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Alabama Vending Association Hosts 2015 Annual Legislative Event at Alabama State Capitol

AVA Annual Dinner and Legislative Day with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill
Alabama legislators once again turned out to participate in this year's Alabama Vending Association's (AVA) Annual Dinner and Legislative Day earlier this week. AVA Lobbyist Curt Lee coordinated the effort which included a reception and dinner with more than 10 state legislators on the evening of Tuesday, March 17, followed by a legislative day on Wednesday, March 18 at the Alabama State Capitol. At the Capitol, the group was personally greeted by Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, and House Commerce & Small Business Committee Chairman Jack Williams for a presentation and question and answer session. Afterward, the AVA members visited more than 150 legislators' offices and delivered product samples provided by members and suppliers.

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Northwest Automatic Vending Association Hosts Oregon Legislative Day

NAVA's legislative day at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem
The Northwest Automatic Vending Association (NAVA) hosted a legislative day recently at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem.

The NAVA members met with their state senators and representatives to educate and inform them about the industry and its contributions to the state's economy. The group distributed product sample bags and information about the association and NAMA's FitPick program to the 90 legislative offices.

The event focused on educating lawmakers on the refreshment services industry. "NAVA members from Oregon were able to talk with their legislators about the industry and share information about their individual companies," said NAVA Legislative Consultant John Powell. "At the present time we are not dealing with any legislation that will impact our industry, so the meetings focused on educating our lawmakers about current issues and trends in the industry," Powell concluded.

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Lobbyists Press for US Dollar Coin, Despite Public Resistance
With America's national debt continuing to climb, Congress is constantly debating ways to save money. The Dollar Coin Alliance, a lobbying group, says billions could be saved if dollar coins were used instead of paper bills. But many people won't use them. The U.S. government tried to push dollar coins again in recent years, but then suspended almost all production in 2011. Jim Kolbe, co-chairman of the Dollar Coin Alliance, thinks switching to the coin is worth it.

"The coin does cost more to produce, roughly on the neighborhood of 17 cents versus the 5 or 6 cents that a paper dollar costs to produce," he said. "However, the coin lasts 35 years, and it's made of mostly recycled metals, and the paper has to be produced from new materials, and we shred 3 billion of those every year because they wear out." For years, the former Arizona congressman has been pushing legislation that would prop up the dollar coin by phasing out the greenback — a move that has met resistance from both politicians and the public. But today, he said, the climate has changed, and a recent poll indicates 61 percent of Americans like the idea.

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Senator Harry Reid Announces Retirement
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada will not seek re-election, he said in a recent interview with The New York Times. Reid has led the Senate Democrats since 2005. Reid said he will work to help the Democrats take control of the Senate again, noting he felt it was "inappropriate" to "soak up all those resources on me, when I can be devoting those resources to the caucus." Reid also warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, he'd be working hard until the end of his current term.
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Arizona: Bill Would Prohibit Grocery Bag Fees
State lawmakers are moving to kill efforts by cities and counties to regulate grocery bags before the idea spreads. On a 5-3 vote, the House Commerce Committee approved legislation which would make it illegal for a community to impose any sort of fee or deposit on the use of "auxiliary containers." That includes everything from soda bottles and cups to disposable bags "used for transporting merchandise or food."

The provision in SB 1241 is being moved in tandem with a prohibition against cities and counties from requiring businesses and building owners from having to report their energy consumption. That part of the legislation is in reaction to a proposal by the city of Phoenix to monitor energy use. Tim Lawless, lobbyist for the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, said that will lead to building owners having to make their energy use public, perhaps for the purpose of embarrassing them into becoming more efficient. And the next step, he said, would be mandates to cut energy use.

But the more immediate impact would be on efforts to limit those bags that consumers use to carry home everything from light bulbs and cat food to the leftover shrimp and lobster sauce from the local Chinese restaurant. So far only Bisbee has enacted such a law, imposing a nickel-a-bag tax on disposable bags. The retailers get to keep two cents for the cost of bags and administering the fee, with the balance going to a fund which can be used to provide reusable carryout bags and promoting conservation and recycling programs.

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California: County, Cities Near Los Angeles Consider Raising Minimum Wage
At a recent hearing on raising the minimum wage in Los Angeles, City Councilman Curren Price listened attentively to three economists present their pitches for or against the idea. Then he asked his first question: "If more and more surrounding areas raise the wage, including the County of L.A., what impact does that have on the city?" Some analysts have warned that if Los Angeles raises its minimum wage, businesses will flee beyond the city limits, to places like Burbank and Long Beach, where they can pay employees less. But not long after Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed raising the Los Angeles minimum wage last September, Santa Monica and West Hollywood began studying the possibility ... and keeping tabs on L.A.
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Colorado Lawmakers Begin Debate for a $12.50 Minimum Wage by 2020
A Colorado House committee recently passed two bills to potentially raise the minimum wage. The first would allow urban and resort communities to raise the local minimum wages, and the other would let voters in 2016 decide on a plan that could hike the state minimum wage to $12.50 an hour by 2020. Both passed on a 6-5 party-line vote with Democrats in support.

Low-wage earners spoke about how they work full-time jobs for big, wealthy companies but still depend on food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing to get by. Andrew Olson, 25, a McDonald's worker in Aurora, said at a rally on the Capitol steps that he is getting by with government assistance and still can't afford to get treatment for his impacted wisdom teeth. After two years on the job, he still makes only 20 cents above the state's minimum wage of $8.23 an hour.

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New York: Minimum Wage a Top Issue, Heastie Says
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie recently insisted that raising the minimum wage is a top budget priority for his chamber's Democratic majority. "It absolutely has to be on the table as far as we're concerned," he said, later adding that the conference has "had every indication so far in discussions of the budget that minimum wage will be considered." Heastie's comments came a day after Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos said there haven't been serious discussions on raising the wage, a move business groups and the GOP have consistently opposed. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's communications director said that a boost in the wage is a top priority.
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Texas: Senate Passes Patrick's $4.5 Billion Tax Cut Package
The Texas Senate recently approved Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's $4.5 billion tax relief package to cut property and business margins taxes, tossing the ball into the House's court. The biggest piece of that package, Senate Bill 1, authored by Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, passed the Senate 26 to 5. The bill devotes about $2.4 billion to increase homestead exemptions from school property taxes.

"We need to relieve some of this burden on homeowners, and that relief needs to correspond with home values, now and into the future," Nelson said. The constitutional amendment needed to approve the property tax changes passed 23 to 8.

Texas homeowners currently receive a $15,000 homestead exemption from school property taxes — for example, the owner of a $100,000 house would only pay school taxes on $85,000. Nelson’s bill would change the homestead exemption rate to 25 percent of the state's median home market value, raising the exemption to about $33,000 in 2016. State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, a co-author of the bill, estimated the larger exemption would save homeowners more than $200 a year.

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