May 8, 2017


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Governor Tim Pawlenty talked about the future of Minnesota at May's Legislative Breakfast held in conjunction with the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Swipe Fee 
Retailers Say Repeal of Swipe Fee Reform Would 'Undermine Transparency and Competition' and Harm Consumers    

From the National Retail Federation, May 2, 2017

"The National Retail Federation today called on the House Financial Services Committee to reject efforts to repeal debit card swipe fee reform as it considers approval of the Financial Choice Act.

"Debit card swipe fee reform has brought competition and transparency to the debit card payments market," NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said. "Repealing reform would only undermine transparency and competition, further lining banks' pockets."

"Swipe fees are a major concern, especially for small retailers," French said. "If debit swipe fee reform is repealed, costs to retailers will only increase, meaning higher prices for consumers and less opportunity for retailers to grow their businesses, provide jobs and support community efforts. Rather than repeal a successful provision of law that has brought competition into the payments market, we encourage Congress to support the future of payments and make sure competition is protected."

French's comments came in a letter to the committee, which began debate this morning on the Financial Choice Act, legislation sponsored by Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, that would repeal debit swipe fee reform as part of a larger rollback of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Committee approval of the bill could come today or Wednesday, with a vote by the full House expected later this month.

The committee is moving forward today even though only a single hearing has been held on the nearly 600-page bill. No retailers were allowed to testify at last week's hearing despite the impact of the swipe fee issue on the industry. Nonetheless, dozens of retailers held more than 100 meetings on the issue with lawmakers on Capitol Hill the same day. NRF submitted a statement for the record and is running digital ads and has delivered more than 7,000 email petitions addressing consumer benefits and competition that urge Congress to preserve debit card reform."

Session Update  
Minnesota Leaders Spent Saturday Talking The State's Budget         
 
From the Pioneer Press, David Montgomery, May 6, 2017

"Minnesota's legislative leaders are still in the early stages of trying to reconcile huge differences in budget priorities between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Top leaders from both parties met in private for around six hours Saturday at the Capitol. When they emerged late Saturday afternoon, they had no deals to announce.

"Slowly but surely," said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, as he walked away from the Governor's Cabinet Room on the Capitol's ground floor.

The leaders tried to strike a deal on the agriculture budget, where the two sides differ by only $10 million in how much they want to spend. But the details of how Dayton and Republicans want to spend that money soon caused talks to get "bogged down," Dayton said.

So they fell back to a more methodical approach: going through the budgets line-by-line and identifying where each side had an objection and where they agreed."

 
Federal 
Minnesota Job Creators Stand Ready to Enact Pro-Growth Tax Policy        
 
Americans for Affordable Products (AAP) - a collection of more than 400 businesses and trade associations seeking to stop the Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) - released the following statement last week in response to President Donald J. Trump's tax policy:

"Retailers across Minnesota are encouraged by President Trump and his administration's remarks yesterday on an approach to tax policy that excludes the ill-conceived Border Adjustment Tax. The Border Adjustment Tax concept is a job-killer to retail-one of Minnesota's largest job-producing industries," said Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association.

"We are grateful the president has chosen not to increase the cost of basic necessities like gasoline, groceries, clothing and medicine. That approach would have hurt Minnesota's consumers, families, and jobs."

 
State Update 
Senate Bill Would Raise Statewide Tobacco Sales Age To 21      

From the Star Tribune, Miguel Otárola, May 4, 2017

"The movement to require tobacco buyers in Minnesota to be 21 years old reached the State Capitol on Thursday.

Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, introduced a bill that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products statewide from 18 to 21.

"It's very clear that preventing tobacco purchases under the age of 21 is the best way to keep new kids from becoming addicted smokers and all the lifelong devastating effects that come with that," she said.

The bill comes just days after the Edina City Council made that city the first in Minnesota to raise its tobacco sales age to 21. The ordinance will go into effect July 1.

Like the Edina ordinance, Nelson's bill would raise the sales age for all tobacco-related products, including delivery devices such as e-cigarettes.

It would also increase the penalties for retailers who sell tobacco to underage customers. A vendor would be charged $250 instead of the current $75 for selling to an underage person, $500 instead of $200 for a second violation, and $1,000 instead of $250 for a subsequent violation.

But the penalty to underage buyers who use false IDs would be softened. While they are now guilty of a misdemeanor, the bill would make it a petty misdemeanor.

Since the deadline for committees to act on bills was March 31, Nelson does not expect a hearing on the bill this session. But she hopes to build on the momentum of the Edina ordinance and continue the conversation across the state."

Jobs Update 
Report: Retail Job Losses Swelled 36% Over Last Year     

From the Retail Dive, Daphne Howland, May 5, 2017

"While the retail sector had the highest number of job cuts in April, it's not experiencing the overall level of employment contraction happening in the energy and tech sectors, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger. Much-anticipated tax reform to be taken up in Congress now that President Donald Trump has unveiled his one-page outline is likely causing many employers to hold off on major hiring decisions. Trump's plan includes a corporate income tax rate cut from 35% to 15%, but there are few details and Congressional action is uncertain.

"The economy seems to be in a holding pattern," he said in a statement. "The government jobs report saw lower-than-expected job creation in March with 98,000 jobs added, and consumer spending has been sluggish in the first quarter."

While the retail industry appears to be in flux when it comes to employment, the overall 4.4% unemployment rate, the lowest in 10 years, could be the bigger story for retailers, considering their dependence on consumer spending. Consumer confidence hasn't kept pace with the steady employment gains since the Great Recession, possibly because, despite some wage lifts more recently, income growth has been muted for middle- and lower-income groups. Wages gains were modest in April: average hourly earnings for employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 7 cents to $26.19. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 65 cents, or 2.5%; in April, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 6 cents to $21.96."

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Minnesota Retailers Associaiton
400 Robert Street North, suite 1540
St. Paul, MN 55101
Tel. (651) 227-6631 - mnretail.org - mnra@mnretail.org