With Congress back at work, several of the CFA’s key legislative issues are being hotly debated on the Hill. In true Washington style, however, and even on the rare occasion that all parties agree, certain issues remain on the table.
 
The Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA) continues to work on the following issues:
 
1099 Repeal

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act (“Act”) by a vote of 314-112. As you may recall, Section 9006 of the health care law created new 1099 reporting requirements for business transactions exceeding $600. According to the new law, businesses must now file an IRS Form 1099 for all payments of more than $600 a year paid to providers—including corporations—that supply tangible property and services. If not revoked, the law will into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.
 
The Act, which repeals Section 9006 in its entirety, passed on a bipartisan vote, with 76 democrats voting for repeal. The Senate already passed its own 1099 repeal measure as an amendment to Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation. Yet despite a bipartisan effort and support from the White House, 1099 repeal is still a contentious issue. Both the parties and the chambers continue to fight over how to offset the estimated $19 billion in lost revenue that proponents of the measure claim would have been generated.
 
Interchange Fees

Despite passage of interchange fee reform last year, the debate over interchange fees has reached new heights. On Feb. 17, members of the House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit subcommittee heard from merchants, banks and card companies about the Federal Reserve’s (“Fed”) proposed rules on debit-card swipe fees. Under the CFA-supported Durbin Amendment passed last summer, the Fed has until April 21 to publish final rules to make merchant debit card swipe fees more reasonable. Rules are required to take effect by July 21.
 
Card companies and banks said at the hearing that the rules the Fed proposed in December are rushed; that the Fed’s proposed swipe fee limits of $.07-$.12 per transaction—down from the average $.44 per transaction that merchants pay today—constitute federal “price fixing”; that the rule will hurt small banks and credit unions; and that reduced swipe fees are a $12 billion giveaway to merchants and won’t be passed along to consumers.
 
The Merchants Payments Coalition, of which the CFA is a member, argued that the Fed’s rules need to be implemented on time and as written. Sen. Durbin, sponsor of the interchange reform language, wrote to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that “The U.S. banking industry is a $13 trillion dollar industry… [and] has always fiercely opposed any reform to the current interchange fee system… I urge you and the Federal Reserve to recognize these tactics for what they are, and to carry out the implementation of interchange reform as Congress intended—on the basis of facts and not the financial industry’s fictions.”
 
Washington insiders believe that a bill will be introduced, possibly by Rep. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), to give the Federal Reserve more time to issue the rules. Capito chairs the subcommittee that held the hearing discussed above. Click here to write to your members of Congress and tell them to oppose any delay to the interchange rules!
 
Labor Regulations

As was previously reported, on Dec. 22, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a proposal which would require employers to post an 11″ x 17″ poster in the workplace which informs employees about their union-organizing rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The comment period for this proposal ended on Feb. 22. Under the NLRB proposal, businesses who fail to post notices could be charged with an unfair labor practice. The CFA is a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), which filed comments in opposition to the proposed regulations.
 
Comments were due last week for the Department of Labor’s (DOL) preliminary guidance on accommodations for nursing mothers. Since March 23, 2010, and as part of the new health care law, employers are required to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break time and “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public” for expressing breast milk while at work. DOL’s guidance for employers covers topics such as the length of break times, acceptable private spaces in a workplace and hardship exemptions for certain small businesses. The department noted that it does not plan to issue regulations implementing this provision at the present time.