Environmental Legislation Takes Center Stage as Budget Talks Heat Up
There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel in Albany, as legislators and the Governor continue to make progress towards reaching a budget resolution ahead of the March 31 deadline. The last few days have seen compromises reached on a number of important issues and both sides seem optimistic that they will be able to pass the budget on time.

Recent discussions have centered on environmental issues, specifically a possible plastic bag ban and mandated commercial organic recycling for large food scrap generators. No language has been finalized on these topics but we are keeping close tabs on these issues. Our Government Affairs team is having consistent dialogue with legislators and their staff as we try to ensure that the restaurant industry is being considered during these ongoing negotiations.

Albany County Polystyrene Ban Takes Effect
Yesterday, Albany County’s expanded ban on polystyrene products took effect which means all food service establishments will have to cease using the products made from that material. The local law, signed last fall, expands the county’s original law passed in 2014 which only prohibited use at chain restaurants. This type of legislation is becoming more and more commonplace around the state as Suffolk County is looking to pass something similar. Exemptions to this law do exist for nonprofit organizations that sell food at fundraising events “incidental to its primary purpose.” Waivers can also be issued for entities that can show the switch would be a financial hardship.

McDonald’s Will No Longer Lobby Against Minimum Wage Increases
In a letter to the National Restaurant Association, McDonald’s Vice President, Genna Gent stated that the company will no longer be putting resources towards fighting against minimum wage increases at the federal, state or local levels. The letter goes on to say that the company will also cease “participating in association advocacy efforts designed expressly to defeat wage increases.” This represents an abrupt shift in ideology for McDonald’s who previously lobbied against these increases.

Cannabis Outlook Seminar and Additional New York City CBD Enforcement Guidance
On Tuesday, NYSRA joined Norris McLaughlin and restaurateur, legal, and public relations attendees at a seminar about the legality of using cannabis products in food. The panel explained that while industrial hemp is no longer illegal, the use of CBD in foods or beverages is still prohibited by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA is aware that more guidance and study in this area is needed. Hearings had been scheduled for April, but will now likely be pushed back due to the FDA Commissioner's resignation.

Based on advisory from the NYC Department of Health (NYCDOH), we are currently in an education and outreach period before formal enforcement starts. Beginning July 1, the NYCDOH will require establishments to throw out or return CBD-infused food or drink. Beginning October 1, the NYCDOH will also issue violations for CBD in food or drink, which could include fines and impact the letter grade. This enforcement will be done during routine inspections, and there will not be a CBD-driven round of inspections. It's important to note that pre-packaged foods with CBD in them, including baked goods or water bottles, are included in this ban. It is also prohibited to offer CBD for customers to add into restaurant food/drink themselves.

New NYC Legislation on Kids' Meals Drinks
This afternoon, New York City Council passed Intro 1064 B, which will impact any restaurant in the city that offers a bundled meal for children. For such meals, the default beverage offered must now be water, low-fat milk, or fruit/vegetable juice. Restaurants may still substitute another beverage, such as soda, upon request. This law will take effect 120 days after it becomes law.
NYSRA will continue to keep you updated on all of these issues. For questions or concerns, please contact our Government Affairs Director, Kevin Dugan at 800.452.5212 or kevin@nysra.org or NYC Government Affairs Coordinator, Kathleen Reilly at kathleenr@nyrsa.org .
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