January 2021
Prepared and Distributed by The Midwest Hardware Association, Inc.
A New Year with New Beginnings
I am both honored and excited to take on the role of Midwest Hardware Association’s Managing Director and to lead such a passionate, dedicated team of professionals.

I first want to thank everyone for the warm welcome, as well as the board of directors for their faith in my ability to lead this esteemed organization. I would also like to thank John Haka for his support and assistance in helping me transition into this position. His leadership over the past 23 years sets a benchmark for the future-and I am prepared to take on the opportunities and challenges this position brings.

In 2021, MHA is positioned to continue to build upon its great legacy, working alongside our board members and stellar staff enhancing our mission and vision and supporting our members.

I look forward to working with you, learning from you, and together, having the association support you and be your trusted resource. I welcome the opportunity to hear from you, whether to share your thoughts and ideas on what is going well and/or what improvements you would like to see, or simply to say, “Hello.” You can reach me at 715-254-9618 or [email protected].

Happy New Year!

Jody A. Kohl
Minnesota Governor Lays Out Policies for the Legislature in Anticipation of Moving to Post-Emergency Pandemic
January 7, 2021 Governor Walz sent a letter to legislative leaders suggesting steps that could be taken as Minnesota looks forward to the end of the pandemic state of emergency.

See below for the full text of the letter, or click here.

Credit Card Fees: Should You Pass Them to Your Customers?
By Mac Hardin, Midwest Hardware Association Bankcard Services Manager

As a result of a legal settlement to resolve claims brought by a group of businesses against Visa and MasterCard several years ago, merchants may, within certain restrictions, pass their credit card processing fees along to their customers. It’s called surcharging. Due to the uncertainty of how customers would react, retailers have been slow to react. Now though, some are starting to surcharge. If you are thinking about doing so, here are some details to consider:

  • Surcharges can only be applied on credit card sales, not on any debit card transactions. It does not matter if the debit card is processed as “PIN” based, or as “credit.”

  • The amount of the surcharge is limited. The maximum surcharge is the business’ average credit card processing fees over the past 12 months. At no time can the surcharge exceed 4%. The cost of processing debit cards is not included in this calculation.

  • A business that elects to surcharge will have to register its intent with Visa and MasterCard, as well as its bankcard processor. Registration must occur 30 days prior to implementing the surcharge. The notification forms for Visa and MasterCard can be obtained at:

  • A clear disclosure notice of any surcharge must be posted for customers at the store entry and at the point of sale. Example of the wording:

“We add a surcharge to all credit card payments.
The surcharge is not greater than our total cost
of accepting credit cards.”

  • The dollar amount of the surcharge must be clearly disclosed as a separate line item on the customer’s receipt. This may involve a change in software or processing equipment.

  • The surcharge must be charged either at the “brand level,” meaning all Visa and MasterCard credit cards, or at the “product level.” The product level refers to the type of credit card (Traditional, Rewards, Corporate, World Cards, etc.).

  • By state law, surcharging is not allowed in, Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, or Oklahoma.

Those businesses that are able to meet all of the requirements above will still need to think long and hard about adding a surcharge. The two major considerations are whether your competition is surcharging and, perhaps most importantly, how will your customers react.

For additional information on surcharging, or any other bankcard processing question, please contact Mac Hardin by e-mail at ([email protected]) or by phone at 800-999-4399 or 612-750-2988.
Sales Trends November 2020
Here are the most recent Illinois, Minnesota-Dakotas, and Wisconsin hardware store sales trends, gathered from association members using the MHA's monthly accounting services. The figures derived for each region include sales data from the following number of stores:

Illinois - 24 stores
Minn.-Dakotas - 14 stores
Wisconsin - 81 stores
Illinois Selects New House Speaker for the First Time in Four Decades
By Alec Laird, MHA Illinois Lobbyist and Vice President, Government Relations for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association

Michael J. Madigan, the longest serving speaker of a state assembly in United States history, saw his historic tenure come to an end this week. Madigan started his career in the Illinois House in January 1971. He rose to become House Majority Leader from 1977-1980 and then became Speaker in 1981. From 1981 to the current Assembly adjournment, he was Speaker for all but two years. Those two years were when the Republicans briefly had the majority in 1995-1996. He foresaw the importance of the judiciary very early in his career and focused on those elections including the Illinois Supreme Court. He not only ran the Illinois House for 38 of 40 years, but he also assumed the role of Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, straddling Illinois Democratic politics as a colossus. Additionally, his discipline and political mastery of even the most mundane details were renowned. He could be a steadfast ally or a formidable foe. He was sensitive to the fact that the Assembly, and the House in particular, is a co-equal branch. His focus was protecting his members and growing his majority. Candidate recruitment during his tenure was renowned. Many a Governor, Democrat and Republican alike, were frustrated when they failed to appreciate those underlying principles.

