We just completed another successful week for the Retail Industry in the 2018 General Assembly Session. Several issues, which impact retail, were heard in both the House and the Senate. These include legislation to tax plastic bags, increase the meals tax in counties, codify the relationship between the Franchisee and Franchisor, and to eliminate the three strikes rule for petit larceny.
► Implementing plastic bag tax in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed area (SB 139)
► Increasing meals tax in counties without holding a referendum (SB 115)
► Eliminating of the three strikes rule for petit larceny (HB 618)
FRANCHISEE & FRANCHISOR RELATIONSHIP
Delegate Head has introduced a bill for the last 3 years seeking to codify the relationship between Franchisee and Franchisor with regard to the status of the employees of the Franchisee. The legislation has been vetoed by the Governor every year. This year Delegate Head introduced HB 110 which is identical to the legislation vetoed last year. VRF has supported this bill on behalf of its members over the last 3 years and did so again this year.
FELONY LARCENY FOR THRESHOLD
As you saw in our first Advocate, Senator Suetterlein’s SB 105 (which raises the felony threshold for larceny to $500) passed out of Senate Courts and has now passed out of the Senate on 36 to 3 vote on the floor. It will be heard in the House after Crossover. As in years past, there have also been several bills introduced in the house that seeks to increase the threshold. These particular bills have not been heard in committee yet. However, there was a new concept introduced this year by Delegate Carroll-Foy in HB 618 which would eliminate the enhanced class 6 felony for a third and subsequent petit larceny. Essentially, the three strikes rule for petit larceny. We opposed this legislation on the grounds that it eliminates a strong deterrent to shoplifting from our members. This legislation was defeated in House Courts Subcommittee 1 on a vote of 5 to 2.
PLASTIC BAG TAX
Senator Petersen’s SB 139 would have implemented a $.05 tax on plastic bags within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This would have required our members within this geographical area to collect this tax from its customers. Virginia Retail Federation maintained its position of opposition and highlighted our encouragement of recycling efforts. The bill was defeated in Senate Finance Committee on an 11 to 4 vote. There are still a few pieces of legislation left to be heard that seek to ban the use of plastic bags, and we will continue to oppose those as well.
MEALS TAX INCREASE
Senator Locke’s SB 115 would increase the maximum meals tax that any county is authorized to impose and remove the requirement of a referendum to do so. This would mean that a county could implement an increase in the meals tax without holding a referendum and hearing from the voters within the county. VRF has a long-standing position of opposing these efforts. The bill was defeated in Senate Finance on a vote of 9 to 4.
As you can see, this has been a very busy week and we expect this pace to continue throughout the remaining weeks of the 2018 Session. This report provides a glimpse of the legislation that we are tracking. If you would like to see a complete list of bills, please click here.