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BPAA News Brief - February 14, 2017

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Flagstaff Continues to Grapple with Starter Wage Ballot Measure. As we've previously reported, the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, planned to pass a city-wide ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2021. Then, voters across the state passed a wage hike raising the wage to $12 by 2020. But because of the language of the city initiative, Flagstaff's wage will jump from $8.05 to $12 by July 1 – a nearly 50 percent increase in the starting wage in just six months. Many business owners are openly concerned about how they will phase in such a steep increase so quickly. The city council has been holding public meetings to discuss possible solutions, and a local group is collecting signatures on a petition to slow down the increases.

Utah's .05 Percent BAC Bill Heads to Floor Vote. The committee considering whether to lower Utah's drunk driving arrest threshold to .05 percent blood alcohol concentration voted 9-2 to pass the legislation, sending to the House floor for a vote. The state's House Law Enforcement Committee heard testimony from the vice chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that recommended the lower level in 2015. As was learned in the debate to lower the drunk driving arrest threshold to .08 percent BAC, legislators often vote for these extreme provisions because they don't want to be seen as defending drunk driving.

Berman and Company Group Pushes Back Against .05 Percent BAC Legislation. Since Utah's .05 percent BAC bill was introduced, legislators in both Hawaii and Washington state have introduced similar proposals. The American Beverage Institute (managed by Berman and Company) has already been pushing back against those bills, including publishing an op-ed in the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Berman Addresses .05 Percent BAC Bills in Bi-Weekly Column. In his bi-weekly column in the online media outlet, Independent Journal Review, Rick Berman talked about the new push to drive down the definition of drunk and the expanded attack against responsible social drinking.

Baltimore's Mayor Continues to Question $15 Starter Wage. Despite appearing to favor the higher wage proposal during her campaign, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh expressed strong reservations over a bill mandating city employers to pay employees $15 an hour by 2020. Pugh co-owns two small city businesses – boutique consignment shops – and argues, "People can't afford to pay these kind of wages…Please, please don't do this in haste." Pugh stopped short of promising to veto the bill.

Legislators in Iowa Move Forward on a Bill to Preempt Local Minimum Wages while the Governor Suggests a Wage Hike. In response to local wage hikes approved in four Iowa counties, the Republican-led legislature is working to freeze the state's starter wage at $7.25, effectively rolling back the higher rates. However, Governor Terry Brandstad (R) is recommending the legislature phase in an increase to the starting wage as long as it doesn't destroy jobs. Brandstad did not specify what rate he would approve, but instead wants to "look at what our neighboring states are doing."

EPI Weighs in on Nevada's $15 Starter Wage Bill. With a bill that would implement a $15 an hour starter wage by 2022 already headed to the Assembly floor, the Berman and Company-managed Employment Policies Institute placed a column in the Las Vegas Review-Journal underscoring the negative impact a similar hike in the starting wage would have on entry-level employment.

Local Business Community in Connecticut Pushes Back against $15 by 2022. A group of local chambers of commerce organizations as well as the state's largest business association have joined together to oppose efforts to raise the state's starter wage. Connecticut has always mandated a wage rate higher than the federal level, but business groups are worried this "anti-business" measure will drive away companies from opening up in the state and reduce job opportunities. One business owner explained, "Employers are on a budget so they will have to either cut employees or cut hours." The Labor and Public Employees Committee will be holding a hearing on the wage bill this week.

EPI's Economist Featured on the "Small Business Advocate" Audio Newsletter. The research director and economist for the Employment Policies Institute was recently interviewed about how employers are now having to deal with dozens of state and local wage mandates across the country.

Another California Effort Underway to Demonize Soda. As the conversation intensifies over soda taxes, California has revived the ongoing effort to post warning labels on sodas and other sugary beverages. State Senator Bill Monning wants beverages with added sugars and 75+ calories per 12 ounces to carry a label stating, "sugar contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay." Similar legislation has been introduced twice since 2014, but neither bill advanced.

The Debate over Philly's Soda Tax Goes Into Extra Rounds... As we reported last week, a group of state legislators have come together to roll back Philadelphia's 1.5 cents-per-ounce tax on sodas and other sugary beverages. They've asked the state's court system to strike down the law because it will deprive the state from tax revenue and because it will encourage other cities to adopt similar levies. The legislators also unsuccessfully asked the state's Supreme Court to strike the law, but both sides will have to wait for the lower court's ruling.

…While the Tax Continues to be Unpopular. An expert in food marketing helped explain why the Philly soda tax experiment has been so poorly received. "As time goes on, a discriminatory tax like the beverage tax will continue to make life more expensive for city shoppers and more complicated for mobile city dwellers. It will make city supermarkets less competitive with suburban stores and potentially lead to their ultimate demise.&quot

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