Embroiled in multiple investigations, which have snared people close to him, but have yet to implicate him, he was challenged for his speakership by three women members of the House Democratic Caucus. He was unable to garner more than 51 of the 60 votes needed to retain his speakership. On Monday evening, he announced he was suspending his campaign, touching off intense jockeying within the caucus. After multiple ballots and caucuses, State Representative Emmanuel Chris Welch emerged as the new Speaker of the Illinois House.

Speaker Welch first joined the Illinois House in January 2013 after terms on the District 209 Board of Education. Within the House, he has steadily moved up, having lead the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, but also having chaired the powerful House Executive Committee. He has built up a reputation as being able to shepherd complex issues through the legislative process. With his election, Speaker Welch makes history as the first black Illinoisan to lead the Illinois House. As a historical aside, Cecil Partee was the first black person to lead the Illinois Senate in 1975. He went on to serve as Treasurer of the City of Chicago and then Cook County State’s Attorney. Speaker Welch is a graduate of Northwestern University and John Marshall Law School. He is married, to his wife ShawnTe and are the parents of two children.
Wisconsin Assembly Approves Covid-19 Liability Protections
By Misha Lee, MHA Wisconsin Lobbyist

In the same week new lawmakers were sworn into office to kick off the 2021-2022 legislative session, members of the Wisconsin State Assembly wasted little time taking action on a second COVID-19 Relief Bill that many think is long overdue. Up until recently, 268 days had passed since the state Legislature met to take any action on legislation.

One major provision contained in the sweeping package of 44 different items in the bill would provide liability protections for businesses and other organizations that face the potential for frivolous lawsuits during the pandemic. Many business owners have expressed concern they may become victims of lawsuits as they struggle with the financial challenges, regulatory burdens, and economic uncertainty associated with reopening and rebuilding their businesses from the impact of COVID-19.

Assembly Bill 1 (AB 1) passed the Assembly on a party line vote of 56-34. Democrats support their own bill that does not include liability immunity language. Without liability protections, organizations including businesses, schools, universities, nonprofits and others could face costly litigation—even though they did everything right to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Importantly, the liability protections contained in AB 1 do not protect those entities that participated in reckless or wanton conduct, or intentional misconduct for non-compliance with local, state, and federal COVID-19 health requirements.

Here is a brief summary of the provision in the bill from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau:

The bill creates a liability exemption for an entity for the death of or injury to an individual or damages caused by an act or omission resulting in or relating to exposure (directly or indirectly) to COVID- 19 in the course of or through the performance or provision of the entity's functions or services. Specify that the provision would be in addition to, not in lieu of, other immunity granted by law, and would not limit immunity granted under any other provisions of law. Specify that immunity does not apply if the act or omission involves reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct. Specify that reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct does not include noncompliance with any national, state, or local order requiring businesses to close or limit capacity. The provision would apply to claims beginning on March 1, 2020, but not apply retroactively to actions already filed before the effective date of the provision.

For the purposes of the liability exemption create the following definitions:
“COVID-19” means the infection caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 or by any viral strain originating from SARS-CoV-2, and conditions associated with the infection.
“Entity” means a partnership, corporation, association, governmental entity, or other legal entity, including a school, institution of higher education, or nonprofit organization. The term would also include an employer or business owner, employee, agent, or independent contractor of the entity, regardless of whether the person is paid or an unpaid volunteer.

The next step is for the state Senate to hold a hearing and vote on the bill. Senate Republican leadership led by Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) have already expressed strong support for the liability protection language passed by the Assembly. However, some members of the 21-member Republican caucus have expressed other concerns that could jeopardize passage of the bill unless those differences are worked out between the Houses. Another key factor and uncertainty over the bill’s fate are whether or not Democratic Governor Tony Evers will support the package and sign it. Since the bill does not contain any appropriations of funding, the Governor cannot line-item veto it and would have to sign or veto the bill in its entirety. To date, the Governor has already expressed some reservations with the bill because it does not include some of his top priorities for addressing the pandemic. The Senate is expected to convene this week to vote on amendments to the COVID-19 Relief Bill and then will send it back to the Assembly for concurrence or more changes.

Similar liability protection language to the one that was approved by the Assembly has passed in at least four states with split government like Wisconsin including, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, and North Carolina. Overall, more than 20 states have enacted some type of COVID-19 liability protection and that number is expected to grow, especially with the lack of congressional action to address the issue.
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With over 100 different screening options, you have the ability to control your screening costs by choosing only those screenings most beneficial for your circumstance. Need help in choosing what to screen for? With Justifacts, MHA members always have access to a professional representative who can help you decide what screenings are right for you.


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Thomas Dorn
Dorn True Value Hardware & Rental
Madison, WI

For more information about background screening services available to MHA Members or to get set up with Justifacts, contact Andrea by phone (800-888-1817 ext. 365) or by email ([email protected]).