By Mike Green, Senior Manager, Advocacy & Local Policy, Food Marketing Institute

2019StateIssuesIn the days of our nation’s founding, drafter of the U.S. Constitution and eventual fourth President, James Madison, had this to say about federal and state government authority: 

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” (Federalist 45, 1788.)

Anyone who has tracked state legislation or handles compliance with state laws knows the truth of these words. The topics in which state governments have engaged in policymaking are undoubtedly numerous and certainly can seem indefinite at times. As food retailers, a huge amount of our business is regulated at the state level. 

For instance, state laws can regulate the products we are allowed to sell; the building and maintenance of the roads used to transport those products (not to mention the licensing standards for commercial truck drivers); the materials used to package them; the labels on those packages; and the containers we can place those items in at checkout. State laws can regulate the employment benefits and terms offered to our workforce and impose the taxes we pay as businesses and the sales and excise taxes our customers pay. And all of this is barely a drop in the bucket when it comes to the vast breadth of lawmaking authority exercised by state governments. Meanwhile, many of these same topics and more can be regulated at the local level as well.  

To put a number on it, FMI tracks over 80 legislative topics at the state level and 10 priority issues at the local level in all 50 states. In those topic areas alone, we have tracked over 8,000 state bills since the beginning of the year. Of those, roughly 1,300 were enacted into law.  At the local level, our agenda monitoring program has flagged nearly 600 potential local ordinances since Jan. 1. 

Helping our members make sense of this state and local legislative chaos is a key mission of the FMI State Affairs team. One of the ways we accomplish this is by holding an annual state and local issues planning conference – the FMI State Issues Retreat.  

Held this year from August 12 -14 in Denver Colorado, the FMI State Issues Retreat brought together food retail grocery associations and grocery company professionals from each state to discuss state and local legislative issues of interest to the food retail industry. Among the issues discussed were clean energy and refrigeration, emerging employment issues, new issues in alcohol, plant-based food labeling, plastics and packaging, and privacy. 

The group additionally heard presentations on the latest consumer data from FMI’s 2019 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report, the regulatory landscape for CBD and hemp-derived products, SNAP updates for 2019, using social media to engage elected officials, and on the opportunities and challenges of lobbying local governments. All the presentations and meeting materials are available for FMI members via the meeting microsite.

When the scope of state and local policymaking seems daunting and indefinite, FMI State Affairs is here to help. We have a number or resources available from our issue papers and other background documents to our state and local newsletters (subscribe here). 

It’s not too early to begin thinking about FMI State Issues Retreat 2020. You can sign up for updates and mark your calendars to join us from Aug. 3 – 5 at the Water’s Edge Resort & Spa in Westbrook, Connecticut. 

  • Government Relations