Friday, September 09, 2005

Health Care Security Act and Fruit Stand Bill

The Council recently passed to bills that all involved believe will be subjected to a mayoral veto. The first, the Health Care Security Act, places a responsibility on employers in the grocery business to provide health insurance for their workers. The second bill increases the amount of oversight for the permitting and licensing of so-called fruit stands. Each law in turn has generated opposition in the impacted retail sectors.

In the case of the health care legislation, concern emanates from the independent supermarkets represented in large part by the predominately Dominican National Supermarket Association. The Alliance has worked closely with the NSA over the past decade on a wide range of policy issues. In that time we have repeatedly urged the group to become more active, and smarter politically. If properly organized and motivated the 400 store group could become a real force on the local political scene.

So far, however, the NSA has kept away from real conscious political mobilization and has relied on the Alliance to represent its interests on such issues as megastores, garbage disposers, and the expansion of consumer affairs regulations.

Which brings us to the HCSA. With the Alliance taking a bystander role, out of respect for its labor allies, the HCSA moved smoothly towards eventual passage. We did intervene on a minor level at the request of one store owner to help amend the bill in the area of the employee threshold that would trigger compliance. At the same time, we did make sure that everyone in the retail industry was aware of the bill's parameters and implications.

In spite of this outreach the NSA and some of their wholesalers remained on the sidelines, never weighing in on the merits of the bill from their perspective. That is until its passage. Now there is a great hue and cry over the law's implications and the NSA is finally activated politically.

In this regard we have been asked by a number of folks to help find ways to amend the bill and mitigate its potentially negative impacts on some retailers. We have begun this outreach with the labor people as well as with the bill's sponsors but the entire situation is a cautionary tale for the industry: you need to be involved and aware in the protection of your own interests or else face the consequences. It is a lot easier to influence legislation in its early stages than after sides have coalesced.

In Liu of Common Sense

On the fruit stand side the Korean Small Business Service Center is extremely worried about Intro 699,a bill that would greatly increase the licensing expense and the enforcement exposure for all fruit stand owners. The bill, sponsored by Councilmember John Liu, was passed at the last Council Stated Meeting without the benefit of needed debate and deliberation.

KSBSC's leader, Mr.Sung Soo Kim, is trying to mobilize councilmembers in an effort to sustain the expected mayoral veto of this bill. Councilmember Simcha Felder is spearheading this effort which faces a considerable obstacle; only one mayoral veto (on the transfer station siting), has ever been sustained in the past four years.

Mr. Kim has approached us for help and we believe that it is possible to sustain the mayor's veto, especially if the Speaker doesn't come out of next Tuesday's primary. Our belief rests on the lack of real due process and adequate deliberation. In addition, Mr. Kim is working on a compromise alternative that will, hopefully, convince the handful of councilmembers needed to sustain the veto.