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Joint Letter to Texas Governor from TRA, RILA and NRF about "Essential Services"

Dear Governor Abbott:

The health and safety of employees, customers and families is the top priority for retailers in Texas. On behalf of the members of the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Texas Retailers Association, we appreciate your leadership and the swift efforts of your Administration to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, both in terms of public health as well as the broader economic implications in Texas. Retail is Texas’s largest private-sector employer, supporting over 3.5 million jobs.
Retailers are following recommendations provided by the CDC and share the immediate goal of slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, many retailers are stepping up during this global health crisis to assist with drive-through COVID-19 testing sites on their properties. Families are counting on retailers right now and retailers are determined to be there for them. This is an unprecedented situation that demands an “all hands on deck” approach, and retailers are eager to do their part. Our organizations believe that retail business owners are in the best position to determine their ability or inability to remain open and serving their communities.
Retailers in Texas and throughout the United States are investing considerable resources and effort into following CDC guidance to routinely clean and sanitize their facilities. Stores that are open to the public are adjusting hours they are open to the public in order to re-stock and sanitize the entire store – including shopping carts, checkout lanes, shelves among other areas. Distribution centers and warehouse facilities not open to the public are also dedicating significant resources to sanitation and following social distancing for their employees.

Counties and local governments in Texas are considering further instructions to close certain businesses they deem “non-essential.” We ask that your Administration carefully consider which businesses are “essential” and “non-essential” retail and provide uniform guidance for every jurisdiction in the state to follow. It is critically important not to overlook the important role that distribution centers play not just in Texas, but in supplying out-of-state communities with essential goods.



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Coronavirus from Office of Texas Governor

Access to information directly from the Office of the Governor Greg Abbott. Find waivers issued by the governor, resources for employers, resources for job seekers, MealFinder Map for Texas Students, Updates from the Texas Education Agency and News from the Office of the Governor. 

https://gov.texas.gov/coronavirus

Governor Abbot Declares Disaster, Closes Schools, Bars, Gyms Statewide, Restaurants "To-Go" Only

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) took statewide action Thursday, March 19, 2020 to mirror actions taken locally in Dallas and Tarrant counties earlier this week by declaring a disaster and ordering schools, bars, clubs and gyms to close and for restaurants to offer only "to go" service.

The statewide declaration comes after more than 160 people across the state have been infected by the virus including four who have died, three of whom were in North Texas. In Dallas alone on Thursday, 20 new cases were confirmed including one death.

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Governor Abbot Waives Certain State Trucking Regulations

Governor Greg Abbott has announced that he is waiving certain regulations related to commercial trucking in the state of Texas. The suspensions will expedite commercial vehicle delivery of more supplies in each truckload as Texas works to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the state.

These waivers were requested by and will be coordinated through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and are part of the actions Governor Abbott is taking under the State of Disaster he declared yesterday.

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The USMCA is finally done. Here’s what is in it

President Trump notched his first major win on trade Tuesday after Democrats signed off on a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

So what exactly does the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (a.k.a. USMCA) change?

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Paid Sick Leave Update

Earlier today, State District Judge Sakai in San Antonio, granted our motion for temporary injunction regarding San Antonio’s “Safe and Sick Leave” Ordinance (PSL ordinance). This is great news because the ordinance was set to go into effect on Dec. 1. The Texas Retailers Association (TRA) is pleased Judge Sakai sided with the rule of law in today’s ruling.  By enjoining substantially, the same ordinance declared unconstitutional by the 3rd Court of Appeals, the Court preserves the status quo for employers during this critical time of year. 

Employers of all sizes can now focus on serving their customers instead of shouldering the burden of an unconstitutional ordinance.  Represented by Attorney Roland F. Gonzales, TRA alleges the San Antonio ordinance, not only violates The Texas Minimum Wage Act, but violates provisions of the Texas Labor Code, FLMA, and ADA. 

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Tobacco 21 Bills Gain Local, State and Federal Traction

 

History tells us that people have smoked tobacco for thousands of years. More than three generations ago, the public began to speculate about the health of smoking, and some fifty years ago, the Surgeon General ruled that health warnings were required on each pack of smokes. The next few decades saw the significant rise of tobacco taxes, the introduction of the minimum purchase age and the passage and implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. 

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New beer, wine and tobacco laws

This past legislative session, the Texas Legislature passed several laws which impact Texas retailers who sell beer and wine, as well as tobacco. These new laws went into effect Sunday, September 1st. Although we understand the Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission (TABC), as well as the Texas Comptroller’s office have communicated with our state’s retailers about these new laws and their impacts or changes, we wanted to make sure all TRA members had the most updated information. 

Below for your reference are an industry notice from TABC, which includes a detailed document reflecting all of the changes impacting TABC enacted last session, as well as this link from the Comptroller’s office regarding the new Over 21 Tobacco law. The link contains helpful information along the right hand side. However, we understand that there is still ambiguity regarding what constitutes acceptable ID’s for the military exemptions for tobacco purchases. TRA is in contact with the Comptroller’s office on this issue and we have asked them to issue clarifying guidance to retailers ASAP. Here is a link to more information about including the "Texas Retailer Tobacco Packet." We will continue to monitor this and report back as we learn more details.

