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HAPPENINGS AFFECTING OUR INDUSTRY
NAMA'S Inaugural Fly-In Soars
More than 200 NAMA members and guests convened in Washington D.C. this week for NAMA Takes the Hill, far exceeding the expectations for the association's inaugural Fly-In, according to Eric Dell, NAMA's SVP of Government Affairs.
"This first-ever Fly-In was a tremendous success by any metric," Dell said. "We are blown away by the support this event received from our members, sponsors and legislators. The impact and value of the relationships we've enhanced with lawmakers is critically important as we expand NAMA's footprint in Washington. The Fly-In demonstrated advocacy in action without question and will help move the needle on the industry’s most significant issues."
Attendees representing 35 states plus D.C. took part in more than 180 meetings with elected officials and their staffs from both the Senate and the House. Discussions focused on three major issues — Calorie Disclosure/Health and Wellness, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act and Coin and Currency. Some of the largest state delegations included Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and California.
More than 400 people attended a NAMA-hosted reception at the U.S. House Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill showcasing high-tech vending machines — including a Crane FitPick machine, two diji-touch® machines and Canteen's enr.G® machine stocked with a selection of the industry's "better for you" and FitPick-compliant products, along with traditional favorites.
NAMA Fly-In by the Numbers
With results being finalized following the Fly-In held last week in Washington, D.C., NAMA announced today participants met with a record 62 percent of the U.S. Senate and 29 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives, reaching a total of 35 percent of congressional offices overall.
Nearly 200 Fly-in attendees participated in 186 meetings with elected officials and their staffs on Capitol Hill, building awareness on key refreshment service industry issues and further expanding the association's footprint in Washington.
The Fly-In, the first and most comprehensive NAMA advocacy effort to date, drew participants from 35 states and the District of Columbia. Meeting discussions focused on three main issues: Calorie Disclosure/Health and Wellness, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act and Coin and Currency.
FitPick at the Fly-In: Nutrition is a Key Focus of Capitol Hill Meetings and Reception
NAMA's nutrition and wellness efforts, including the FitPick® program, will be prominently featured throughout the NAMA Fly-In, underscoring the importance of the industry's commitment during the inaugural advocacy event taking place July 21-22 in Washington, D.C.
"Given today's health and wellness challenges, our industry's efforts to provide consumers with nutrition information and better for you snack options is more important than ever," said Roni Moore, NAMA Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations.
"The refreshment services industry has had a commitment to nutrition since 2005 with FitPick. Sharing information with our elected officials on the program will enhance awareness of how FitPick is an important part of the nutrition solution."
NAMA will host a special reception Wednesday, July 22 from noon - 2 p.m. at the U.S. House Rayburn Building, Room B-339, on Capitol Hill. The event will showcase high-tech vending machines — including a Crane FitPick machine, two diji-touch® machines and Canteen’s enr.G® machine — stocked with a selection of the industry's "better for you" and FitPick-compliant products, along with traditional favorites.
How Come Your Vending Machine Doesn't Have Reese's in it Right Now?
Jose is the distribution manager at Monumental Vending, the Beltsville, Maryland, company that services the machines at The Post, along with 4,000 other snack-food machines in the Washington area. Every one of those machines has a cellphone inside that transmits data to Jose’s computer. That way, he knows how many candy bars, bags of chips and cans of soda to send out on the twice-weekly resupply runs.
I was introduced to Jose by Monumental's president, Craig Kushner, my guide on a recent tour of Monumental's cavernous Beltsville warehouse. I had selfish reasons for getting in touch with Craig. I wanted to know what happened to my Snickers.
A Snickers bar sometimes helps me power through my midday malaise. But recently, I noticed that the Snickers were gone from the machine. How come?
GOVERNMENT AFFAIR NEWS — FEDERAL & STATE
GMO Labels Can't Be Mandated, House Says
Food companies would not have to disclose whether their products include genetically modified ingredients under legislation passed by the House recently.
The House bill is backed by the food industry, which has fought mandatory labeling efforts in several states around the country. The legislation, which passed 275-150, would prevent states from requiring package labels to indicate the presence of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
So far, Vermont is the only state set to require the labels. That law will take effect in July 2016 if it survives a legal challenge from the food industry. Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring the labeling, but those measures don't take effect unless neighboring states follow suit.
The country's largest food companies say genetically modified foods are safe and that labels would be misleading. They say a patchwork of laws around the country would be expensive for companies and confusing for consumers.
Senate Passes Highway Bill and Short-Term Fix
The Senate passed a long-term transportation bill, but with House lawmakers already dispersed for their August recess, the bill will become just one more sticky issue on a jam-packed congressional agenda in the fall.
The $350 billion long-term bill was approved recently on a 65-34 vote with bipartisan support. It would make changes to highway, transit, railroad and auto safety programs, but its sponsors were only able to find enough money to pay for the first three years of the six-year bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called the bill's passage, "a win for our country."
