NAMA GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS — BI-WEEKLY UPDATE
This will be the final Government Affairs Update of 2013.
NAMA wishes you a happy holiday season and
a healthy and prosperous new year!
HAPPENINGS AFFECTING OUR INDUSTRY
NAMA's Public Policy Conference Briefing Delivers Summary of Advocacy Issues
NAMA recently presented attendees of the 2013 Public Policy Conference (PPC) with a Post Public Policy Conference Briefing. "Following the PPC, a significant amount of work has been done by conference attendees and NAMA staff and real progress has been made. We want to share this information with all our members," said Eric Dell, NAMA's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.
Federal Court Approves Swipe-Fee Settlement, but Trade Groups Plan Appeal
A U.S. District judge has approved the $5.7 billion settlement for retailers in the long-running legal fight over credit card interchange fees paid by merchants. The settlement approved last Friday in the class action suit originally filed in 2005 is meant to give retailers relief from the interchange fees charged by Visa and MasterCard. However, many retailers feel the settlement doesn't go far enough, and several large retail industry groups plan to appeal.
Beverage Industry Outlook: Declines in Carbonates, the Promise of 'Natural' and the War on Caffeine
From declining interest in soft drinks to the ongoing war on caffeine and the explosion of raw juices and functional beverages, 2013 has certainly been an eventful one for the beverage category. Count on another strong year for premium juices, coconut water and other functional beverages, as well as growing interest in sweetener blends that can satisfy both low-calorie needs and demand for "natural" marketing claims.
GOVERNMENT AFFAIR NEWS — FEDERAL & STATE
FDA Wants Proof of Anti-Bacterial Soap Claims
Manufacturers of nonprescription anti-bacterial hand soaps and body washes will soon be required to show their products are safe for long-term daily use and are more effective than plain soap in stopping the spread of infections, the FDA announced this week.
House-Senate Budget Conference Committee Announced Deal
House-Budget Conference Committee Co-Chairs Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray announced last week they have reached an agreement that cuts the deficit and prevents a government shutdown. The $85 billion deal rolls back sequestration for two years. The agreement also sets the FY 2014 discretionary spending level at $1.012 trillion.
Federal Farm Bill Negotiaitions Continue Along with 2008 Law
The House has passed an extension of farm law until the end of January as lawmakers try to finish work on a new five-year farm bill. Both the Senate and the House have passed farm bills this year, but they differ on how much to cut the nation's food stamp program and how to restructure farm subsidies. The House passed the extension amid fears that the expiration of dairy subsidies at the end of the year will cause milk prices to rise. But Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has assured Congress that will not happen before the end of January.
New Hampshire: Opponents of GMO Food Labeling Claims that Labeling Would Hurt the State
The debate over "GMO" foods has ramped up in the state of New Hampshire. A House committee has begun consideration on whether to recommend that food with genetically modified ingredients be clearly labeled as such.
New York: Gov. Cuomo Vetoes Vending Machine Bills
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed 34 bills into law late Wednesday and vetoed 32 others, rejecting bills that would have allowed the limited sale of sparklers in New York and exempted small vending machine sales from tax. Among those signed by Cuomo were bills increasing oversight of special-education providers, easing requirements for a business tax credit for hiring high-school students, modernizing state laws that govern non-profits, and requiring manufacturers to collect old mercury thermostats.
Texas: Comptroller Releases Official Revenue Statement: Good News for Franchise Tax Payers
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs today released her official revenue estimate incorporating the appropriations and changes in law made by the 83rd Legislature, and reflecting a more recent assessment of the state's fiscal health. The Comptroller now projects the state will end the current 2014-15 budget with a surplus of $2.6 billion — an amount $1.7 billion better than the preliminary estimates provided the legislature when the budget was passed last summer. That amount remains after new tax cuts are taken into account. Further, the state's 2015 franchise tax estimates are reduced to reflect the contingent 5 percent rate reduction provided for in House Bill 500. Taxpayers may now build those adjustments into their franchise tax forecasts.
Washington, D.C.: Tax Commission Includes EmployeeTax in Draft Proposal
The DC Tax Revision Commission released this week its draft plan to reform the D.C. tax code. The plan, which can be seen here, includes a variation of "Option 36," a per-employee tax on every DC employer. In the draft proposal (No. 12 on the new list), all D.C. employers would pay a $25 fee quarterly per employee with the D.C. government using unemployment reports to verify the number of employees. Employers with four or fewer employees would be exempt. While this is a draft proposal and lacking details, associations and nonprofits in the city would be included in the definition of employer.
International Food Safety Authority Reconfirms Safety of Aspartame
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced its final opinion on the safety of aspartame, confirming once again the low-calorie sweetener is safe for the majority of consumers. The only exception, as has been widely known for some time, are those born with phenylketonuria (PKU*), who should avoid aspartame. The decision is based on a rigorous review of all the available scientific research on aspartame and its components. Aspartame is used in more than 6,000 foods and beverages around the world — including yogurt, frozen desserts, soft drinks, cough drops and vitamins.