Government Affairs

FMI State Affairs Updates

  • 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.
  • NY AG Unveils Data Security Proposals

    Feb 02, 2015

    New York’s Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, announced this month that he will propose stringent new data security requirements for businesses in the state. The AG said he will seek to expand the scope of information companies are required to protect, as well as strengthen the technical and physical security measures companies are required to employ.

    Under current NY law, passed in 2005, companies must notify any NY resident whose “private information” has been acquired without authorization following a security breach. Such private information includes a social security number; a driver license number or non-driver identification card number; or an account number or a credit or debit card number in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to an individual’s financial account.

    The latest proposals would broaden this definition of “private information” to encompass not only the combination of an email address and password, or an email address in combination with a security question and answer, but also medical information, including biometric information, and health insurance information.  

     On top of that, the AG is calling for companies to be additionally required to implement reasonable security measures to protect private information. According to the AG’s office, such measures should include administrative, technical, and physical safeguards, as well as third party certification. The proposals do include a safe harbor for companies that adopt a “heightened form of security.”

    These new requirements are all just hypothetical at the moment, with legislative language yet to be introduced. The AG’s office tells the New York Times that they expect both Democratic and Republican sponsors for the bill, and they hope it becomes “a model for expanding the safeguarding of personal information in other states.”

     

  • FMI SNAP Distribution Expansion Toolkit Now Avalilable

    Jan 26, 2015

    As the point of redemption for SNAP beneficiaries, food retailers play a critical front-line role in ensuring the program functions efficiently. A major impediment to this efficiency is non-staggered state distribution of SNAP benefits.

    Currently, eight states issue SNAP benefits on only one day, and others, on just three days. This limited distribution creates a bottleneck for SNAP recipients and customers, as grocery lines become frustratingly long on that one day. Retailers can have stocking issues and labor concerns as well. For these reasons, FMI supports expanded distribution of SNAP benefits throughout the month – not just on a handful of days. 

    FMI maintains a schedule of the SNAP distribution dates in all 50-states, as well as a “SNAP Distribution Expansion Toolkit,” which retailers can use to advocate for expanded SNAP distribution in their states. Use the following links to view our State-by-State Monthly SNAP Benefit Issuance Schedule,” in addition to the entire toolkit.   

     

  • State GMO Legislation Update

    Jan 16, 2015
    The 2015 legislative session has barely begun, but state GE/GMO labeling bills are cropping up all over the country. Though still mostly confined to the East Coast at this time, the action is inexorably spreading westward, with bills already introduced in Indiana (S.B. 264/S.B. 60), Missouri (H.B. 168), and Montana (L.C. 595).

     

    As expected, New York is shaping up to be the major battleground state for GMO labeling legislation, thanks to its large population and the resulting implications for trigger provisions in the already-enacted Connecticut and Maine laws. Last year, a labeling bill cleared two committees in the state Assembly before dying in the Ways and Means Committee as the legislative session ended.

     

    This year, the NY legislature has been formally in session for barely over a week and five bills related to GMO labeling have been introduced.  According to the Food Industry Alliance of New York, the bills to watch are S. 485 in the Senate, and its companion, A. 617 in the Assembly.  Both have been referred to the Consumer Protection Committees in their respective chambers. Click here to see a full chart of all the New York GMO bills, plus the other state GMO labeling bills currently pending from this year.  

  • Food Tax Included in Maine Governor’s Budget Proposal

    Jan 16, 2015

    On January 9, Republican Governor Paul LePage released his $6.3 billion biennial budget for FY 2016/2017. The cornerstone of the Governor’s budget is his tax proposal, which, he says, modernizes Maine’s tax code, lowers top individual and corporate income tax rates and eliminates the estate tax, among other items. He will look to make up some of the cuts with a broader and higher sales tax.

    For example, the governor included a food tax. His proposal adds the underlined language below to the definition of “prepared foods” and increases the sales tax on “prepared foods” from 5.5% to 6.5%. 

