November 2020
Prepared and Distributed by The Midwest Hardware Association, Inc.
New Occupancy Restrictions For Illinois Hardware Stores
Effective Friday, November 20 at 12:01 a.m., hardware stores will be restricted to consumer/customer capacity limits of 25%; employees and vendors are NOT COUNTED in the 25%. The occupancy restriction will remain in place until the states positivity rates decline to an “acceptable” level.

Governor JB Pritzker’s announcement, including but not limited to; additional COVID-19 mitigation retail restrictions allowing all retail operations to be opened, albeit with different consumer capacity limits. In addition, the administration is no longer distinguishing retailers as “essential” and “non-essential.”

Occupancy limits are based on the square footage of the whole premise and determined by the fire marshal through the local fire code. The local fire marshal should have on file or should be able to point each retailer to the occupancy limits in the fire code. The total occupancy level as determined by the fire code should be reduced to 25% or to make it easier, multiply the total occupancy by .25.
Minnesota Allows Full Occupancy at Retail Locations But Clamps Down on Other Sectors

MHA members in Minnesota are allowed to operate at 100% occupancy capacity under safety precautions announced by the Walz administration. The move recognizes the relatively short amount of time most customers spend in a retail store. It also recognizes that the retail community has worked tirelessly to implement procedures which help protect their workers and their customers.

Even though all Minnesota retailers may be opened at 100% capacity, MHA reminds all of our members to continue practices regarding face coverings, proper social distancing, hand washing, continual cleaning of your stores and communication to your staff about not reporting to work if displaying symptoms of COVID-19. Retail specific guidance from the State of Minnesota on COVID-19 mitigation practices may be found here.

One thing that has not changed is that all Minnesota businesses are still required to have a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan developed for their operations. If you have not yet developed such a plan, more information may be found here.

Meanwhile, beginning Friday, November 20 at 11:59 P.M., restaurants, bars and food courts will be forced to stop in-person service. Organized youth and amateur adult sports will be suspended, indoor recreation facilities will close and events such as celebrations, receptions and private parties will be paused for four weeks.

Along with retail hardware and other stores opened at 100% capacity, the following sectors remain open with no changes:

  • Churches and worship centers remain open at 50% capacity.
  • Salons and other personal care services remain open at 50% capacity.
  • Outdoor recreation such as skating and skiing remain open.
  • Schools continue to operate under the Safe Learning Plan at the discretion of local school districts.
  • Child care providers can remain open.
  • Colleges and universities continue to operate under guidance from the state.
Sales Trends September 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 - 25 stores
Minn.-Dakotas - 13 stores
Wisconsin - 78 stores
No Blue Wave in Wisconsin As Legislative Republicans Keep Majority
By Misha Lee, MHA Wisconsin Lobbyist

We were told a political blue wave was imminent on Tuesday, November 3rd. Every Wisconsin poll conducted since this past spring had Joe Biden defeating Donald Trump on average by 6.7 percent, according to Real Clear Politics (RCP) data. The mainstream news media, night after night told us the President had no chance of winning in Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s respected Marquette University Law School poll had Biden ahead by 5-points. And an ABC/Washington Post poll, just a week out from the election, had Biden leading by a whopping 17 percentage points. Internal campaign polls were hinting that numerous down-ballot legislative races, particularly in the Milwaukee suburbs, would get swept up in the wave. Privately, Wisconsin Republicans were preparing for a worst-case, “bloodbath” scenario.

Then November 4th came and we woke up to discover that the blue wave never came and the polling was wrong for a second straight Presidential election. While Trump lost the state of Wisconsin to Biden in unofficial results by 0.7 percent, the opposite of a blue wave happened here and elsewhere across the country. Republicans so far have done better than analysts expected in state legislative contests, as well as the U.S. Senate and House.

To date, at the federal level the GOP has so far picked up 7 House seats and are positioned to win additional contests narrowing the Democratic house majority going into the next Congress. In the U.S. Senate, Democrats won seats in Arizona and Colorado, while losing one in Alabama. The biggest surprise of the night though was Republican incumbents thought to be in danger in Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, and South Carolina all held on, comfortably winning in most cases. With 50 seats declared for Republicans, control of the U.S. Senate will come down to two runoff races in the state of Georgia on January 5. If incumbents David Perdue or Kelly Loeffler hold onto their seats, Republicans will have at least a one seat majority and keep control. If Democrats can sweep both contests, Democrats will regain control of the majority with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the deciding vote on many issues.