"Many thought we'd never get here, but we have," he said.
Immediately after the vote, the Senate took up a three-month patch previously passed by the House that extends the government's authority to process highway and transit aid payments to states through Oct. 29. It passed by a vote of 91-4 and heads to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature. Without congressional action, that authority would have expired at midnight Friday, July 31. House Republican leaders opted for the patch to give themselves more time to work on a long-term — and long-sought — transportation bill.
Department of Labor Announces Proposed FLSA Overtime Rule Changes
Employers are seeking ways to understand the proposed changes to the overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act that the Department of Labor announced this week. The revisions could impact millions when the final ruling possibly becomes effective next year.
The bottom line for employers is that any employee currently making less than $24.25 per hour, $970 per week, or $50,440 annually that are currently ineligible for overtime pay may now be eligible for overtime pay beginning in 2016. There are a number of industries that will feel the immediate impact to their business due to this proposed change. Employers will need to identify any employees currently exempt from overtime pay that make less than the new salary requirements, as these employees will now be eligible for overtime pay. Many employers will be faced with the possibility of reducing hours worked to 40 or less per workweek, in order to avoid overtime pay. Management will need to be diligent in watching hours worked for those employees who do not meet the new salary requirements, or will be legally obligated to pay overtime pay at a rate of 1-1/2 times their normal rate of pay for all hours worked over 40.
Alabama: Biggest Tax Increases in Bentley Plan in Doubt, Lawmakers Say
The biggest tax increases in Gov. Robert Bentley's budget plan appear unlikely to pass during the special session, according to two lawmakers who took part in a recent meeting of House and Senate members. Bentley has proposed $302 million in tax increases to support the General Fund, which faces cuts of about $200 million, or 11 percent, without new revenue.
The largest component in the governor's plan is to repeal a deduction allowed to taxpayers who itemize their state income tax returns. They could no longer deduct Social Security taxes paid, part of the FICA withholdings.
If legislators reject that idea, the governor suggested as an alternative a soft drink tax of 5 cents per 12 ounces. Of the two, ending the FICA deduction is his preference. Both proposals are estimated to raise about $182 million a year.
Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee, said he did not see much support for either. Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, put it bluntly.
"The FICA and soft drink tax are off the table and everything else is being considered," Dial said.
California: Vending Machines Spark Tax Debate
If you buy it in a grocery store, you don't pay sales taxes. If you buy it from a vending machine, you do. Fair?
Assemblyman Matthew Dababneh doesn't think so, but so far some of his colleagues disagree.
But the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee held on to the bill, effectively blocking it for the year. Its outlook for next year is uncertain, although its proponents are hopeful.
Dababneh, D-Encicno, is carrying AB 155, which would eliminate the sales tax for food products sold in vending machines. The tax brings in about $5 million annually into state coffers, according to the Board of Equalization.
"It is the position of the vending operators in California that their companies and their customers should not be forced to pay tax on food products that would be exempt if they were purchased at a retail location rather than through a vending machine," Dababneh says.
Texas: Ag Commissioner Miller Defends His Deep-Fried Decisions in His State of Agriculture Address
Washington is more of a threat to Texas than recent storms that dropped trillions of gallons of rain, flooded the state and killed people, Miller said.
In his characteristic folksy style, white-hatted Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller cheered his team and celebrated the achievements of his first six months in office with his State of Agriculture Address on Wednesday, July 8. But while he characterized the period as one of "amazing successes," Miller said there’s more to do, so, "Cinch up your saddles tight."
Before a crowd of about 50 people packed into a small room at the Texas Department of Agriculture, Miller stressed his motto, "Texas Agriculture Matters," listing his department's efforts to promote it locally and internationally.
The TDA has hosted trade delegations to 21 countries, sent teams to the Philippines, Malaysia and Australia, and made plans in the next six months to conduct "trade missions" in Israel, China, Cuba and South Africa, Miller said. He also highlighted a daily market report service discontinued in 2011 that Miller says he's reinstituted, "all at no cost to Texas taxpayers."
Texas: Schools Can Use Deep Fryers But Have No Interest and Could Lose Federal Funding For Doing So
Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller says it's a local decision; school districts say parents have no interest in going backward on the health of children.
When the new school year begins this fall, there will be new rules in effect that allow school cafeterias across Texas to use deep fryers for the first time in ten years. The change, taking effect this month, was part of newly-ensconced Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller's efforts on behalf of local control and against what he calls "federal overreach."
But, it may end up being only an empty gesture before it can amount to empty calories.
Cultural changes, federal nutritional standards, and pragmatic concerns are likely to prevent a statewide revival of the once-popular school production of grease. While no federal regulations prevent the use of deep fryers, they do require school meals to meet nutritional requirements such as deriving less than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat.
Schools that fail that standard can lose federal funding, which, in addition to subsidizing every student meal served in public schools, pays for all reduced and free lunches. During the last school year, Washington bought meals for almost 3.2 million Texas kids.
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