    Should this part of his budget proposal pass, it will put Maine out of compliance with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement and could therefore inhibit the state from collecting Internet sales taxes.  Maine enacted legislation, effective October 9, 2013, to join the Streamlined Sales Tax Project. Also of note, Maine formerly had a "snack tax", but it was repealed in 2000. To see what other states have introduced regarding a food tax, view an FMI chart here.

    Read more in this week's State Issues Report

  • Indiana Committee to Hear SNAP Food Choice Bill

    Jan 16, 2015

    Indiana Rep. Cindy Ziemke (R-55) has introduced legislation that requires the division of family resources to establish a pilot program that allows SNAP benefits to be used only for food and beverages that have “sufficient nutritional value,” as determined by the division of family resources. H.B. 1193 will be heard on January 21 before the House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee, of which Rep. Ziemke is the co-chair. The Indiana Retail Council notes that this bill passed the House last year but that they were able to kill it in the Senate. The Indiana Retail Council told FMI that they oppose any legislation that attempts to define nutritional foods in the SNAP program and will vigorously defend the ability of food retailers to serve the needs of all of their customers. Here is a copy of FMI’s talking points on SNAP food choice. 

  • 50 State Legislative Outlook

    Jan 16, 2015
    It may only be January, but the 2015 state legislative sessions are in full swing. Forty-four state legislatures will convene by the end of this month, five more by March, and Louisiana ambles in by April. To help our members prepare, FMI releases the 50 State Legislative Outlook every January. This annual report examines the issues our industry expects to confront during the upcoming legislative session on a state-by-state basis. Additionally, it analyzes the previous November’s election results – and the potential consequences of those results – for each state, and provides a look forward to the next elections.

    To compile the document, FMI staff surveys state association executives, FMI member companies and holds four regional meetings across the country. Read the full 2015 50 State Legislative Outlook here.
     
  • Wisconsin Could See SNAP Photo ID, Food Choice Bill

    Dec 18, 2014

    With their Republican trifecta held in check in November, Wisconsin leadership has put together an agenda that holds many conservative reforms, including SNAP. In their agenda, Assembly Republicans have said they will pursue placing a photo ID on all EBT cards and they will work to ensure that if someone receives assistance to purchase food, “a significant portion of that food is nutritious.” In addition, they will work to put a “reasonable limit” on the number of replacement cards someone can receive; screen for substance abuse; send all public assistance recipients an annual statement of benefits; which, they say, is a tangible and streamlined way of knowing how much help they received and from which programs. Here is a copy of the agenda.

     

     

     

     

  • USDA has “Significant Concerns” over New SNAP Photo ID Law in MA, ME

    Dec 18, 2014

    Earlier this week, the Boston Globe reported that USDA dispatched agents to Massachusetts in August to investigate concerns on the implementation of a new state law regarding photos on SNAP EBT cards. On December 2, USDA sent a follow up letter to Massachusetts state agency staff on the findings of these concerns.

    Specifically, USDA has “significant concerns” dealing with program access, staff communications and training, and also retailer communications and training from the state. In the letter, USDA specifies corrective actions that must be taken.

    Regarding retailers, FNS is concerned that state agency at all levels believe that retailers must check the card at the POS to ensure the purchaser is the person pictured on the card. This puts Massachusetts in violation of the Food and Nutrition Act. In the letter, USDA directs the state to communicate to retailers that anyone authorized to use the card may use the card without having to submit to additional verification of identity, as use of the unique PIN associated with each card is sufficient verification of identity. Therefore, all household members and authorized representatives not pictured on the card can continue to access benefits. View USDA’s letter here.

    The Massachusetts Food Association has informed their members from the inception of this law that nothing has changed with regard to accepting EBT photo ID cards; stores cannot and should not be asking to see the card if the customer knows the PIN and enters it correctly. 


    In November, USDA sent a similar letter to Maine, which has also implemented a photo requirement on the SNAP card.
    Here is the Maine letter. In addition, the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association reports that the Governor of Maine is expected to continue his efforts to reform Mainers’ generational dependency on “welfare” programs.  A bill will likely include a sales prohibition on taxable foods items such as candy and soda under SNAP. There is keen interest amongst lawmakers as well to reduce a SNAP recipient’s ability to “spend” tax payer’s money on these types of foods.