In Wisconsin, Senate Republicans managed to increase their majority from 18 seats to 21 seats by knocking off an incumbent Democrat and winning an open seat, falling just one seat short of a two-thirds veto proof majority. Several incumbent Republicans who many thought could fall on election night, like longtime Senator Alberta Darling near Milwaukee and Senator Patrick Testin in central Wisconsin, easily won their re-election. Assembly Republicans did lose two seats in the Milwaukee suburbs, but they maintained their majority with 61 seats and almost defeated two Democratic incumbents in northern Wisconsin, when they were fully prepared on election eve to lose up to 8 seats. It’s no secret to anyone paying attention that Republicans were out-polled and heavily out-spent by Democrats this election cycle by a 2:1 margin on the prediction of a Democratic blue wave, yet they managed to return comfortably in control of both houses for the upcoming 2021-22 legislative session. The result of the election in Wisconsin is politically significant for state lawmakers here because in 2021 they start the important process of redistricting that will determine legislative district boundaries and possibly partisan control of the legislature for the next decade. Fortunately for Democrats, Governor Tony Evers will have a say in the redistricting plan which is likely to end up in the courts. But this next partisan battle makes the 2022 gubernatorial race that much more consequential for both parties. And that race has already begun.

Next session, there will be a total of 24 new lawmakers sworn in to the Legislature in January. Sixteen are new to the State Assembly (6 Republicans and 10 Democrats) and 8 will join the State Senate (5 Republicans and 3 Democrats). Five of the Senator-elect members previously served in the State Assembly. The 24 new lawmakers is slightly below the 27 new lawmakers that were on average sworn in each session over the last 10 years. Nearly two-thirds of the 99 members of the State Assembly were elected in 2014 or since 2014. 59% of Assembly Republicans and 68% of Assembly Democrats have been elected since 2014. Almost half of Assembly Democrats (47%) were elected in the last two election cycles. 70% of the State Senate has been elected since 2014. Over three-fourths of the Senate Republican Caucus (76%) have been elected since 2014 and just over half (7 of 12) of the Senate Democrats have been elected since 2014. These figures represent a newer and less experienced Legislature than years past.

Shortly following the election, all four legislative caucuses convened to quickly elect their respective leadership for the 2021-2022 legislative session with some new faces. The most notable changes took place in the Senate where Senator Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) was elected to serve as the new Senate Republican Majority Leader replacing outgoing, longtime Senator Scott Fitzgerald who won election to U.S. House of Representatives in the 5th congressional district. Senator Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) was chosen to serve as Senate President replacing Senator Roger Roth of Appleton who came up short after running for the Majority Leader position.

Here is the full slate of caucus leadership for next session:

Assembly Republicans
Speaker - Robin Vos (R-Rochester)
Speaker Pro Tempore - Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva)
Majority Leader - Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna)
Assistant Majority Leader - Kevin Petersen (R-Waupaca)
Caucus Chair - Tyler Vorpagel (R-Plymouth)
Assistant Caucus Chair - Cindi Duchow (R-Town of Delafield)
Caucus Secretary - Jessie Rodriguez (R-Oak Creek)
Caucus Sergeant at Arms - Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem)

Assembly Democrats
Minority Leader - Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh)
Assistant Minority Leader - Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton)
Caucus Chair - Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit)
Assistant Caucus Chair - Lisa Subeck (D-Madison)
Caucus Secretary - Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield)
Caucus Sergeant at Arms - Kaylan Haywood (D-Milwaukee)

Senate Republicans
Majority Leader - Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg)
President - Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield)
President Pro-Tempore - Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point)
Assistant Majority Leader - Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac)
Caucus Chair - Van Wanggaard (R-Racine)
Caucus Vice-Chair - Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls)

Senate Democrats
Minority Leader - Janet Bewley (D-Mason)
Assistant Minority Leader - Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville)
Caucus Chair - Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire)
Assistant Caucus Chair - Melissa Sargent (D-Madison)
The Election is Over in Illinois-Now What?
By Alec Laird, MHA Illinois Lobbyist and Vice President, Government Relations for Illinois Retail Merchants Association

Election Recap
The Illinois elections brought a few surprises, but none more so than the fact that Republicans picked up seats in the House. Most prognosticators believed that there would be a “blue wave” in the suburbs. This did not materialize. Despite the pick-ups, Republican will still remain in the super minority.

