax was implemented in 2010 as a temporary measure to help overcome a $277 million budget shortfall during the worst recession in our nation’s history. While I was not a member of the city council at the time, as a resident I was concerned with the prospect of hundreds of layoffs of police officers, firefighters and other public safety employees, the shuttering of city facilities and programs, such as libraries and senior centers, and cuts to critical services, including after-school programs. After taking office in 2012, it became even more clear why it was implemented – to save important city services and keep whole our police and fire departments – and, as important, the reason it is time to end it. The food tax was a strategic solution that generated $133 million for our general fund, $40 million for public safety, $40 million for transit and $13 million for our parks.  We are again one of the only Valley cities without a tax on food.  This marks the end of the food tax and the keeping of a promise to the residents of Phoenix.  We owe this to those we are honored to serve."

    Local Monitoring Report Archive

  • States Attempt to Preempt Local Plastic Bag Legislation

    Apr 02, 2015

    The plastic bag wars continue to rage in 2015. As of March 31, there are over 50 plastic bag bills pending in 15 states. Click here to see a map of pending state-level shopping bag restrictions.

    As we know by now, though, state-level activity barely scratches the surface when it comes to plastic bags. Nearly 200 localities have enacted shopping bag regulations of some type – whether a ban, tax, or some combination thereof. FMI’s weekly Local Monitoring Report tracks local plastic bag legislation; click here to see a chart of proposed local measures.


    However, four states are trying a somewhat novel tactic to get a handle on this proliferation of local ordinances. Legislation in Arizona, Georgia, Missouri and Texas would preempt local regulation of plastic bags, but without an accompanying statewide ban or fee – as in California.

    Missouri’s H.B. 722, “The Paper and Plastic Bags Choice Act,” requires that merchants doing business in the state have the option to “provide customers either a paper or a plastic bag for the packaging of any item or good purchased.” The bill then specifies that “no political subdivision shall impose any ban, fee, or tax upon the use of either paper or plastic bags.” Sponsored by the Missouri Grocers Association’s own Dan Shaul, H.B. 722 passed the Missouri House on March 19 (114-38) and now awaits action in the State Senate where it has received its first reading.


    "I feel that when this becomes law in Missouri, it will ensure that consumers and retailers maintain their choice of ‘paper or plastic’ for years to come," said Representative Shaul.

    Meanwhile, Arizona’s S.B. 1241 just passed the State House on March 31 (37-23). The bill prohibits a city, town or county from “regulating the sale, use or disposition of auxiliary containers by a business.” Although S.B. 1241 had sailed through the State Senate in February (25-4), the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance (AFMA) reports that it must now go back to the Senate for procedural reasons. Still, AFMA is optimistic that the bill will keep moving forward.


    “This is a big step toward preemption of both benchmarking energy usage and regulation of containers like plastic bags,” said AFMA President Tim McCabe. “These need to be done at a state level to insure consistency and less confusion for consumers and tourists.”

    Moving on to Texas, the companion bills S.B. 1550 and H.B. 1939 currently sit in the House Urban Affairs and Senate Business & Commerce Committees respectively. These bill declare that any “ordinance or regulation adopted by a municipality purporting to restrict or prohibit a business from, require a business to charge a customer for, or tax or impose penalties on a business for providing to a customer at the point of sale a bag or other container made from any material is invalid and has no effect.” Sources tell FMI that these bills are unlikely to pass during this session.

    Finally, Georgia’s S.B. 139 provides that “any regulation regarding the use, disposition, or sale or any imposition of any prohibition, restriction, fee imposition, or taxation of auxiliary containers shall be done only by general law.” However, after passing the Georgia Senate in late February, S.B. 139 failed to pass the House 67-85. According to Georgia Food Industry Association President Kathy Kuzava, “This was a disappointing loss for our retailers. Unfortunately, we could not overcome the grassroots efforts of the conservation groups and the Republicans who opposed the bill due to their support of local control.”

    As evidenced by the mixed prospects of this type of legislation in just the four states mentioned above, local preemption on plastic bags can be a tough legislative fight. The issue can force lawmakers to balance their pro-business instincts with their desire for local self-determination. And in this balancing act, what makes sense for business may not always come out on top.


    FMI’s issue paper on Shopping Bag restrictions may be viewed here

  • Microbead Legislation

    Mar 19, 2015

    Microbeads are small bits of plastic made of polyethylene microspherescan and can be found in some toothpaste and are used as exfoliants in personal care and skin products. There is environmental and health concern at both the state and federal level on microbeads, which are not biodegradable, as they can make their way through water treatment systems, after they are washed down drains, and possibly appear in local waterways.


