Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bloomberg's Vetoes

As expected, Mayor Bloomberg vetoed two bills yesterday that would have varying impacts on neighborhood stores. The first measure, the Health Care Security Act (HCSA), would mandate that employers in the grocery industry adequately cover their employees' health benefits. The second bill would create an additional layer of oversight for the city's 2,000 fruit and vegetable stands.

The HCSA has generated some concern from the independent supermarket owners who feel that the bill's thresholds, i.e., those sections that would trigger the mandated coverage, would unfairly burden smaller operators as well as the big box stores that were the real target of the UFCW and the sponsors of the legislation.

The mayor's rationale in the first case was that the HCSA, "Violates federal law" and is "arbitrary and capricious" for singling out one industry. The override battle, which should take place in early October seems to be a foregone conclusion since the health care legislation was passed overwhelmingly. There is, however, a great deal of sentiment in the Council to amend the bill to address the concerns of some of the smaller supermarket owners. In discussions with our union friends it appears that they would support some changes in the law that would raise threshold triggers.

On the fruit stands the mayor's veto addressed the "unnecessary inspections", ones that would be required even if there were no complaints. The bill gives the DOT the requirement to conduct pedestrian traffic studies and creates more expense for store owners as well as an additional barrier to licensure for small businesses that are already struggling.

The Alliance will be involved in both efforts, trying to amend the HCSA as well as trying to sustain the mayor's veto of the fruit stand law. As we have already mentioned elsewhere this bill was passed without adequate time for proper deliberation and we feel hopeful that the Council will consider this when they take up the override.

There is already too much unnecessary regulation of neighborhood stores and there are other ways to address Councilmember Liu's concerns about congestion in Flushing that don't require a law that affects all the other neighborhoods of the city. In this override fight we will be working with the Korean-American Small Business Service Center as well as other neighborhood business groups.