Less of a surprise was the failure of the progressive income tax ballot measure. Once all of the finger pointing is done regarding the failure of the ballot measure, it is clear that the Illinois General Assembly will once again look to increasing the income tax and remove any corporate “tax loopholes”, “benefits”, or “exemptions.”

Lame Duck Session
Lame Duck session occurs every two years after the general election. It occurs in early January, (usually around the 3rd) and continues until the swearing in of the new General Assembly on the second Wednesday of January. Lame Duck session is a dangerous time because incumbents that have lost their seats are free to vote without any repercussions from voters in their districts. As such, controversial issues that cannot be passed during a normal session are generally considered.

This year, in wake of the recent civil unrest, the Black Caucus is demanding that issues regarding social justice and inequality be considered during Lame Duck session. Over the last few months, both the House and the Senate have been holding hearings regarding the Black Caucus’ agenda that includes the following:

  1. Criminal justice reform, violence reduction and police accountability;
  2. Education and workforce development;
  3. Economic access, equity and opportunity; and
  4. Health care and human services.

Specific language has not been released, but MHA can expect retail theft to be a part of the Black Caucus agenda. Specifically, increasing the retail felony theft threshold from $300 to $2,000. MHA stands strongly opposed to this idea.

Additionally, voters have now rejected the progressive income tax ballot measure so it is possible that an income tax increase will be considered during Lame Duck as will additional budget measures. Also, energy reform, ethics reform, and COVID-19 related issues including, but not limited to, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, liquor and paid sick leave will also most likely be discussed during the Lame Duck session.

What to Expect in the Spring
Despite the fact that Republicans picked up seats in the House, the House Democrats still maintain a supermajority. As is the case today, no Republican votes will be needed to pass a bill or a veto-proof majority bill. The first order of business will be the budget. The second will be redistricting.

The most important issue facing the state of Illinois-as always-is its budget. Due to the voter rejection of the progressive income tax, a flat tax increase will be required. In fact, the Lt. Governor stated publicly before the election that if the ballot measure failed to pass, Democrats expect to increase the flat tax by 20%. Even that increase will not be enough to put the state on sound financial footing. As such, businesses and residents can expect there to be new taxes on services included in the mix. This will put the Retailer’s Discount (the small amount of sales tax money that retail stores are allowed to keep) back in the crosshairs of the General Assembly. Although, thanks to the way “Leveling the Playing Field” was structured, it makes it much harder for them to do.

The second most pressing matter will be the redistricting legislation. This legislation will determine the Illinois legislative districts for the next ten years. Given the Democrats control both chambers via a supermajority and the Governor’s office, it can be assumed those districts will be drawn in a way that will benefit the Democrats.

Finally, MHA members should expect there to be the normal list of so-called pro labor issues that include, but are not limited to, statewide paid sick leave, scheduling mandates, unemployment insurance, workers compensation, and independent contractor/misclassification reform.
Service Spotlight
Business Forms & Supplies
Remember to make MHA your first contact for business forms and supplies. MHA members can purchase a variety of forms/supplies such as:

  • Gift Certificates
  • Purchase Order/Receipt Books
  • Employment Applications
  • Labels and Tags
  • Personalized Envelopes and Letterhead
  • Checks and Deposit Slips


“MHA makes it so easy to order/re-order checks and envelopes. Within two minutes, I can call the office, tell them my name and store, and ask to order/re-order my computer-generated checks with the self-sealing, dual window envelopes. It doesn’t get any easier than that. I wish the rest of my daily tasks went that smoothly!”

Beth Grill
Gus Bock’s Ace Hardware
Dyer, IN

For more information about MHA’s Business Forms & Supplies, please contact Judy Borski by phone (800-888-1817 ext. 361) or by email [email protected].