    Many manufacturers are currently working to remove microbeads from their products. For example, Unilever, The Body Shop, and Johnson & Johnson have committed to phasing out microbeads by the end of 2015, and Proctor & Gamble and L'Oréal said they will discontinue them by 2017.


    In 2014, Rep. Pallone (D-NJ) introduced federal legislation to ban microbeads but it failed to gain traction. Rep. Pallone, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and others sent a letter to the FDA asking them to assess the safety of microbeads, opting for a regulatory fix instead. Read the letter here.


    Last week, Rep. Pallone reintroduced the legislation, “The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015,” which would prohibit the sale or distribution of personal-care products that contain synthetic plastic microbeads.


    On the state front, legislation passed last year in Illinois. The bill bans the manufacture of personal care products containing plastic synthetic microbeads by the end of 2017, the sale of such personal care products and the manufacture of over-the-counter drugs containing the beads by the end of 2018, and the sale of over-the-counter drugs with microbeads by the end of 2019. Read it here. The Illinois bill was voted into the Council of State Government’s 2014 Suggested State Legislation.


    A number of other states, for example, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, are considering similar bans. New Jersey is likely the next state to enact legislation. Read the bill here.  New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called for state legislation in New York.


    As legislation is introduced at the state and federal level, attention should be given to any required phase-out date, to ensure that a reasonable time of compliance is given for the sale and manufacture of personal-care products and over-the-counter products.

  • Wisconsin Enacts 'Right to Work' Legislation

    Mar 16, 2015

    Wisconsin officially joined the ranks of the “right to work” states last Monday, March 9, when Governor Scott Walker signed S.B. 44 into law. The Act prohibits any requirement that employees join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. S.B. 44 passed the state Senate in a narrow 17-15 vote in late February, and won approval from the Wisconsin Assembly along a straight party line (62-35) vote on March 6.  With Governor Walker’s signature, the law will be effective starting March 11.


    “This legislation puts power back in the hands of Wisconsin workers, by allowing the freedom to choose whether they want to join a union and pay union dues,” Governor Walker said in a press release.


    The National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) originally permitted collective bargaining agreements to provide for the termination of any employee who failed to join or at least pay dues to a union. But later amendments to the Act gave states the ability to enact laws eliminating these so-called “union security clauses.”


    Such laws, like Wisconsin’s, give workers the “right to work” without becoming a union member or paying dues. Notably, Wisconsin’s new law only applies to the “renewal, modification, or extension” of a collective bargaining agreement occurring after the law’s effective date. Thus, it does not nullify union security clauses currently in effect or otherwise make them illegal. 


    Once largely confined to the South, “right to work” laws have now passed in 25 states across the country. New Mexico may be the next to follow suite, with Rep. Dennis Roch’s (R) “Employee Preference Act” (H.B. 75) gaining steam. The bill has already passed the New Mexico House, 37-30, and now awaits action in the Senate Public Affairs Committee. 


  • FMI Monitors SNAP Legislation in the states

    Feb 03, 2015
    FMI is tracking a number of bills relating to the SNAP program. FMI has created a chart of all Government Assistance Bills we are following.

    SNAP Food Choice

    Contained in the FMI chart are a number of bills that would restrict what SNAP recipients can purchase. While legislation in Indiana has recently died, there are several bills still pending. Missouri’s HB 442 and Texas’ HB 493, exclude “energy drinks.” Mississippi legislation requests a waiver from USDA for a “healthy diet” for SNAP recipients. A pre-filed bill in Montana “revises SNAP food choices.” No text is yet available. Similar legislation could be filed in Maine and in Wisconsin.

    View FMI’s talking points on SNAP food choice.

    Meanwhile, legislation pending in Oregon requests USDA approval for a pilot project for selected SNAP recipients to participate in a shopping and nutrition education program designed to educate recipients about managing their program benefits in order to save money and improve their health.

    Farmers’ Markets and SNAP

    There are currently several bills pending that address the use of SNAP at farmers markets. Arizona’s HB 2469 allows a recipient to receive a 50% discount on any eligible item purchased at a farmers' market using SNAP benefits. A pre-filed bill in Massachusetts, HD 2884, “encourages the use of SNAP benefits at farmers markets.” This measure is a House Docket. Text will not be made available until after the measure has been referred to a committee. New Mexico’s HB 93 appropriates $400,000 to enhance the buying power of SNAP recipients through the “Double Up Food Bucks” program to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at New Mexico farmers' markets.