Paid Sick Leave Update

Dallas:

On July 29th, several plaintiffs aligned with TRA filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Collin County, in the northwest suburbs of Dallas, seeking to block the Dallas PSL ordinance. An initial hearing on this lawsuit is expected in the coming days. Although the court could rule to temporarily invalidate the Dallas PSL ordinance (while the full case is litigated), it is unfortunate that this outcome will not be known until possibly several days or even weeks into August. TRA and our business allies are confident this will be the result, however with it now being August 1st, the Dallas PSL ordinance is technically in effect at this time, although the city has stated that fines will not be levied until April 1, 2020. As a result TRA is strongly suggesting member companies who have employees working within the City Limits of Dallas do two things as of August 1st:

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Implementation for new state laws underway

On the advocacy front, TRA remains engaged in the rulemaking and implementation processes for new state laws impacting retailers that were passed during the state legislative session, earlier this year. Additionally, we continue to fight for retailers against the ill-conceived local Paid Sick Leave ordinances which have popped up in several Texas cities. On the federal level we are continuing our push to have Congress ratify the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) before the end of the year, as well as to find opportunities to make the much-needed technical corrections to the 2017 Tax Reform law. For more timely advocacy updates, make plans to join TRA’s monthly Tax & Legislative Committee calls, which typically occur the second Thursday of each month at 2pm CT. These calls are a great way to keep up with all of the advocacy efforts TRA engages in on your behalf. Reach out to any member of the TRA team to be added to the distribution list for the Tax & Lege call announcements.

That said, it is now more important than ever to engage your elected officials (state and federal) with store tours and other opportunities to discuss the state and federal issues that matter most to you and your business. Making it local helps them see much more clearly the impact of their actions, or inactions. As we approach a very important election year in 2020, it’s important for all of us to work to educate them on the issues which matter most to retailers, as well as to know where they stand on our industry’s key issues. One way you and your company can help support and elect retail friendly legislators is by contributing to the Texas Retailers Association Political Action Committee (TRAPAC). You can get the latest information on TRA’s advocacy efforts, as well as information on how you or your company can contribute to TRAPAC, by visiting the TRA website here.

Food Council: Raw Seafood Policy Change

The TRA and it’s Food Council Members were successful in making a revision to this ordinance in Fort Worth.  Previously the City of Fort Worth required a temperature reading of 34 degrees in fresh seafood cases.  The national guideline is 41 degrees.  Below is the ruling. 

Message from Wyndie Turpen, RS
Consumer Health Superintendent/Code Compliance for the City of Fort Worth

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Texas HHSC comments on SNAP eligibility rule

During a recent call with Texas Health and Human Services Commission, TRA referenced a study noted in the link here.  This study indicated a new eligibility  rule which would impact the number of families eligible for SNAP in Texas.  TRA will continue to monitor the issue and give guidance to food retailers regarding potential SNAP sales impact in 2020. "HHSC is currently reviewing the proposed rules, but has not made available any information on the impact to Texas distribution", says Duane Pietsch, Lone Star Business Services/ EBT. "It is my understanding that because the rules are only proposed at this time, HHSC cannot speak to impacts, and not likely do so until the rules are finalized by FNS."

US and Mexico Sign Tomato Suspension Agreement

On 9/19, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Mexican tomato growers signed a new suspension agreement to prevent the dumping of tomatoes into the U.S. market. The two countries have been in a major tiff over the dumping of tomatoes, which caused the Commerce Department to pull out of the previous long-standing tomato suspension agreement. To reach last week’s agreement, the U.S. agreed to suspend the current Administration’s anti-dumping investigation on Mexican tomatoes. The new agreement terminates a 17.56 percent tariff placed on importers of Mexican tomatoes. 

Source: National Grocer's Association

Texas Lottery: New Retailer Bonus Program Restored

The 86th Legislature restored funding for retailer bonuses at an appropriation of $2.019 million for FY 2020. The Texas Lottery introduced a new bonus structure September 1, 2019, based on that appropriation. You can learn more here

 

TRA Recap of 86th Legislative Session

The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature officially concluded and was gaveled Sine Die, on Monday, May 27th. This was a different session than in the recent past because Representative Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) was the new Speaker of the Texas House. Additionally, the relationships between the big three, Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker Bonnen seemed to be in sync on key legislative issues from the beginning of session, which was a bit different than recent legislative sessions. As always, Texas Retailers Association (TRA) went to work on your behalf in the halls of the Capitol building playing both offense and defense on a variety of issues.

TRA fought very hard to pass good legislation and to kill bad bills that would have been detrimental to our members and industry. On balance, TRA had a good legislative session, getting key TRA priorities passed into law, playing effective defense on potentially harmful bills, and leaving a few key issues to continue to be worked on during the interim. Overall, 7,324 bills were filed during the 86th Texas Legislature and 1,429 of them were passed. TRA actively tracked over 550 bills and hundreds more amendments directly impacting the retail industry.

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Letter: Texas Retailers 2019 Legislative Priorities

Dear Members of the Texas Legislature:

As the 86th session of the Texas Legislature convenes today, The Texas Retailers Association (TRA) congratulates each of you and extends best wishes for a successful session. Collectively, TRA represents more than 300,000 retail establishments and over 3.5 million jobs across the state. The association supports all levels of Texas retail including grocery stores, chains and single location small businesses.

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