     

  • Track Local Legislative Activity with the FMI Local Monitoring Report

    Nov 10, 2014

    Every week FMI's Local Monitoring Report  tracks six issues of particular importance to the supermarket industry at the local level: 

  • Food product dating;
  • Food taxes;
  • Licensing; 
  • Minimum/living wage; 
  • Plastic bags / polystyrene bans; 
  • E-cigarettes. 

  • Last week's report saw activity in CA, CO, DE, FL, MN, NC and VA. Visit FMI's Local Monitoring Page to find out more! 

  • 2014 State Election Summary

    Nov 10, 2014
    During this midterm election year, 36 governors, 46 state legislatures (except Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia), and numerous state and local races were contested on November 4. There were also several important ballot initiatives on issues important to our industry, including Alcohol, GMO labeling, Healthcare, Recycling and the Minimum Wage.  

    Find out everything you need to know about this November's state-level election results by following this link to FMI's 2014 Key State Election Summary
  • More California Localities To Act on Minimum Wage

    Oct 21, 2014


    Last week, the Sunnyvale, California City Council voted to introduce an ordinance that requires Sunnyvale employers to pay a minimum wage of $10.30 per hour starting January 1, 2015, and include an annual adjustment to the minimum wage on the first of every year, based on the prior year's Consumer Price Index. The council also voted to include a resolution to work with the city of Mountain View on a regional $15 an hour minimum wage by 2018. 


    Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposal of a minimum wage hike gained some traction. Several members of the Los Angeles City Council introduced a motion “to establish a minimum wage for all employees working in the City of Los Angeles that will increase over the next three years, effective July 1st of each year, to $13.25 an hour on July 1, 2017, and after that…the minimum wage in Los Angeles will be increased annually at a rate consistent with the Consumer Price Index.”  The introduced motion has been sent to the Economic Development Committee and will be considered at one of their upcoming meetings.

    Read about more local initiatives in the FMI Local Monitoring Report
  • Why Are We Still Seeing Local Bag Bans in California?

    Oct 17, 2014
    Last week’s FMI Local Monitoring Report presented a proposed local bag ban in Lafayette, California. As FMI has previously reported, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. But the bill does allow a locality that has adopted a bill before September 1, 2014, to continue to enforce or implement it. In addition, Section 2 of Article 5, “Preemption” states:

    (2) A city, county, or other local public agency … that, before September 1, 2014, has passed a first reading of an ordinance or resolution expressing the intent to restrict single-use carryout bags and, before January 1, 2015, adopts an ordinance to restrict single-use carryout bags, may continue to enforce and implement the ordinance that was in effect before January 1, 2015.

    On July 14, 2014, the Lafayette City Council adopted Resolution No. 2014-45, indicating the City's intent to pass a local ordinance supplementing or substituting for any state action regarding single-use carry-out bags. So failure to adopt local regulations prior to the end of this calendar year will prevent the City from adopting local regulations In the future.

    Read more in the FMI Local Monitoring Report.
  • APBA Will Pursue Ballot to Overturn CA Bag Law

    Oct 03, 2014

    The American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) announced this week they will file a proposed referendum that would postpone implementation of the California bag ban until November 2016, so voters could decide its fate.   


    In California, when the Governor signs a bill, the Secretary of State assigns a chapter number to the bill. Upon chaptering of the bill, a referendum proponent has 90 days to gather the necessary number of signatures of registered voters to qualify the referendum for a vote. The number of signatures collected must be equal to 5% of the votes cast for all candidates for Governor in the last gubernatorial election; in this case, 504,760 must be collected by December.  

    If the referendum qualifies, the grocery bag law will be suspended until voters cast their ballots during the next general election in November 2016. If a majority of Californians votes to repeal the law, it is then repealed. But if a majority votes in favor of the law, it will go into effect in January 2017. Signature gathering is expected to begin next week, after a ballot title and summary are approved. 

