As the 2015 legislative session comes to a close, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) identified several important regulatory and legislative wins that will benefit retailers and their millions of employees and customers.
"Given all that is at stake, it is essential that the retail industry engage policymakers at all levels to ensure they understand the impact that their decisions have on retailers, their employees and their customers," said RILA President Sandy Kennedy. "Thanks to collaboration with member companies and partners, the retail industry successfully influenced a number of important outcomes this year. We look forward to building on these successes in 2016."
Below is a summary of the retail industry's 2015 public policy wins. A more detailed account of the successes can be found here.
Repeal of ACA Auto-Enrollment
The provision, repealed in October, had the potential of forcing employees into a health plan that they did not want or need and creating an administrative nightmare for businesses.
IRS Repair Safe Harbor Rule
The IRS safe harbor rule eliminated the substantial confusion about which costs of store remodels and refreshes should be expensed and deducted immediately or must be capitalized and depreciated over time.
Congress Approves Cyber-Information Sharing Legislation
The legislation gives businesses the tools and legal protections needed to share cyber-threat indicators. Doing so allows the private sector and government to better collaborate to tackle this evolving threat and protect consumers.
Trade Promotion Authority Passes; Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Reached
Along with a diverse coalition of industry groups, RILA pressed Congress to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), laying the groundwork for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that will open markets and save American consumers billions of dollars in taxes and tariffs.
Retailers were successful in ensuring the elimination of duties on thousands of consumer goods and additional flexibilities on high-tariff items such as apparel and footwear, and the elimination of supply chain barriers.
Final FASB Rule Reflects RILA Recommendations
Last fall, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) proposed to simplify the measurement of inventory by requiring that it be measured at the lower of cost or market, or at net realizable value, whichever is lower. RILA's Financial Leaders Council expressed concerns that, for retailers, the desired simplification goal would not be met because of the nuanced interaction between the retail inventory method (RIM) and the last-in, first-out (LIFO) method. FASB heard the concerns that the simplification proposal would instead make the accounting more complicated and costly, due to the complexities of the measurement of inventory in the retail industry. Consequently, in its final amendments issued in July, FASB ASU No. 2015-11 does not apply, as originally intended, to inventory that is measured using LIFO or the retail inventory method. The amendments apply to all other inventory, which includes inventory that is measured using first-in, first-out (FIFO) or average cost.
TCPA Grants RILA Petition on Text Messaging
In an omnibus order released on July 10, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted RILA's petition on a narrow Telephone Consumer Protect Act (TCPA) issue relating to on-demand texts, despite the fact that the Commission denied most of the petitions submitted.
Long-term Transportation Bill Signed into Law; Work on Port Issues Continue
RILA supported a long-term highway and transit bill that brings certainty and stability for retailers and other industries that are dependent on our nation's infrastructure. Importantly for retailers, the bill establishes goals for a national multimodal freight policy and designates the Department of Transportation's Under Secretary for Policy to develop a national freight strategic plan, which would include forecasting future freight volumes and identifying best practices for improving current movement trends.
The law also incorporates language for establishing a pilot program to study the benefits and safety impacts of allowing a driver between the ages of 18-21 to operate heavy trucks on the national highway system in order to address a looming trucker shortage.
Cadillac Tax Delayed
As a result of the advocacy efforts by RILA and a coalition of stakeholders, the end-of-year funding package delayed for two years the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) 40 percent excise tax on employer benefits and authorized this tax to become a deductible business expense. The tax, also known as the Cadillac Tax, threatens the benefits that retailers provide to millions of retail employees and their families, and stifles employers' ability to create innovative plan designs.
DOT Hours of Service Rule Delayed
Language contained within the end-of-year spending package further delayed restrictions on driving hours for the trucking industry, enabling retailers to more efficiently utilize our nation's supply chain. RILA, along with a coalition of business associations, advocated for the enactment of this policy. The action ensures that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will more extensively examine how restrictions on hours-of-service policies may impact highway safety and drivers' health prior to further implementing any changes to industry standards.
RILA Recommendations Adopted in Drone Regulations
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) incorporated some of the key recommendations put forth by RILA in its interim final rule on the registration of drones for recreational use. Most importantly, the FAA will implement an online registration process for consumers— instead of the system that the agency had originally proposed at the point-of-sale.
Chip and PIN Campaign Keeps Heat on Banks
In 2015, RILA executed a multi-pronged campaign to educate policymakers, consumers and other stakeholders on the considerable investment that retailers made in order to accept new chip cards, while also highlighting the substantial inadequacies with the chip-and-signature cards being issued by the banks.
RILA will continue to be outspoken on this issue in 2016, arguing that American cardholders deserve security equal to or better than the security that banks provide cardholders elsewhere around the world.
Momentum Builds to Reestablish 40-Hour Full-Time Standard
The RILA-led effort to increase the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) definition for full-time employment gained considerable steam in 2015. In January, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Save American Workers Act of 2015 (H.R. 30) by a bipartisan vote. The bill would increase the definition of full-time employment from 30 hours per week to 40 hours. This vote indicated an important shift in the political rhetoric among many in the Republican conference away from an all-or-nothing repeal mentality.
Further, in December, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the ACA's full-time definition is causing problems for employees and employers. In comments made on December 17 about the impact to workers, Clinton said "there is a disincentive within our system that we need to deal with." RILA will build on the momentum gained in 2015 to press for increasing the full-time definition in 2016.
RILA is the trade association of the world's largest and most innovative retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers domestically and abroad.