    (From FMI's Local Monitoring Report).

  • USDA Announces $31.5 million Fruit and Vegetable Program for SNAP

    Oct 02, 2014

    In July 2013, USDA announced the results of USDA's Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) which took place between November 2011 and December 2012 in Hampden County, Massachusetts. The results were positive and USDA discussed additional steps USDA and its partners could take to encourage SNAP recipients to purchase healthy foods. This week, USDA announced a $31.5 million fruit and vegetable program for SNAP, so that recipients can more easily afford healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.  


    The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, a new Farm Bill program, brings together stakeholders from distinct parts of the food system and fosters understanding of how they might improve the nutrition and health status of SNAP households. Under FINI, applicants may propose relatively small pilot projects, multi-year community-based projects, or larger-scale multi-year projects. 


    For more information on applicant criteria and how to apply, please see this week's State Issues Report.
  • California Becomes First State to Ban Single use Plastic Bags

    Oct 02, 2014

    California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags on Tuesday. The bill, S.B. 270, cleared the legislature in late-August, in the final hours of the legislative session. It commanded the support of a wide range of industry, labor and environmental groups, including the California Grocers Association (CGA).  


    “CGA has worked diligently on this issue for several years, seeking to obtain a uniform standard that will level the playing field,” stated Ron Fong, CGA President & CEO.

    "Consistency helps alleviate supply chain, logistics, and employee training issues while at the same time eliminating customer confusion. The minimum charge applied to recyclable paper and reusable bags has been shown to be effective in encouraging consumers to make the shift to reusable bags, and in fact experience across localities shows that in the end most consumers quickly adjust and avoid the charge altogether.”

    Read more about the new law in this week's State Issues Report.
  • Seven States Receive USDA Grants to Fight Fraud

    Oct 02, 2014

    USDA announced this week that $5 million in grant funds were awarded to seven states to identify, track, and prevent misuse of SNAP benefits by recipients. The SNAP Recipient Trafficking Prevention Grant Program was designed to improve outcomes in the prevention, detection, and prosecution of recipient trafficking.  The grantees are: 

    • Florida - $345,576

    • Kentucky - $1,189,890

    • Missouri - $599,642

    • Ohio - $15,000

    • Oregon - $314,844

    • Tennessee - $1,484,618

    • Washington - $750,984

    The states will implement strategies to improve the effectiveness of integrity monitoring efforts and increase the number of investigations of recipients suspected of trafficking SNAP benefits.  For example, Oregon is combining analytics and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to better target fraud related to excessive EBT card replacement requests. The state of Washington is using innovative strategies to monitor and investigate fraud occurring via social media and e-commerce websites.

    According to USDA, the vast majority of SNAP recipients and retailers abide by the rules.  Read more in this week's State Issues Report.




  • State Affairs Archives

    January 10, 2014
    2014 State Legislative Outlook

    March 22, 2013
    State Issues Report - March 22, 2013

    March 15, 2013
    FutureConnect Association Council Group Advantage Program
    Here you will find your Association Council Group Advantage Program commitment  for FMI’s FutureConnect.  There are no minimums to meet in order to register as a group.  The digital brochure for FutureConnect can be found here and additional information can be found atwww.fmifutureconnect.com.  More information is below, and we hope to see you in Orlando!

    March 5, 2013
    State Issues Report - March 5, 2013

    February 21, 2013
    State Issues Report - February 21, 2013

    February 7, 2013
    Statement by New Jersey Food Council on Senate Vote and Assembly Committee Consideration of Surcharge Bill
    We wanted to share with you a statement that Linda Doherty, President of the New Jersey Food Council, released to the press and members of the New Jersey senate and assembly last night. The statement clearly and concisely addresses a bill in New Jersey that prevents merchants from surcharging credit cards.

    January 30, 2013
    State Issues Report - January 30, 2013

    January 22, 2013
    State Issues Report - January 22, 2013

    January 18, 2013
    2013 State Legislative Outlook 
    FMI and its members annually compile information on priority state issues for the current legislative session to provide insight on the likelihood of passage for proposed legislation.